The market has spoken, loudly and decisively in favour of SUVs. It’s now the default choice for family motoring. This phenomenon is amplified at the premium end of the market.
With Australia being a country in the grip of an SUV obsession, Tesla released its first SUV at an opportune time.
There is no doubt this is a brand that breaks rules and accepted conventions daily. Tesla is developing a reputation for firsts and Tesla’s first foray into SUVs, the Model X, is no different.
Most obvious is the Model X being the first all-electric long-range SUV. The Model X is also here to change what an SUV actually is, to redefine the category.
For this review, Tesla has supplied the top-of-the-range Model X P100D, the performance variant of its SUV range. New technology is rarely cheap and the flagship Model X starts at $203,600 plus on-road costs.
Our tester was optioned with a six-seat configuration and Tesla’s autonomous technology which takes the Victorian drive-away price to $292,681. The federal government takes a substantial cut of $46,492 thanks to the discriminatory luxury car tax.
From a performance point of view, the Model X P100D is most likely to be cross-shopped against the Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7 and the BMW X5M.
Straight up, Tesla may always be a brand that competes at the business end of the new car market. Many Tesla fans live in hope of Ford-like affordability (including me), however, it's very unlikely Tesla will ever be caught slumming it in the mainstream.
Tesla's whole philosophy of innovation and bringing things to the market first will always keep it priced higher than its rivals. Perhaps this isn't a bad thing and will allow Tesla to preserve the market niche it has carved out.
Producing an SUV that sets itself apart from the plethora of SUVs that now occupy so many driveways isn’t an easy undertaking.
One area where Tesla doesn’t always receive the plaudits it deserves is design. With no need to develop a design around a conventional drivetrain that houses an engine and transmission, Tesla has more flexibility to take the process of designing a car to places other manufacturers can’t go.
At first sight, the Model X isn’t overly flashy, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s instantly identifiable as a Tesla, the absence of a grille is a big giveaway.
Of course, everything changes when the falcon doors open. When at their highest point, the doors cause people to stop and look.
Like most things Tesla do, the falcon doors serve a purpose, they haven’t been incorporated just to be a ‘look at me’ feature. The specific function the doors are charged with executing is the easier loading and unloading of rear passengers which will most likely be children.
The huge opening succeeds in making the process of getting everyone on board easier. There is no other SUV that gives as much access to the third row. The doors are functional in a way that easily validates their inclusion.
One thing to note, closing the falcon doors can sometimes feel like a very slow process when you're in a hurry.
It’s not all about the superstar doors, there is more substance to be found when inside the Model X. Upon entry, occupants are greeted with acres of room. For an SUV that doesn't have gigantic exterior proportions, the interior has been beautifully carved out to maximise space and comfort – two criterion every SUV should satisfy.
The packaging is nothing short of remarkable. Buyers can order their Model X in five, six or seven-seat configurations. Our tester came with six seats, this is the perfect layout. The gap between the seats in the second row is a masterstroke that makes the rearmost seats far more usable. The interior will comfortably accommodate six without any drama.
Up front, the driver and passenger enjoy a wonderful view of the road courtesy of the largest windscreen that’s currently in production. The upper part is tinted so it feels like the windscreen melts into a sunroof.
The layout from the driver’s seat is identical to what we experienced in the Model S. Tesla has bought Apple-esque functionality and modernity to its interiors.
Like the sedan, the interior of Tesla’s SUV lacks the theatre often associated with high-end European cars. The minimalist approach might not appeal to those coming from a Mercedes or Audi but it does suit Tesla’s image.
If you are yet to drive a Tesla, you could be forgiven for thinking the brand only make cars for technophiles. While technology enthusiasts are sure to be drawn to Tesla, keen drivers haven’t been forgotten about.
Tesla makes cars that will please those with a passion for driving. The Model X has the performance and handling characteristics to satisfy motoring enthusiasts.
Like its sedan sister, the Model X P100D is quite playful and fast in a straight line. From a standstill, it can hit 100km/h in only 3.1 seconds. The Model X is fast, and not just for an SUV.
Power delivery is instant and very quickly the acceleration becomes intoxicating. The torque is effortlessly brought to life.
Throw a few curves into the drive and the Model X shows its dynamic credentials. The Model X is a heavy SUV, but in this case, the weight is located low in the chassis which anchors the car and eliminates some of the body roll. There is a secure feeling when it’s pressed in the bends.
The level of grip is off the charts and the weighting of the steering is as close to perfect as one would expect when parting with this much coin.
