“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor”. It was this mindset that lead Elon Musk to take on the likes of the traditional and settled automobile industry and stir things up with the electric car. Unlike previous attempts such as the Chevrolet EV1, a fully electric production series which ended up being literally crushed by GM due to the lack of demand, Elon Musk and his Tesla promised a different approach: an actual viable alternative to the combustion engine car with the goal of triggering a true revolution.
Fourteen years and counting it’s fair to say that we’re still waiting for the big transition, but there’s no denying that Tesla woke up the established giants and put regulators back at their drawing tables. In the mean time Tesla continues its silent yet powerful journey upwards in which it virtually remains untouched in the battle for the up and coming EV market.
‘The hype is real’, as many would say; and it is, make no mistake. Albeit based on pure financial speculation, the fact that Tesla surpassed established giant Ford Motor Company in terms of market valuation just over a week ago has not gone by unnoticed.
It may very well hint at investors indeed being in it for the long run, strongly believing in the future of the all-electric car brand. Tesla is vastly approaching one of the most decisive crossroads in its history by the end of this year: the success of the upcoming Model 3, the most pre-ordered car in history, will be integral to the company’s future and goal of making electric driving the worldwide standard in the foreseeable future.
Until then it’s the brand’s sizable sedan, the Model S, and latest all-electric production vehicle, the Model X SUV, that will carry Tesla forward to that pivotal moment. I first got acquainted with electric driving through the Model S a few years ago. Several performance models later I was now finally handed the keys to a Model X. Not ‘just’ a Model X, but the Tesla Model X P100D, the most powerful Model X they currently offer.
Powered by a massive 100 kWh battery, Tesla claims the Model X P100D is the world’s fastest production SUV. That is however a matter of perspective: from 0-100 km/h the electric SUV surely is the quickest in its class, taking just a mere 3.1 seconds with ideal conditions.
The Model X P100D is limited at 250 km/h, just like the Model S, presumably to prevent excessive wear of the car’s lithium-ion battery. The little time it takes to get to such speeds however, is as impressive as it gets. The all-wheel drive electric powertrain is characterized by imminent response upon a stab of the throttle, it simply doesn’t get any more efficient. Even when cruising at moderate highway speeds, a mild tap on the right pedal immediately blasts you forward unlike anything you have ever experienced.
Such performance gets all the more impressive in the Model X with its rather sizable proportions. It’s a full size SUV that seats seven, but is capable of outperforming the vast majority of todays two-seat sports cars at the traffic lights.
That the Model X is not your ordinary family SUV is not just communicated through its brute force and thrilling performance, but also through its rather sleek and unconventional looks. Its almost coupé like shape, and handsome roofline that extends into the short overhang at the rear, show much similarity to the design of the Model S.
The new front apron that is now painted to match incorporating the innovative HEPA filter (a.k.a. Bio Weapon Defense mode), and the chrome frame circumventing the windows and doors on the side are examples of modular components shared among both cars using cutting edge production technology at the company’s Fremont production plant in California.
Falcon doors, cool!
However, there are plenty of design features that are unique to the Model X. The most well-known and eccentric of which are definitely the car’s falcon wing doors. They open fully automatic by either pushing the chrome door handle from the outside, using the car’s gigantic touch screen from the driver’s seat, or using the designated buttons on the inside of the car, accessible from the rear seats.
The falcon wing doors are an impressive piece of technology and are much more than just a design gimmick. They are fully equipped with sensors and can virtually open anywhere without inflicting any form of damage whilst providing maximum space for passengers to enter the vehicle. Tested in a cramped parking spot where I would normally not be able to get out of the rear seats without some serious maneuvering, the falcon doors opened like a charm and made exiting the car much more comfortable.
Considering the size of the Model X, today’s tiny parking spots and people’s careless parking habits, the falcon doors are a much welcomed practicality. Although be prepared to be stared at by fellow shoppers every single time you get groceries, as understandably many of us are yet to become accustomed to the idea of movie-like wing doors. Model X owners will recognize that the staring phase is often inevitably followed by the question phase, and no, there is no special ‘please open my doors without causing a scene mode’. All jokes aside, Model X customers are paying for something extraordinary and it simply shows.
The rest of the SUV’s imposing exterior is slightly more modest, but just as advanced. The bright multi-beam LEDs at the front give the Model X a futuristic and likable appearance, although I find the car’s rear less tasteful, which is of course, a matter of opinion.
