14.2.2018Tesla Model X 100D review
Tesla's Model S has been a huge success, offering a no-compromise green option in the highly competitive executive saloon market. It's one of the toughest sectors to break into, let alone with a pure-EV, yet Tesla has managed to establish itself not only as a serious player, but also as the automotive industry's equivalent of Apple - a brand that's desirable in itself, not just its products. Now though, the 'difficult second album' has been tackled in the shape of the Model X. NGC gets behind the wheel to see what it's like.
Review by Chris Lilly
The Model X shares much of its architecture with its Model S stable-mate, and as such is able to provide performance in abundance. Only available in 'D' configuration, the Model X always has an electric motor on each axle for permanent all-wheel drive. Combined power figures for the Model X 100D tested is somewhere around 525hp - 619hp mark, which I confess is somewhat vague. Tesla is rather sketchy with all of its power figures, so finding a definitive figure is practically impossible. What is more readily available are the performance statistics, which are impressive reading no matter the variant. The Model X 100D will complete the 0-62mph sprint in just 4.9 seconds, and tops out at 155mph.
Pick the performance-oriented P100D though, and that acceleration time drops to a supercar-scaring 3.1 seconds. For most, the non-Performance version will more than suffice, with the Model X never short on get-up-and-go at any speed - legal on UK roads that is. The shove provided from the electric motors' considerable torque means that the pace can be picked up whether overtaking at motorway speeds, or accelerating out of a junction - and a smile is guaranteed when the foot is stamped hard on the right-hand pedal. It's a very digital form of performance; easy, challenge-free, and instant. There is no real skill required in driving the Model X at pace, though that will worry few buyers, and the Tesla is an enjoyable drive despite this fact. The Model X is no less easy to drive at slow speeds around town, with no need to worry about changing gear - just an electric powertrain that perfectly complements what is required for urban driving.
Make no mistake, the Model X is big. It's a large SUV and would as such be expected to obey the laws of physics and be a challenge to drive fast. In the battle of the classic scientists/physicists though, Tesla topples Newton. Largely because of a huge battery, the Model X weighs around 2.5 tonnes. However, also because of the battery - placed as it is in the floor of the car - the centre of gravity remains remarkably low for such a tall car with some fancy and no doubt heavy rear doors. Air suspension helps keep the Model X level through the bends, fighting off the normal handling characteristics of an SUV as much as possible. The idea of a large SUV handling enjoyably might be somewhat counter-intuitive, but the Model X does drive nicely, and belies its size and weight much of the time on the open road.
Only when you are really pushing hard does the car begin to lose its battle with physics and lean in the corners or dive under braking. Those brakes are powerful, and the driver benefits from the 'left-foot braking' effect of regenerative brakes - with the car beginning to slow up as soon as you start lifting off the throttle. The air suspension can be set to different heights to suit certain conditions, though most of the time the standard height worked well. The suspension set-up makes the Model X a refined drive, soaking up much of the road's inconsistencies and creating a relaxing environment for occupants. It cruises well at motorway speeds thanks to its weight and length, but is also agile enough to be piloted around town and tight corners, thanks to wheels pushed a fair way into each corner. It's not as sporty as some rivals, nor as comfortable as others. The Model X does provide a good balance between handling ability and luxury though, and covers a broad spectrum of suspension settings to suit most drivers.
The Model X is a design that has really grown on me, and in the metal its proportions work well. There are few SUVs that catch the eye in the same way, and Tesla's clean design is likely to remain stylish for many years to come. For a brand that so consistently offers updates, picking a timeless design only enhances comparisons pitching Tesla as the Apple of the car world. The design works well from a practical point of view too, as the interior of the Model X is huge. Tested was a six-seater version, which is likely to be about right for many buyers, though a conventional three-abreast set of rear seats is available - allowing configurations as a five- or seven-seater too. With two seats in the middle row, the six-seater gives luxurious levels of space for occupants, and the rear-most set of pews are genuine seats, able to be used by an adult for decent length journeys. I can't attest to how comfortable they would be for a large adult on a cross-country trip, but those of average height or less will likely have no issue however long the journey is.
The car's height makes the Model X feel even more spacious, but the Tesla isn't unduly tall - it's all just a result of clever packaging. In terms of load space, boot space in the Model X tested was good, and there is also the front load space under the bonnet to take into account. For those that opt for a five-seat model, the rear boot space is vast. The front boot will take a few shopping bags with no problem, but I found it easiest to use it for storing the charging cables. This freed up the rear load space to pack things in without having to worry about being able to access the cables again once parked up. In short, the Model X is a very practical car, and a great pick for those with a family.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
I managed to cover a fair few miles in the Model X, and never once felt as though interior comfort could be improved. The seats aren't the last word in comfort, but they are still very good and will support occupants even over long distances. The amount of leg, head, and shoulder space is extremely good all-round, with the Model X proving very capable at carrying six adults and some luggage with plenty of comments about how roomy it was. The Model X also has its unique party trick of the falcon doors. These make opening the rear doors in tight confines a little worrisome. It will take a bit of time living with the Tesla to work out how fail-safe the sensors are on the folding gull-wing doors to stop them from hitting obstacles.
