This car is, in short, a breath of fresh air.
The driving experience of the Model X is unlike that of any other large SUV. For starters, it’s a pure electric vehicle, so there’s no noise from an internal combustion engine to deal with, only the distant hum of the two electric motors. That makes this an astonishingly refined means of travel, with comfort levels embellished by the standard air suspension system which is able to adjust the ride height through either manual or automatic means. The car lowers itself at speed on the highway but can be raised for low speed work over poorer surfaces – though it’s not really designed for any sort of ‘off piste’ terrain, despite the standard fitment of All-Wheel Drive across the range. Like all electric vehicles, weight is an issue - a Model X weighs in at nearly 2. 5-tonnes - but Tesla has minimised the effect of this by centrally mounting all that mass beneath the cabin floor, this approach giving the car an impressively low centre of gravity. As a result, there’s less bodyroll through tighter turns than you might expect and there might even be some fun to be had.
There are separate electric motors for the front and rear axles and as drive goes directly from them to the wheels, there’s no need for a gearbox, which further adds to the smoothness of your progress. You’ll have to get used to the regenerative braking system though, which cuts in aggressively as soon as you come off the throttle, slowing the car so sharply as it recycles energy that you rarely need to use the brake pedal. That’s one of the reasons why the potential driving range of this car is so impressive, with the base 329bhp ‘75D’ variant NEDC-rated at 259 miles and the 416bhp ‘90D’ model officially supposed to be able to travel up to 303 miles. There’s a ‘100D’ derivative with the same power output that’s NEDC-rated at 351 miles and the flagship 611bhp ‘P100D’ variant won’t be far behind that, provided you don’t exercise its ‘ludicrously’ quick performance. The ‘90D’ version is quick enough for us, capable of 60mph from rest in just 4. 8s, though if you often use that kind of acceleration, you’ll obviously need more frequent charging stops. Still, that’s no problem if you can find one of Tesla’s ‘Supercharging’ stations. These can refill half your battery in just 20 minutes and top the whole thing up from empty in only an hour and a quarter.
Every brand should have a distinctive look – as Tesla does. The Model X doesn’t have the handsome shaping of its Model S luxury segment stablemate, but that was always going to be difficult to achieve within the framework of a taller, boxier SUV bodystyle. It does still look faintly futuristic though, even before you click on the car-shaped key and operate Falcon Wing rear doors from the keyfob. Imagine that at the end of the school run.
In the front, where there’s a light, spacious feel helped by the uncluttered full-width floorspace and the huge ‘panoramic windscreen’ that reaches up over your head into the roof. The dash is dominated by a simply enormous 17-inch colour touchscreen that deals effectively with everything from the air conditioning controls to navigation, charging and stereo functions, along with the various settings for things like the car's suspension settings and the regenerative braking modes. Anything it can’t tell you will be covered by the beautifully presented instrument binnacle screen that brings all the things you really need to know right into your line of sight.
Let’s move rearwards. The ‘Falcon Wing’ rear side doors certainly make getting in and out easier, especially if you’re heading to the third row seating that’ll be provided if you’ve ordered your car with one of the optional six or seven-seater packages.
Once you are right at the back, you get the benefit of the Tesla’s enormous 5-metre length. Adults will find knee room limited and the slope of the tailgate can see your head brushing the rear screen, but in comparison to what you get with most rivals, it’s really quite spacious.
Finally, let’s check out the boot. As you’d expect, the tailgate is power-operated. Obviously, with all seven seats in place, luggage space is going to be relatively restricted, but you do get the under-floor compartment for storing all the various charge leads and the lid for it can be positioned at two separate heights.
The two third row chairs fold flat into the floor of course, you have to click forward their headrests before doing so. Or, it’s possible to go further. Via a ‘Seats’ menu in the centre-dash touchscreen, you can activate what Tesla calls a ‘Cargo Mode’ which sees these second row chairs not only slide ahead but also tilt themselves forward to the front to create more room behind. Once the ‘Cargo Mode’ positions are reached, a substantial total carriage capacity of 2180-litres is revealed.
That’s not your lot though because the lack on an engine up front means that the Model X can provide space here too – Tesla rather annoyingly calls this a ‘frunk’. There’s 187-litres of room inside it.
Here’s a design that could probably only have come from Silicon Valley. A car that could perhaps only have been developed by a company associated with one specialising in advanced rockets and spacecraft. And a brand that could certainly only have been founded by an entrepreneur who refuses to be constrained by the bounds of convention. It all adds up to this, a car that does nothing less than re-write the rulebook.