THE TESLA MODEL X WAS ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED NEW CAR ARRIVALS IN AUSTRALIA LAST YEAR.
Model X was Tesla’s second big play after the Model S, which quickly captured an audience when it arrived at the end of 2014.
But while the Model S was a large sedan, this time, the electric carmaker had a family SUV at a time when SUVs had escalated in popularity - a trend that continues today.
The Model X has been in Australia for around a year now, so has any of the gloss worn off?
Vehicle Style: Large Electric SUV Wagon
Price: $242,000 (drive-away) - As Tested: $305,000 (drive-away)
Engine/trans: 193kW/330Nm front, 375kW/600Nm rear - dual electric motors | 1sp automatic
Maximum Range: 542km (NEDC)
Tesla continually fettles with its range in the pursuit of improvement, but for now, the P100D is the top of the Model X tree.
Translated, that’s the ‘performance’ version of the Model X with 100kWh battery pack and duel electric motors.
The ‘D’ is a given, as all Model Xs in Australia feature the dual motor set-up to enable all-wheel-drive.
The options list is as long as your arm, and it’s forever changing as well. You could easily add the price of another small car to the purchase price if you tick every box.
And with over-the-air updates, the improvements don’t end when you leave the dealer’s driveway (although Tesla prefers to call them ‘stores’).
- Standard equipment: self-opening and closing doors, climate control air-conditioning, Bioweapon Defence Mode air-cleansing system, keyless entry, electric seats, electric tailgate, electric Falcon Wing doors, active cruise control, ambient interior lighting, largest glass panoramic windscreen in production,
- Infotainment: 17-inch multi-mode touchscreen, USB, auxiliary input, Bluetooth, satellite navigation, camera, calendar,
- Cargo Volume: up to 2492 litres (five-seat model)
The Model X’s interior won’t suit all tastes, but there’s a whole heap to like.
Tech-heads will struggle to find a more pleasing interior environment within the automotive industry, which is dominated by the 17-inch touchscreen. The interior seems minimalist, and yet the screen ensures it isn’t.
The screen controls virtually everything, and includes goodies such as a constant rear-view camera, battery monitor, radio apps and satellite navigation with a listing of all of Tesla’s public recharge points.
The only downside is for sports fans… With no AM radio, you’ll be relying on apps or FM radio to hear the footy or cricket, and Australia’s patchy mobile phone reception means the apps cannot be relied upon in rural areas.
The reversing camera is one of the best in the business, and it comes in handy to maximise garage space, as the Model X is enormous. Keep a close eye on the huge screen, and you can reverse the big SUV to within millimetres of where you want it.
Also handy are the ‘Falcon Wing’ doors, which allow for ultra-easy entry and exit for rear seat passengers.
The doors open electronically, and have sensors and twin hinges to ensure they use only the space available when opening. Likewise, the front door also opens and closes itself, and uses similar sensors to stop it from bashing into the car parked in the neighbouring space.
That said, we did manage to confuse the doors; twice.
Buyers can choose between five-, six- or seven-seat interior layouts, with the six-seat option ensuring every occupant gets an individual bucket seat.
Choose the five-seat option, and there’s up to 2492 litres of cargo space available. Tesla’s ‘frunk’ (front trunk) - the hole where an internal combustion engine would normally live - combined with the interior layout gives the Model X an edge for storage over every other SUV on the market.
Tesla wants its customers to know that the Model X is a ‘real’ SUV, and not some electric-powered gimmick. As such, extra storage options include a custom bike storage rack or a ski and snowboard carrier.
The EV can even be used for serious towing, with a tow rating of up to 2250kg on both the 20- and 22-inch wheel packages. The tow pack comes standard, and includes trailer sway control.
There’s also a stack of interior colour combinations, including a carbon-fibre trim. Our test car featured black leather seats ($3600) and the aforementioned carbon-fibre ($1450).
The final word for the interior goes to the audio system. With the optional 17-speaker, Ultra High Fidelity Sound package ($3600), the Model X presents arguably the best in-car audio experience money can buy.
