I just had a P100D for four days and found it both stimulating and challenging. At times, it was downright thrilling. It’s not completely revolutionary -- not like making the jump from typewriter to word processor (though I did make that jump), but it’s similar and you have to approach it with a willingness to educate yourself about everything on it. You can’t just get in and drive. Well, you can, but then how do you turn on the headlights?
The Tesla Model X is definitely the most high-tech SUV that has ever roamed the Earth (the Lunar Rover is higher tech in some ways but is not on Earth). It’s also the quickest -- once you jump through the half-hour’s worth of hoops you have to jump through to achieve the much vaunted Ludicrous Speed (more on that in a minute).
The P100D is the top trim level of the Model X. Ours was loaded with almost everything Tesla engineers could throw at it except Autopilot, which we had tried out earlier on another Model X and generally liked (“In Fremont, Future drives YOU!”). Model Xs are divided up by battery sizes: now that they’ve dropped the 60D, you can only get the 75D with 75 kWh of battery, and the 100D with 100 kWh. My test X was the top-of-the-heap P100D, wherein the “D” stands for the dual motors that give it AWD and the “P” stands for “Performance.” Output from the three-phase, four-pole AC induction motors adds up to 603 hp and 713 lb-ft of torque. Yowzer. The P100D included the much publicized Ludicrous Speed feature that allows launches from 0-60 that take just 2.9 seconds … if done right. Passing maneuvers of 45 to 65 mph are accomplished in just 1.4 seconds, Tesla says.
In one way, it’s like a Brabus G-Class or a W12 Bentayga. Except that in addition to being stupid fast, it’s also all-electric. And that interior, oy. Look down and there’s that 17-inch capacitive touchscreen through which you control everything except arranging the loan to buy the car. Look up and there’s the largest glass panorama roof in production anywhere. You can get seating for five, six or seven in your Model X. Those Falcon Wing doors are convenient as well as being superb parlor tricks. Sure, they’ll go crazy or stop working or something in 10 years, but you’re probably only getting a three-year lease. What do you care?
Like the sedan version of this platform, the Model X is almost all aluminum, with some reinforced steel here and there. It rides on airbag suspension at all four corners, just a little higher off the ground than the Model S sedan. My test X came with an EPA range of 289 miles which, combined with a nationwide network of fast-charging Superchargers, meant range anxiety could be virtually eliminated. (By comparison, the regular 100D gets to 60 mph in a downright lackadaisical 4.7 seconds but has a range of 295 miles.)
It’s amazing, alternately loved and loathed, depending on who you’re talking to and which television news they watch.
As you approach the car with the key fob in your pocket, it opens the door for you. You don’t have to do anything. Click the key fob and you can open your passenger’s door. Click different buttons on the fob and the big, birdlike falcon wing doors open. While I have heard some complaints about these various doors’ functions, I myself have never experienced it in a test Tesla. Once I saw another Tesla’s door open all by itself without the owner around. I tracked him down and alerted him and he shut it himself.
Once you get inside, you’ll find that the Model X is packed with surprise-and-delight features. The longer you look, the more you find. That 17-inch capacitive touchscreen is a portal to all kinds of infotainment, connectivity and control of your environment. You can adjust the a/c, sound, monitor battery charge, look at your calendar and make a phone call, among other functions. Navigating via a screen that big is also easier than most smaller screens. And you can get a much better sense of what’s behind you as you view the backup camera on the big screen.
I’ve never been a fan of the solid finish on the seatbacks, but maybe they’ll wear better than fabric or leather as small children kick them all day for three years. The other side of the seats was just fine (they were leather in the case of my test car). My car had six seats arranged in three rows, with the middle seats in captain’s chair configuration. Again, you can get five-, six- or seven-seat layouts. The rear seats all fold flat now, unlike earlier Model Xs. And there’s a front trunk, or frunk.
Driving the car is impressive, especially since I have an electric car of my own -- but one that sits at the far opposite extreme of elegance: the Mitsubishi iMiEV. Whereas the Tesla Model X has 603 hp of torque, the iMiEV offers up 66.
First thing I tried to do was charge that massive battery pack bolted under the floorboards. With an adapter on your Tesla cable, you can charge at any Level II SAE J1772 charger and get plenty of electricity into your Tesla. You can also charge at 120 volts, but that turned out to be unrealistically slow. What you want to do is go to a Tesla Supercharger, which blasts electrons into your Model X battery at rates that would astound Edison.
