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Tesla Model X test drive

An SUV was never in Tesla’s original ‘master plan’, but now it’s here. Can it hold its own in a competitive market?

The Model X marks Tesla’s first foray into the SUV/crossover market. Elon Musk, the company’s CEO and founder, had a ‘master plan’ when he started the business that he hoped would see it grow from a small electric sports car maker to offering zero-emission models to the masses.

However, an SUV was never in the original vision and came out of what felt like something of a knee-jerk reaction to the booming segment. After early production delays and build quality issues, the Model X is back on track and available to the UK market.

The ‘Falcon’ rear doors, which hinge upwards to make getting in and out easier, are not only a source of entertainment but they’re useful too, while the electric motors’ power delivery is as addictive as ever.

Looks and image

  • Tesla Model X – Falcon doors closed – front | The Car Expert
  • Tesla Model X – Falcon doors open – front | The Car Expert
  • Tesla Model X – Falcon doors open – rear | The Car Expert

Tesla’s biggest success has been making electric vehicles cool. With that in mind, among wealthy environmentalists there are few cars that carry badge appeal quite like a Tesla.

In the past, though, Tesla has struggled a little with build quality. Early US versions of the Model X suffered greatly, but after spending some time perusing Tesla’s owners’ forum, it appears the latest models have little to no issues at all. We poked, pulled and prodded our right-hand- drive model and could find nothing to complain about.

The materials used feel high quality and the seats, in particular, are incredibly comfortable. Our review vehicle was specced with bright white leather seats – they look great, but we’re confident young kids could ruin them quickly!

Space and practicality

In the large SUV segment space is king, and here the Model X excels. There’s plenty of headroom and a couple of well-sized cubby holes between the front seats. One of the advantages of an electric car is the lack of a transmission tunnel intruding into the cabin, so legroom is plentiful even for the centre passenger in the back.

  • Tesla Model X review - dashboard | The Car Expert
  • Tesla Model X review - panoramic windscreen | The Car Expert
  • Tesla Model X review - front seats | The Car Expert

The Model X can be specced with five, six or seven seats, with the latter two costing £3,000 and £4,000 extra respectively. There’s plenty of room for passengers in all seats, though taller adults may find legroom a little limited in the ‘boot’ seats.

The big talking point is the ‘Falcon’ doors for rear passengers, which are double hinged so that they can open even in narrow spaces. There are in-built sensors to ensure they don’t hit other cars or garage roofs, too. Once open, they give a huge entry point, which makes it ideal for putting kids in the back. Oh, and they’re seriously cool to watch in action!

Behind the wheel of the Tesla Model X

For people new to the whole electric drive thing, the experience can feel pretty alien from the get-go. Climb into the capacious cabin and there’s no ‘on’ button, no key to turn and no firing up of cylinders. Simply belt up, knock the steering column-mounted gear lever into ‘D’ and away you go.

There are two electric motors, one on each axle, fed by a battery — we had a 90kWh pack in our test car. There are four battery options available, ranging in size from 75kWh to 100 kWh, with ranges of between 259 and 336 miles.

  • Tesla Model X road test - front | The Car Expert
  • Tesla Model X road test - rear | The Car Expert

Acceleration is exhilarating, as the nature of electric power delivery means that performance is available instantly at any speed and with only one gear there’s no waiting around for cogs to swap.

Regenerative braking replenishes the batteries by harvesting energy whenever you lift your foot off the accelerator. Once you get used to it, you can almost forget about using the brakes at all.

Cold weather and lots of motorway driving, which limits the effect of the regenerative braking as speed is more consistent, can have a negative impact on range.

Value for money

Here’s where it starts to get a bit trickier for Tesla. The entry-level 75D Model X starts at a snip over £80,000. For that money, you’re looking at a healthily-specced Porsche Cayenne or a top-spec Volvo XC90 with enough change for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. The most expensive Model X starts at an eye-watering £129,200.

For those looking purely for space, luxury and a commanding driving position, there are better-value cars on the market. To go for the Model X you really have to have bought into Elon Musk’s vision for a sustainable future – it’s admirable and the car holds its own with more established competition, but buying in ain’t cheap.

Who would buy a Tesla Model X?

This car is targeted at wealthy people with a big family who want to make a statement about the future of the planet. It helps that Tesla has made EVs cool, so it’ll also appeal to those who want to be seen in the latest trendy thing.

Key specifications

Model: Tesla Model X 90D
Powertrain: Dual electric motors with 90kWh battery (371bhp, 440Nm)
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Top speed: 155 mph
0-60mph: 4.8 seconds
Fuel economy: N/A
CO2 emissions: 0 g/km

Darren Cassey
Darren Cassey
Articles by Darren Cassey are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.
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