- Engine: 193kW/330Nm front, 375kW/600Nm rear - dual electric motors
- Transmission: 1sp automatic, AWD
- Suspension: Independent double wishbone front, independent multi-link rear
- Brakes: 355mm front, 365mm rear, ventilated disc brakes
- Steering: variable ratio, speed sensitive, electronic power-assisted rack and pinion
- Towing: 2250kg gross braked, standard sway control
At first, the Model X feels like any other premium SUV.
Crawling through city traffic, everyday driving may mean the electric car factor slips your mind.
Tesla’s ‘creep’ function and regenerative braking, plus very brisk acceleration away from the lights make the Model X into a very pleasant city cruiser.
The re-gen braking in particular simplifies driving almost to a ‘one-pedal’ operation, as the car will all but bring itself to a gentle stop as you trawl from one red light to the next.
The maximum driving range for the P100D is rated at more than 500km. The 100kWh pack is the highest output currently available, but Tesla is continually bettering itself in this area so next week may be a different story.
Like every other car on the market, the realities of stop-start driving, waiting at red lights with the air conditioning running and even simple changes in temperature mean it’s unlikely you’ll be clocking up more than 500km every time between charges. In fact, it could be a whole heap less.
But with use as a city, family car, it’s not meant to be that way. Tesla’s home charging unit will replenish the electric juice in a few hours, which for most owners (using a garage space) means simply plugging it in each night before returning in the morning to find the battery fully-charged.
You’ll never need to visit a service station again, and if you’re keen enough, you can take advantage of off-peak electricity charges to time the recharging for maximum savings.
Recharging at home, of course, won’t always be an option.
The supplied ‘standard’ charging cable uses a regular 10-amp outlet to ensure you can at least top up the battery pack regardless of where you are, within reason, but it does so at a snail’s pace. After just over 18 hours of continuous charging during out test, the cable added 185km to the available driving range - spot-on Tesla’s claim of around 10km per hour.
Tesla promises more than 10,000 ‘Superchargers’ (more on that in a moment) and more than 15,000 Destination Chargers will be in place around the world by the end of this year.
In Australia, some of the new Supercharger locations include Cooma in NSW, the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Horsham in Victoria and Bunbury in Western Australia, while Destination Chargers (a version of the home charging unit, usually found at extended stopovers such as hotels and shopping centres) can be found as far afield as Broken Hill, Broome and Bourke.
Nothing for it then but to test out the Model X on a highway run…
Departing North Sydney, we travelled to Goulburn through city streets and along the Hume Highway. Tesla’s active cruise control is handy on the highway at a steady 110km/h.
Drivers will barely notice that the Model X is all-electric on the freeway. With the usual wind and tyre noise generated by any car, it’ll be hard to spot the difference between the Model X and any other large SUV.
So you’re left with the giant infotainment screen for entertainment and the largest windscreen currently in production for a panoramic view.
Upon arrival at Goulburn’s Supercharging station, we had reduced the Model X’s available range from 494km to 137km - a change of 357km over a drive of roughly 200km. That may seem disappointing, but it’s the reality when temperature, use of interior features and climate control along with high average speed are all considered.
Seventy minutes later, feeding at the Supercharger, and the battery pack had lifted from 25 percent to the full 100 percent. Owners don’t have to wait until the battery is fully-charged, and a charge of 80 percent could be achieved in around 30 minutes.
But we wanted to maximise our range as we headed off the freeway and east into the Great Dividing Range for the return leg.
To this point, the Model X had performed like any other SUV. But it didn’t take long for all of Tesla’s engineering efforts to reveal themselves when we hit a series of mountain passes.
A combination of re-gen braking, the 22-inch wheels wearing 35-profile Goodyear tyres and a floor full of batteries made for an outstanding handling package in a car of this size.
This is a family SUV, capable of towing the family boat and with room for up to seven people and all their luggage, but the Model X is one of the few that can legitimately put the ‘sport’ into ‘Sport Utility Vehicle’.
