Elon Musk is a genius. He’s been called the modern day Nikola Tesla, a man historians sometimes lovingly refer to as “the inventor of the 21st Century.”
Musk is also the wizard behind the curtain over at Tesla Motors, named after the iconic inventor. He serves as the auto giant’s CEO and lead designer. Musk also happens to be a pioneer in mankind’s efforts to reach Mars. One of his other companies (he has several), SpaceX, builds reusable rockets that can launch into space and gracefully land back on Earth after completing its mission.
Filling out the rest of his resume isn’t easy — he has a degree in physics and a degree in economics, founded PayPal, plans to move the whole world over to solar power, produces batteries that can power your entire home, and wants to build a second Internet… in space. Compared to Mr. Musk, we all seem like chronic underachievers, and some say his life’s work is a preview of mankind’s near future.
As far as the auto industry is concerned, he’s a huge pioneer there, too. Tesla motors have revolutionized the electric car, elevating it from an obscure and impractical statement about the environment to a performance-driven road monster, capable of leaving traditional automobiles in the dust.
With the release of the Tesla Model X, Musk plans to keep the good times rolling and push the electric auto even closer to the mainstream with a fully-fledged all-electric SUV. Let’s take a look at what he and his team have come up with.
Before doing a rundown on the Model X, it is interesting to keep something about a different Tesla model in mind. The Model S, Tesla’s all-electric Sedan, earned a more-than-perfect rating from Consumer Reports.
Since the Model S and Model X share 30% of their parts and the same general automotive platform, that’s a good start for the Model X.
Taking a hard look at Tesla’s Model S and Model X, it’s clear the electric car doesn’t have a lot of ground to cover anymore when it comes to competing with traditional automobiles. The days of laughing the electric car out of the room are over.
The gap is all but closed, and thanks to Musk’s unending dedication, intelligence, and talent for innovation, electric cars now outperform their gas-guzzling counterparts in many categories. Acceleration may be the most noteworthy of which, as today’s electric autos practically fly off the line — beating out their older cousins and achieving 0-60 times that were, even a measly 10 years ago, impossible.
The scoreboard for fastest-accelerating cars is positively lit up by electric autos, with the closest comparable times in the industry coming from cars that utilize hybrid technology.
That’s all to say that, yes, this all-electric SUV has a faster 0-60 time (3 seconds) than many Ferraris.
Users also applaud the car’s handling and ride quality, which is almost unnervingly quiet and smooth. You can load the Model X up with groceries or passengers, rip past everyone on the highway, and still hear your phone vibrate in your pocket.
The Model X looks as cutting edge in person as it does on a stats sheet. Not that it’s overly futuristic or too gimmicky, but it’s about what you’d expect when you put a rocket scientist in charge of designing your SUV. It’s actually rather sleek, and fits in quite well on the highway and the track alike. You won’t stand out like a sore thumb, but you will stand out.
Adding to the futuristic look of the car are its rear falcon-wing doors. Unlike scissor doors you’d see on, say, a Lamborghini — hinged near the mirrors and opens on a pivot — the Model X’s falcon doors deploy and fold from the roof to resemble the wings of an aircraft on a carrier. Think of an F-18 fighter jet. The Model X’s rear doors fold upwards in the same manner to save space (and look awesome). Best of all, they operate on proximity sensors so if you’re in a tight space, they’ll deploy more vertically to avoid causing damage to itself or anything nearby.
On the inside, things look a bit technical, but overall the user experience is streamlined. There is a touchpad, modern-looking dials, comprehensive ride-quality controls and safety features, performance monitors, and a few interesting features we’ll call “quirks.”
At this price point, all SUV interiors are quite respectable and comfortable. That’s the name of the game. The Tesla model X is no exception, and driver satisfaction reports tend to indicate Model X drivers are very happy with its interior.
About those quirks…
The Model X wouldn’t be a proper Tesla without a few Easter eggs and quirks. There are two of note — a button which engages “ludicrous mode.” Lifted straight from the controls of a ship from Spaceballs, this sets the car up for maximum speed, acceleration, and performance by changing a few onboard settings.
The other interesting feature is a button called “bioweapon defense mode.” This deploys a number of air filtration safeguards that allow the Model X to stay driveable even during a chemical attack.
It seems strange, but disagreeing with Musk does, too.
There are a few glitches apparent in some Model X’s, but Tesla owned up to them and immediately rectified many of the issues that early-adopters ran into. Even then, none of the issues are too make-or-break.
Of note, people did seem to run into trouble with the rear seats, which apparently occasionally malfunctioned. The falcon doors and windshield (which allows for a lot of light to come in, as it curves into the roof, unlike many other vehicles) have taken some criticism, as well.
On the bright side, none of those are mechanical or safety failures, per se. It could simply be the case that people, who are famously put off by change, are still getting used to the way Tesla does things.
Consumer Reports noted that, when tallying satisfaction surveys, almost all Tesla drivers who did report some sort of issue made note of how fast, effective, and “on the ball” Tesla’s team were about recording feedback, working with the driver, and making necessary changes or repairs to each model.
So if you do run into issues, expect top-notch customer service. If something goes wrong with your Model X, it won’t stay wrong.
Of course, the engineering wizard who builds reusable space rockets knows a thing or two about safety.
Tesla all but claim the Model X is impossible to flip over. Keep in mind, these cars are constructed very differently than traditional automobiles. While the heaviest part of a car has almost always been its engine, the Tesla’s heaviest part is its battery array. While the engine in a gas-guzzler tends to sit in the front, rear, or middle of the vehicle in an elevated position, the batteries in a Tesla line the underbelly of the vehicle.
This means most of the weight is distributed evenly underneath the car, making it bottom-heavy and much safer around a corner than your typical SUV. That’s no small achievement — SUVs are famously less capable around corners than most cars. With Tesla’s model X, that concern has been entirely eliminated.
The car also comes packed with plenty of other safety features. Many of them unseen, clever, and/or computer-based. Everything simply works very well, and the user experience is seamless.
Much of the progress electric cars and electric hybrid technology have made over the years is owed to Tesla Motors. They’re the main reason the electric car is no longer a pipedream, or concept art at an auto show, and instead a mainstay in luxury, comfort, and indeed, performance motoring. The day of the electric car is finally here.
You can let the relatively few shortcomings that do remain for electric cars stop you from joining in on all the fun, but it’s worth keeping in mind that their designer is also probably the man who will put us on Mars. You may experience a bit of a learning curve, but you won’t want for much.
The Model X is classy, comfortable, capable, and innovative. It’ll hold up to anything you’ve driven before in your life, and doesn’t come with any of the drawbacks electric cars had ten years ago. Plus, it’s fast. Give it a shot.
Video courtesy of X Riders Cars