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2016 Tesla Model X: 15 Things You Need to Know About the EV Crossover

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 2015-09-30 William Walker, Jason Cammisa


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The Model X, which debuted today at Tesla's Northern California factory, is the automaker's first crossover. It shares its basic architecture and powertrain with the Model S, but is a true 7-seater. At the reveal event, in the middle of boasting about all of the Model X's new features, Tesla had to admit that if it knew then how difficult the whole project would be, it might not have blazed so many new trails.

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Their gray hair is the consumer's gain: the Model X is a rolling tech showcase that should do a far better job of appealing to moms than the S sedan does. We took two of them for a quick drive and here's what we learned.

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The Model X has falcon-wing doors

No surprise there, but the falcon-wing doors made it into production. They have an extra hinge that allows the "wings" to fold so that the crossover can be crammed into tight parking spots. Ultrasonic sensors behind the aluminum skin (and inductive/capacitive sensors behind the upholstery) keep an eye out for obstructions, and the door will automatically open as wide as it can given the space it has. Tesla claims the doors require less than 12 inches of width to open.

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The Model X has an invisible chauffeur

This is the big door surprise — the Model X's front doors have motors that can open and close by themselves, like an invisible chauffeur. The doors are programmed to open to a 45-degree angle (or less, if the car senses there's not sufficient space) as you approach them. The system uses the ultrasonic sensors in the falcon doors as well as those in the bumpers to triangulate the key-holder and determine path and intent. Initially, however, the doors' functionality will be somewhat limited — when you press on the handle, the door unlatches and opens a few inches. And once you're seated inside, if you press on the brake pedal, the door will automatically close and latch. You can control all of the Model X's doors from the 17-inch touchscreen, obviously.

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The Model X has a panoramic windshield

The new Model X's windshield is the largest piece of curved glass in any automobile ever, says Tesla. We believe them — the windshield header is completely out of the driver's line of sight. Indeed it's behind the front passengers' heads, giving a panoramic view up and forward. The real engineering difficulty was in getting the gradient right in the shading so you don't notice that it's shaded up top but clear down below.

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The Model X has telescoping, magnetic sun visors

With no traditional windshield header, the Model X's sun visors have nowhere to live. Instead, they're mounted on, and parallel to, the A-pillars. They swivel into place when needed, telescope out, and magnetically attach to the rearview mirror.

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The Model X is, of course, ludicrously quick

With the same powertrain as the Model S P90D, the Model X is rated at 259 hp front, 503 hp rear, with a combined 713 lb-ft of torque. Top speed is 155 mph. When equipped with Ludicrous mode, the Model X P90D can rip off a 0-60 mph in a claimed 3.2 seconds. Without Ludicrous, it's a still staggeringly fast 3.8 seconds. The forthcoming 90D model will do the deed in 4.8 seconds.

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Model X loses almost no range compared to the sedan

The Model X P90D's EPA-rated range is 250 miles with or without Ludicrous, which is only 3 miles short of the Model S sedan's 253-mile range. The next model coming is the 90D, which uses more efficient tires and a smaller rear motor to score 257 miles of EPA-rated range. Credit the great range to the huge, 90-kWh battery, but also to the record-setting (for a crossover) 0.24 coefficient of drag and low-rolling-resistance tires.

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There's a massive wait list

If you order a Model X today, Tesla predicts you'll take delivery in 8-12 months. The current base price is $132,000 for a P90D, $142,000 when equipped with Ludicrous mode. Like the Model S, Teslas equipped with Ludicrous mode receive an underline on the rear badge.

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The Model X has 'monopost' second-row seats

To enhance comfort, the Model X's three second-row seats are each mounted on single posts. This feat of engineering allows far greater storage under the seats, but comes as a huge engineering feat. In a candid chat, Tesla basically admitted that if they had known what a challenge this would be, they wouldn't have done it.

2016 Tesla Model X: 15 Things You Need to Know About the EV Crossover

The Model X should break safety records, not bones

The Model X's falcon doors don't have pyrotechnic exploding bolts to dislodge themselves in case of a rollover, but that's probably not necessary. The Model X has, according to Tesla, about half the rollover risk of the next-least rollover-prone SUV or minivan—thanks, of course, to the low center of gravity resulting from mounting the batteries in the floor.

That construction also helps distribute side-impact forces through the entire structure. In the first side pole impact test, the Model X broke the pole. Tesla expects it to be the first SUV to receive five-star safety ratings on every test.

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It's quiet outside, but the Model X is loud inside

The new Tesla crossover has an available 17-speaker, 560-watt stereo that was developed in house. And unlike the Model S, it has a dock for Apple iPhones in the center console.

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The Model X has big wheels

Initially, two wheel sizes will be available — 20-inchers or 22s. We drove an early production car wearing Continental CrossContact tires in 265/45-R20 front, 275/45-R20 in the rear. Handling was what you'd expect, with good grip levels and very little body roll.

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The Model X might be getting enormous tires

We drove a development car, a Model X P90D wearing massively staggered 21-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sports. Up front were 285/35-21s, in rear were enormous 325/30-21s. The suspension was very firm, riding like a Porsche Cayenne Turbo S (but possibly stiffer). Cornering was as ludicrous as acceleration, with the touch of understeer you'd expect from that staggered setup. Tesla says this setup is still undergoing testing. We say "watch out, Porsche."

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The Model X actually seats 7 people

It's not a huge vehicle, but the Model X manages to have a front trunk and seat seven people. Headroom in the second row is compromised by the falcon doors—an aluminum and magnesium backbone that runs through the center of the vehicle provides the structure for the door hinges. The outer seats have glass overhead, but the center seat is tight on headroom for anyone over about 5'11".

Each of the three seats slides fore-aft and reclines independently. The third row seats two full-size adults, mostly. Headroom is surprisingly generous for a six-footer, though kneeroom is at a premium. For short trips, seven real adults could fit just fine — and the falcon door makes accessing the third door far easier than in other crossovers. Of course, the third row folds flat for cargo space.

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The Model X is the first electric tow vehicle

The Tesla Model X P90D has a Class III trailer hitch and can tow 5000 lb — an electric first. Even dragging 5,000 lb of boat, however, the Model X hasn't doubled its weight. Curb weight is a stout 5,441 lb. While the Model S's heft surprised the world, the Model X is no heavier than other three-row SUVs. That's quite the accomplishment.

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The Model X has an electric rear spoiler

The X's rear spoiler has three positions. When the crossover is parked, the spoiler is parked and out of sight. At low speeds, it enters a near-horizontal "visibility position" that assists rearward visibility. And at high speeds, it partially retracts to reduce drag by 1.6 percent.

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