The re-gen braking in particular becomes a surprising asset. While also recharging the batteries, the system can be used for a quick bite of mid-corner stability simply unavailable in a car that isn’t equipped with the technology. It’s not like a stab of the brakes, which would never be advised mid-corner, but rather a guiding hand that stretches the available grip even further.
Even casual Tesla enthusiasts will know about the company’s ‘Insane’ and ‘Ludicrous’ acceleration modes. Our test car was equipped with the latter, which trims the 0-100km/h time down to around three seconds.
But this is more than a straight-line shooter. The Model X is a genuine sports SUV with the acceleration and handling to match -and all without burning a single drop of fuel.
All that performance and spirited driving comes at a price, however, and we’re not talking about the purchase price which tops $300,000 with the selected options (and nearly $50,000 in Luxury Car Tax, thanks very much…) on the test car.
The 265km return leg left just 110km of range remaining (the ‘yellow light’ zone), or a reduction of 401km from the suggested maximum of 511km when we left Goulburn with a full charge.
Of course the car cannot predict the maximum range to perfection, and it has no chance if you don’t tell it which route you’re using. On one steep uphill climb, the available range plummeted by around 15km in just four kilometres of driving.
So the range is worth considering if you plan to use the SUV to its maximum potential frequently, but there’s stories all over the internet of Tesla owners who have driven far and wide within Australia and to whom charging hasn’t been a hassle.
Before you join them, remember that Tesla does not provide a spare wheel - only a tyre repair kit.
It’s not a cost-saving measure, or to promote more interior space, but a case of the carmaker wanting to ensure drivers don’t attempt a Ludicrous Mode 0-100km/h dash without the wheel nuts tightened to specification (requiring a call to the roadside assistance service). The Model X P100D does, after all, have more than 900Nm of combined torque.
ANCAP rating: ANCAP is yet to provide a rating for the Model X, but America’s NHTSA declared it the ‘safest SUV yet’ earlier this year.
Safety Features: airbags, anti-lock brakes with brake-force distribution and brake assist, stability control, traction control, reverse camera, trailer sway control, collision avoidance, autonomous emergency braking, ISOFIX child seat attachments, semi-autonomous features
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Four years/80,000 kilometres (eight years / unlimited kilometres for the battery pack)
Servicing: Tesla recommends an annual service, but the warranty will not be void if you chose to ignore that advice. The warranty will be void, however, if a technician services the car who is not Tesla-certified and there’s a subsequent problem.
Pricing for services varies for every service, but a comprehensive four-year service pack is available from purchase at $3,675.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Put simply, the Model X has no rivals.
They’re coming, but for now, you cannot buy another all-electric, large SUV in Australia.
There’s several hybrid and PHEV options, most of them from Germany, including the Mercedes-Benz GLE 500 e, BMW X5 xDrive40e and Porsche’s Cayenne S E-Hybrid. Volvo’s XC90 is also on the list.
Tesla considers that potential Model X customers will cross-shop against similarly-priced performance SUVs with internal-combustion engines.
BMW’s X5 M and X6 M are two examples, Mercedes-AMG’s GLE 63 S is another, while the supercharged Range Rover Sport is an option that doesn’t come from Germany.
For those willing to spend more, consider the Bentley Bentayga. For those looking for a bargain-priced performance SUV, Jeep’s 522kW/868Nm Grand Cherokee Trackhawk does 0-100km/h in 3.6 seconds, arriving later this year with an expected starting price of around $140,000.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Tesla took its sweet time making the Model X, but the finished product was worth the wait.
The combination of performance, handling, green credentials, practicality, safety and Tesla’s X-factor (pardon the pun) is a winner.
The price is certainly up there, but it’s no more than Tesla’s key rivals - rivals that are slower, less spacious and who cannot boast ‘zero emissions’ driving (depending on the electricity source).
Electric cars are still in their early days, and the varying battery range of the Model X will be an issue for some. But it speaks volumes that Tesla’s influence, and others, means the world can expect a rush of new EV models from various carmakers over the next five years or so, and beyond.
And when those new models arrive, the Model X can rightly claim to be the first all-electric SUV to get the recipe right.