I had no problems with them though, and they prove hugely useful for young families. As someone that has a child who requires a baby seat, the ease of putting both seat and child into the Model X is unbelievable. There's no need to duck under the roof, and the width of the rear doors makes access to both the central row of seats, and even those in the back, incredibly easy. The rest of the cabin's attributes carry over from the Model S - just with more space all-round. The large portrait-touchscreen dominates the dashboard and centre console, controlling just about everything you think a car can do, and a few more tricks beside. The use of the large screen means the rest of the dashboard's design is very clean, with practically no buttons about for traditional controls. This, the two driver's stalks and the controls on the steering wheel do everything, making for a dash that wouldn't look out of place in a Scandinavian interior design catalogue. The build quality throughout is good, but all of Tesla's conventionally-powered rivals are better. The money buyers stump up for the Model X gets a world-beating electric range, not the refinement of a premium manufacturer then. Instead the Tesla sits somewhere between mainstream and premium in terms of interior feel, though certainly in the premium category in terms of design.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The Model X was submitted to one of the most exacting tests of an EV's range I could come up with - and all by accident. Having had the car for a couple of days and deciding to have a short break with the family, I was returning home one night when I realised that our house keys had been left in our car, itself parked up at Tesla's Heathrow depot. I realised this in the middle of Gloucestershire, at 10:30 pm. To make matters worse, I needed to have a car collected from home the next day, and the keys to that car were locked up safely in the house, with the driver due the following morning. Thus began a quick call to near-ish family to ask if they could put us up for the night, and a very early start to get from Worcestershire to Heathrow, and then back to home in south east Wales - all before 11 am when the collection was scheduled - remembering of course that Tesla's offices didn't open until normal hours.
As such, I left Worcestershire at 5 am, having trickle charged the Model X for about six hours. I then drove to Tesla's Supercharger site at Hopwood Park services on the M6, charged as long as I could, and ran down to London from Birmingham as quickly as I reasonably could. I reasoned that the earlier I got there, the sooner I could collar someone and tell my tale of woe to get my house keys back, all the while charging at the Superchargers at Tesla's offices. As it turned out, I got to London about 8 am, charged and found the service centre open, but no-one directly who could help - despite a welcoming smile and the offer of a cup of coffee. A short while later, someone with keys to the depot gate arrived and got me to my car, where I extracted the house keys, and set off at pace for home. I returned with only about half an hour spare, and the knowledge that the only EV in the world I which I could have completed such a trip - without even less sleep than I already had - was a Tesla. The combination of long driving range and Supercharger ultra-rapid charging enabled me to get across country and back, at speed, and without hours spent at chargers.
As such, my average range after around 700 miles was 220 miles on a single charge, though this is just about a worst-case scenario. Testing in a chilly February and with long motorway trips at speed, the average range figure took a bit of a hit, and I actually reckon 250 miles would be a comfortable base-line under conditions that require less rushing about. A more normal trip, taking in a range of roads and speeds over the course of 135 miles showed a range of 300 miles as possible - something I'd be confident in getting close to, and with no hypermiling required.
The usual suite of electric car features are present on the Model X, including regenerative braking to help top up the range, and it's pitched very well for maximum efficiency. Tesla's navigation system provides live updates of its Superchargers so that you can turn up at a site safe in the knowledge that each charge point won't be out of action or in use. The navigation system also directs you via suitable Supercharger locations for trips longer than the Model X's significant electric range. A 'Range' mode helps reduce the drain of auxiliary systems, though not to any great degree really, but this can be combined with performance settings to tailor the Tesla towards sportier, more comfortable, or more economical driving. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 36.
You do get a lot of kit for your money in the Tesla Model X. Standard equipment specific to the Model X include the electric and remotely-operable Falcon Wing doors, and the option to spec the Tesla as either a five-, six-, or seven-seater. Tesla features include the Supercharger and Destination charger networks, which don't require signing up to a network, and come with 400 kWh of free charging on Superchargers each year. Over-the-air updates improve the car over time too, and certain features can be purchased and upgraded at a later date should the hardware be fitted, such as driverless systems. All Model X models come with two motors for all-wheel drive, surround view parking cameras, smart air suspension, HEPA air filtration system, and a large panoramic windscreen, 20-inch wheels, and a suite of safety systems. Other features available include the likes of a self-presenting front door, heated seats, heated steering wheel, and heated washer nozzles for cold weather, premium stereo with DAB, Bluetooth and internet radio, & USB connectivity. Added to the test car was the Preimum Upgrades Package, 22-inch alloys, blue metallic paint, and Enhanced Autopilot, while the six-seat option was specified.
There is nothing available that can match a Tesla Model X's combination of EV driving range and space. The large SUV will have competition before the year's out, but the option to seat six or seven passengers will still be a Tesla USP. Add in the performance available even in the non-Performance model driven, and the Model X makes a compelling point as a practical family vehicle with exceptionally low running costs and zero-tailpipe emissions. Tesla's Supercharger network is a huge benefit to the Model X too, meaning rapid charging can take a similar amount of time as a Nissan Leaf on a 50 kW charge point, but charging a battery three times the size for three times the range. It's just about all the family car you will need, with huge amounts of interior and load space available, plus a practical range that removes range anxiety in all normal circumstances - an a number of unusual ones too.
Model tested: Tesla Model X 100D
Body-style: Premium SUV
Engine / CO2: Dual electric motors / 0 g/km
Trim grades: 75D, 100D, P100D
On-road price: Model X 100D from £87,200. Price as tested £113,650 - both inc. Cat 1 PiCG
Warranty: Four year / 50,000 miles - Battery & drive unit: Eight year / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.5 Stars