I looked at the map of Tesla’s network of free superchargers and found that the nearest one was 18 miles away from me in Burbank. This was a little surprising considering all the hype about the supercharger network. It’s not like I live in East BF -- I live in the greater LA area, albeit 18 miles away from the Supercharger. Nonetheless, I drove there, a Tesla dealership and service center with six Superchargers out front. After only about a two-minute wait, one of the slots opened up and in I slid for a half-hour’s charging.
When Tesla dropped the car at my house, it had an indicated range of 259 miles, which would have been more than enough for a week’s worth of driving. After the 18-mile drive to the Supercharger, range was down to 234 miles, still more than enough to cover my loan period with the vehicle. But after just 21 minutes’ charge, I was good for 277 miles range –- the Supercharger had added 43 miles range in just 22 minutes. And it was free! New buyers will have to pay for some of their charges, after using up their annual 400 kWh of free allotments, but still, it’s like GM giving you a gas credit card. Thanks, Elon!
Then I found some empty streets to try a Ludicrous Speed launch. I wanted to see that advertised 2.9-second 0-60 time. I suction-cupped the RaceLogic Performance Box to the ginormous windshield and had at it. Well, all I could make it do was 3.2 0-60, even though I thought the Model X was in Ludicrous Speed mode. I brought up the owner’s manual on that magnificent 17-inch screen and scrolled through it to find the directions. I thought I was following them fairly well, tried again, but I still got only 3.2 seconds to 60. I’ve driven a lot of cars with various launch control modes. They usually involve stepping on the clutch, flooring the gas then releasing the clutch. But none of them were electric. Electricity is a different animal.
Turns out you have to precondition the battery, heating it up while cooling down the electric motors. The battery’s impedence decreases as its temperature increases, meaning that ions move more freely in a warmer battery cell. It’s a chemical phenomenon -– heat makes a reaction happen faster, and a faster reaction means more power (power is energy per unit of time, as you’ll recall).
By the time I figured all that out, my loan was used up. I have no doubt that Ludicrous Speed mode can get you from 0-60 mph in the advertised 2.9 seconds, I was just surprised to find that you had to wait up to a half-hour to get it. Imagine telling the guy in the Corvette next to you at the stoplight to wait a half-hour, then you’ll race him.
Repeated use of Ludicrous Mode can also decrease battery life (Tesla proactively monitors the condition of the powertrain to let customers know if service becomes necessary). So you have to really want your 2.9-second 0-60.
Nonetheless, 0-60 even in 3.2 seconds is downright thrilling, doesn’t require a long waiting period, and it can blow the doors off almost anything you’ll encounter out on the boulevard. It has to be the quickest SUV the world has ever known. It’s certainly the quickest anything I’ve ever driven. So keep that in mind when judging the Model X: It is quicker than your car!
There were other things that were a problem only because I wasn’t familiar with them. Read your owner’s manual and all will be explained. In fact, if you buy one of these, take the full tutorial at the dealership before driving off. For instance, the first time I drove it at night, it took me about 10 minutes of searching to figure out how to turn on the headlights. Everything is in submenus on that huge screen.
I am maybe not as smart as many Tesla owners, but perhaps I represent some potential future Tesla owners, especially the mass-market Model 3 buyers who do not have a tattoo of Elon Musk on their buttocks. Those future buyers are not going to be as forgiving of the foibles of such a technological wunder-thang that is this Model X. What will the average medium-dumb owner like me think when going out for a drive at night and having to scroll through the owner’s manual embedded in the car’s memory in order to turn on the headlights? I think it’s like buying a word processor after you’ve spent your life typing on paper. It’ll take a little longer to figure out, but in the end, it’s much better.
So 21st century, here I come! (You can program the headlights to come on automatically, by the way.)
The Model X is a technological wunder-wagon, for sure. Silicon Valley types and other techno-enthusiasts will love it. Everyone who owns an Apple watch or has solar panels on the roofs of their houses will love it. The slobbering nerd mob has massed at the Tesla gates and is happily pouring through them. Those people are not only technologically sophisticated but have the 158,950 whopping dollars it’d take to buy my press car. Those are different people.
The problem will be, or could be, with the Model 3. If Tesla wants to sell hundreds of thousands of electric cars to the great unwashed masses, those who are less forgiving of some of the Model S’ and Model X’s quirks, it will have to make it so simple to operate that even a dope like me can turn on the headlights. Or maybe not, there are almost 400,000 deposits for Model 3s. Maybe this EV enthusiasm, this cult of The Great and Powerful Musk, can go on for a few more years. By then, we’ll all be living on Mars and recalcitrant headlights will be the least of our worries.
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