Early this afternoon, Tesla invited us to its Los Angeles headquarters where CEO Elon Musk unveiled a 7-passenger EV SUV called the Model X. Based on an extended platform of the 5+2 passenger sedan, the Model S, the newest creation is shaped like a high-performance SUV, yet offers third row seating and the utility of modern minivans. Except that it’s entirely electric.
Best of all, the Model X keeps its sibling’s motivation, and adds two electric motors to power the rear wheels, providing brisk acceleration (0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds!), and an intelligent all-wheel drive that Musk says will offer independently variable traction.
Total power, like the Model S, will comes in two trims, either a 60 or 80 kWh battery, good for somewhere in the vicinity of 160- and 300 miles range. Unlike the Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf, however, the Model X will fully charge in about four hours.
We had a chance to drive around a parking lot oval marked by cones, and noted that the Model X, like the Model S, delivers smooth, clean power. And because its battery is housed underneath and behind the third row, Tesla was able to vastly improve cargo space. Thanks to a pillared base beneath the sliding, second row, and due to the cavernous trunk (even with the third row up) and generous under hood storage space, the Model X is bursting with storage capability.
Up front, it’s hard to miss, or ignore, the gargantuan 17-inch touch screen, which is home to most of the Model X’s controls. It’s even internet ready. On the steering wheel are iPod Nano-like thumb controls to adjust the audio and climate levels, which blew cold on this unusually warm, SoCal winter’s day.
While the Model X has the goods to compete with today’s best SUV’s in an urban market, there are a few peculiarities, or things that are new that most consumer’s might need to get used to.
The Model X doesn’t have sideview mirrors, and will–pending federal approval–employ door-mounted cameras, which display a rearward image on the center-mounted touchscreen. Also, the Falcon-designed gull wing doors are spectacular to look at, and offer unparalleled access to the second- and third-row seats–something parents trying to use LATCH points could appreciate–and while Elon Musk literally stood inside the doorframe, illustrating it could be done, we have a hard time believing such expansive openings are viable anywhere outside of Southern California. Entrance in inclement weather would be downright disastrous to the handsome, hand-stitched leather interior.
Although the Model X is far from production, Musk says the car as we saw it is close to production spec sheetmetal, noting however, that due to changing laws and safety/crash laws, that some minor tweaking might be made. According to Musk, the Model X will go into production by late 2013, with deliveries available in early 2014. Pricing and availability should be close to that of the Model S, which we hope will sometime soon begin production. Expect official EPA fuel mileage ratings and exact details on the Model X, when and if, the Model S ever gets to production.
Until then, check out the photos and let us know what you think. Are you intrigued by the idea of a 3-row EV SUV that performs like a sports car, has the storage capacity of a minivan, can run 300 miles on a single charge, and only needs 4 hours to full recharge?
By Jason Davis