Drivers can alter the car’s suspension and steering setting to find the sweet spot. The ability to firm things up is there, but it’s not really necessary. The standard ride is slightly firmer than most will encounter in an SUV of this size, yet it remained comfortable despite riding on 22-inch wagon wheels.
The Model X is a fabulous cruising car, the silent propulsion system combined with very minimal wind and tyre noise make it an unbelievably relaxing car to enjoy a long highway journey.
As was the case with the Model S, the Autopilot offered nothing but frustration. It refused to engage for longer than a minute or so before turning off.
Petrol heads will struggle to reconcile the lack of an engine sound and exhaust note. The silence can be startling at first. Aficionados like us need to stop crying, it’s a sign of the times.
The Model X is certainly a capable car, however, it shouldn’t be considered an SUV for off-road exploration. No doubt this is an area for Tesla to address in future models.
The whole notion of range anxiety is not an issue for Tesla, in P100D form expect to get between 380 and 430 kilometres from a full battery. In our experience, the majority of Australians do not cover that distance in one day. Now before anyone has a sook, note the word majority.
All Australian delivered Model X variants come standard with a wall charger that requires installation by a professional electrician. Once this is installed, it's as simple as plugging it in when a charge is required. It is literally as simple as charging a mobile phone.
To further change perceptions of limited range, Tesla has invested heavily in its own infrastructure to support its cars and owners. The Supercharger and destination charger networks continue to grow.
It is now possible to drive from Adelaide to Brisbane via Melbourne using the Supercharger network. If owners need to take a long trip, all that is required is 30 seconds of planning. If this falls into the too hard basket, the car’s trip computer can plan it for you. There’s no need to wait around clock-watching, the Model X will charge until it has enough battery life to reach the next charging point.
Unfortunately for new owners, free supercharging for life is no longer offered. Under the new arrangement, owners receive 400kWh of free Supercharger credit each year, Tesla says this is enough to drive about 1600km.
In terms of running cost, the best advice is to find an electricity retailer that best meets your needs. Some retailers offer discounts for EV owners so doing some research is likely to keep costs down.
Servicing is on the expensive side, however, it is worth remembering this is a car nudging 300k. Fresh oil isn’t required but yearly maintenance remains vital for the best long-term ownership prospects.
Service intervals are set at 12 month/20,000km. Tesla provides transparent service costs for each trip to the technician, or alternatively, buyers can opt for a 3 or 4-year Maintenance Plan. For the Model X, the 3-year plan is priced at $2,475 while the 4-year plan costs $3,675.
Tesla supports the Model X with a 4 year/80,000km warranty. For added peace of mind, the battery and drive unit is covered for 8 years with no cap on the number of kilometres.
As a car manufacturer, Tesla is the brand that was not given due respect early in its life. Tesla was too quickly dismissed by the establishment and not taken seriously. Tesla has done what no other could - deliver an electric car that can compete with some of the market’s best.
All of the impediments to electric car ownership have largely been overcome. Tesla has the performance, styling and desirability to make its cars appealing to a very wide audience.
Regardless of what happens to Tesla over the next few years, its place in the automotive ‘Hall of Fame’ is assured. What Tesla has achieved in such a short time is truly remarkable. Tesla will be remembered as the brand that kickstarted the electric car revolution and the subsequent arms race we are now witnessing.
As a result of Tesla’s influence, the market has shifted in a profound way. All other manufacturers are now playing catch up. It’s almost calamitous to witness other car brands falling over each other to constantly remind us how much they are investing in the future away from fossil fuels.
Owning an electric car is no longer a long list of compromises in the name of efficiency and the environment. Tesla’s technology, the tech found in the Model X, has moved the game forward. Anybody in the market for an upper-premium SUV with some genuine performance credentials should have the Model X on their short list.
The Model X is a unique family car, there really is nothing else like it. The way the Model X brings performance, refinement, practicality and spaciousness together is a thing of beauty. Many SUVs try this balancing act with varying degrees of success. If you don’t mind the premium required to be the first in your hood, the Model X will change the way you think about family transport.
2018 Tesla Model X P100D Specifications
Price from $203,600 plus on-road costs Powertrain Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive 100kWh battery Power 568kW Torque 1000Nm Transmission single speed unit Range up to 542km Length 5052mm Width 2272mm Height 1684mm Wheelbase 2965mm Performance 0-100km 3.1 seconds Turning Circle 11m Ground Clearance 171-223mm Kerb Weight 2497kg Service Intervals 12 months/20,000km Warranty 4 year/80,000 km – 8 year/unlimited kilometre warranty on battery and drive unit
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