Funny doors, serious crossover. In the past ten years, electric cars have gained a critical initial foothold in the market. There have been a few pioneers to credit for this, but by far the biggest influence has been Tesla.

Tesla made a name for itself with the Model S, but the Model X has proved to be more prescient in this era of crossovers and SUVs. It might not be as sleek as the Model S, but the Model X boasts massive cargo space, seven-passenger seating, and some of the best performance of any crossover, be it gas or electric.

The Model X wears the usual Tesla styling that consists of a rounded profile, minimalist lines, and a general absence of brightwork. At a glance it's deceptively simple, almost plain. Look closer, though, and you'll see the work of deft hands and careful decision making.

We wonder about the falcon doors, though. These upward-opening doors have been a distinctive focal point for the Model X, but they've also been an endless source of frustration. We won't get into the myriad issues that have cropped up with failed motors, slow operation, or the unfortunate consequences of raising the doors in low-clearance environments. Suffice to say regular doors would be preferred.

But we get the point of Tesla using the fancy doors. They make a bold statement: the Model X isn't here to adhere to convention. It's among the first of a new breed of automobile, one in which the quiet whir of electric motors replaces the familiar staccato of gas engines. While it isn't perfect, there's no doubt it's a bellwether for what's to come.

Range king. The biggest factor hobbling electric cars remains range, but Tesla is arguably doing the most to push the needle in the right direction. Like the rest of the brand's lineup, the Model X leads its competitors in how far it can go on a charge.

The cheapest Model X, the Long Range Plus, is rated for 360 miles of range and returns 105 MPGe combined. The Plaid trim goes 340 miles on a full charge and is good for 97 MPGe.

Those figures trump those of other all-electric crossovers currently on the market. Jaguar's I-Pace only goes 253 miles on a charge; the Audi E-Tron is rated at 222 miles. The Mustang Mach E, which is more of a competitor to the smaller Tesla Model Y, has up to 305 miles of range. And none of these can match the performance of the Model X, something we discuss in more detail below.

Once the Model X's battery drains down, charging isn't as simple as filling up at the local ExxonMobil. Even using Tesla's network of Superchargers, budget 75 minutes or so to fully juice up the battery.

That said, the latest generation of superchargers, known as V3, was introduced last year. These should significantly reduce charging times, with Tesla boasting charging rates of up to 1,000 miles per hour. These should slowly augment and then replace the 12,000-strong network of existing charging stations.

For charging at home, the recommended setup is a dedicated 240V wall charger. It can recharge a drained battery in about 12 hours. Wall charging via a traditional 120V outlet is possible, but it takes an unrealistic amount of time to add back any significant range.

Blistering performance. The Model X is currently offered in two flavors: Long Range Plus and the all-new Plaid. Both feature all-wheel drive and a 100-kWh battery, but the similarities end about there. The Long Range Plus uses a pair of motors to make up to 670 combined horsepower; the Plaid uses three high-output motors for a total of 1,020 horsepower.

Just as the outgoing Performance model did when it first debuted, the Plaid is out to once again reframe our thinking about what a hot-rod SUV looks like. It uses three electric motors to generate its prodigious power, and thanks to instantaneous power delivery - a hallmark of electric vehicles - the Model X Plaid hits 60 mph in an astonishing 2.5 seconds. That's 1.3 seconds faster than the already-quick Long Range Plus. It holds court among some of the quickest supercars ever built.

In order to effectively get that power to the ground, Tesla fine-tunes a chassis that already benefits from an air suspension and a low-mounted battery pack. The tweaks incur a firmer ride - especially when equipped with the optional 22-inch wheels - but the result defies physics. What other SUV weighs nearly three tons but can rival supercars in straight-line performance and keep up with dedicated sports cars in the twisties?

Outright power aside, the Model X is a comfortable, livable SUV. The air ride suspension is as good as any similar system at keeping bumps in check and maintaining an even-keeled ride, and ride quality remains amenable even over rough, pockmarked roads. This isn't the case with available 22-inch wheels, which remind you of their generous diameter over every road seam and expansion joint.

Tech. The 2021 Model X turns things sideways, literally: the massive 17-inch Tesla touchscreen that notoriously controls nearly every feature and facet of the Model X has been changed from a vertical to a horizontal orientation. The move aligns the crossover with current trends around horizontal screens, which have become the darling of consumers and manufacturers alike.

The landscape screen doesn't affect usability; it still feels like an oversize phone more than anything else, and the infotainment systems used in many mainstream competitors feel clunky by comparison. All that's missing from the comprehensive screen? Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In a car this tech-heavy, the only reason we can think of that might explain this oversight is a personal beef among CEO Elon Musk and his fellow Silicon Valley bigwigs.

The 2021 Model X also adds a rear infotainment system designed to facilitate in-car gaming. With incredibly crisp graphics courtesy of a 10-teraflop GPU, the setup is immersive enough to have riders forgetting about the Xbox waiting for them at home. Though the screen is mounted in the back of the front console, third-row passengers can get also in on the action thanks to wireless controller compatibility.

Concerned about more practical attributes of the Model X? 91 total cubic feet of cargo space and a variety of available seating arrangements ranging from five to seven seats make the Tesla more than a fanciful plaything, whatever the falcon doors and performance numbers might suggest. We'd suggest the six-passenger arrangement, as it makes access to the tight third row far easier than with the full bench. The extra space afforded to second-row riders will also be much welcome by those who didn't call shotgun fast enough.


Tesla Model-X

Final thoughts. Even after being on the market for some years, the Model X still finds itself with hardly any real competition. The Mercedes EQC has been canceled for America; BMW's electric offerings are still far down the pipeline; the Cadillac Lyriq won't have be available for at least another year or two. Models from upstart manufacturers like Rivian or Lordstown Motors are too hazy on details to take into consideration. And cheaper electric crossovers go up against the more affordable Model Y, not the Model X.

Until the market catches up, the Tesla Model X remains in an enviable spot among electric crossovers. With stellar range, great performance, and excellent space, the only thing that would deter us is the stark interior and befuddling falcon doors. But overall there's no doubt the Model X remains a segment leader.

Check prices for the 2021 Tesla Model X »