The bulky rear of the Model X is adorned by a decent-sized rear wing that extends out of the bodywork when the car is unlocked. The rear wing undoubtedly contributes to the car’s aerodynamics with the necessary downforce, but also severely clouds the rear view visibility. It’s the polar opposite of the wealth of visibility that you have at the front thanks to the massive extended windshield.
The inside of the Model X looks reasonably familiar to that of the Model S and is a space of pure simplicity. The large 17-inch touch screen and lack of a gearbox pave the way for a clutter-free interior and maximum comfort. To further maximize the car’s luggage space, the rear seats are underpinned by a metal structure quite similar to plane seats and offer plenty of extra space beneath them. It’s practical for cleaning purposes, but make sure to hold on to possessions small enough to slide under if you decide to hit that ludicrous button.
Comfort in the rear seating area of the Model X is a big step up from that of the Model S. All three individual seats are electronically adjustable, there is ample leg space, and thanks to the higher seating position the rear seats of the Model X are highly suitable for longer journeys. The two-seat back row can easily be folded up and down and easily provides space for two full-grown adults. Altogether the Model X interior is a pleasant and generous space to be in. Its clean design remains highly functional and sports an elegant vibe, exemplified by the matte carbon or wood inserts and optional Alcantara headliner.
Having covered the ins and outs of the car’s design, it’s time to reflect on its otherworldly performance and driving personality. The keyless go module ensures that you don’t even need to touch your door to get behind the wheel and take off, a nifty feature. Effectively the car is controlled through the magnificent touch screen, which is highly ergonomic.
Unfortunately I couldn’t enjoy the comfort of the semi-autonomous Autopilot this time, because I was handed the brand new ‘hardware 2’ car. It comes with many extra cameras and sensors all around the car, which still need ‘driving experience’ feedback from users all around the world before the Autopilot software can be installed. This is all very exciting, because it potentially hints at additional functionality that could soon make its way to the new ‘hardware 2’ vehicles.
Truth be told I hardly missed Autopilot. I like being in control and in terms of handling, ease and comfort, driving the Model X is just a sheer delight. The simple ‘skateboard’ design platform incorporates the large and heavy battery into the car’s floor between both axles, which results in a very low center of gravity and significantly benefits the car’s handling. Combined with the flawless all-wheel drive system, the Model X has no trouble translating its wealth of power onto the road in a controlled fashion.
The P100D setup accounts for well over 400 kilometers of theoretical range, an acceptable distance that is reasonably realistic, especially when you compare it to other electric vehicles currently on the market. Although when you engage ludicrous mode and put the Model X thoroughly to the test, you’ll see the range diminish quickly. The ‘P’ in P100D stands for performance, it’s the ‘AMG’ of Tesla if you will. Just like ordinary sports cars, giving it a good go inevitably results in a quick rendez-vous with the petrol station, or in this case, the supercharger.
Bring it on!
Having charged it to the max in just 45 minutes time, we decided to take the Model X to a more remote area where it could devour long and empty stretches of asphalt, ideal for testing the new ‘ludicrous plus’ mode. Hold the ludicrous button for about 4 seconds and a galaxy-like animation starts to take over the screen followed by an option menu warning about the additional wear and consequences for the car’s battery. The two possible options are presented in a similarly playful fashion: ‘Yes, bring it on!’ or the taunting ‘No, I want my mommy’.
To get the maximum performance out of the battery, it is important to have a near full battery and let it warm up to the ideal temperature. The subsequent acceleration rush is staggering, turns your stomach and makes you feel light-headed. The immense amount of torque that imminently pulls the almost 2,500 kilograms weighing SUV to insane speeds is an incredible experience.
The following day I decided to give the Model X some well-deserved rest and embarked on a relaxed journey to an actual Guinness World Record attempt. As it so happened, a Dutch organization planned to break the world record of the longest electric vehicle parade. I decided to participate and indulge into the world of Tesla fanatics and enthusiastic patrons of electric driving and helped setting the new world record: no less than 746 electric vehicles turned the event into a great success.
The Tesla Model X P100D is THE environmental friendly alternative to today’s luxury SUV and not only that, because if it’s performance you are after, you may want to consider it beyond as ‘just an alternative’.
The P100D outperforms more or less every SUV currently on the market and comes with its own willful character, funky features and sends a clear message to the status quo. It also comes with a price tag to match: full-option, the Model X P100D will set you back a cool €191,000 in the Netherlands.
But for that money you do get a first class seat on the hype train towards cutting edge technology and the future of mobility. Tesla simply sets the standard when it comes to electric driving and the performance of their vehicles remains unmatched, this time embodied and expressed through the very capable Tesla Model X P100D.