First Drive: Tesla Model X

The Tesla Model X has something of a monopoly over the all-electric SUV market, as it is currently the only one in production.

But how does it stack up? AOL Cars got behind the wheel of this futuristic machine to put it through its paces, and to see if it lives up to all of the hype that has been surrounding it.
What is it?

The Model X is the first-ever SUV constructed by electric car manufacturer Tesla. It successfully combines all of the attractive aspects of premium SUV ownership – seven seats, a commanding driving position and a luxurious cabin – with low running costs, zero tail-pipe emissions and scintillating performance.

When Elon Musk, the CEO and founder of Tesla, first started the company, he had what he called a 'master plan'. This would see Tesla start out as a small-time electric sports car maker before growing into a company that sold a range of zero-emissions vehicles that were far more accessible in terms of cost.

To begin with, an electric SUV was not on the cards, and more cynical individuals would say that it was born out of a desire to cash in on what was a booming market segment.

The Model X is now here, and all of the niggles that plagued its development have been ironed out.

The eye-catching 'Falcon' doors are a key feature, and are in fact incredibly handy, while you'll never tire of the immediate power delivery afforded by the electric motors.

What's under the bonnet?

Instead of a traditional combustion engine, the Model X relies upon electric motors on each axle for propulsion. These engines are powered by a massive battery pack – our test car was fitted with a 90kWh unit although 75kWh and 100kWh options are available as well.

Depending on the size of the batteries, the Model X's range varies from 259 miles in the entry-level 75D model and increases to 336 miles in the flagship P100D. Our 90D test car boasted an electric range of 303 miles, which is more than enough to cope with an average amount of daily driving. The 90D boasts a power output of 371bhp and 440Nm of torque, which allows for a 0-60mph time of 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 155mph – figures that are certainly impressive for a seven-seat SUV.

That said, long spouts on the motorway where the regenerative breaking isn't given much of a chance to work its magic will cause the battery's range to plummet. Cold weather can also have a negative effect on battery range, as they aren't as efficient when the mercury falls. Plan for this, and you should avoid an unwanted dose of range anxiety.

First Drive: Tesla Model X
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First Drive: Tesla Model X

What's the spec like?

In a word, expensive. Even the base-specification 75D Model X costs slightly more than £80,000, which could also buy a well-specced Porsche Cayenne or a top-of-the-line Volvo XC90 with a rather significant amount of money left over. If you fancy getting your hands on the range topping P100D, be prepared to part with £129,200.

If interior space, a premium cabin and imposing driving position are what you're in the market for, other cars definitely offer better value for money. While the Model X can stand up to its more established rivals, it is considerably more expensive to get your hands on one.

Any rivals?

This is a bit of a tricky one, as the Model X is the only all-electric SUV on sale. However, if you were to compare it to conventional SUVs, it would go up against the likes of the Volvo XC90, Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne.

What's it like to drive?

Driving the Model X for the first time might be a little unsettling for some people. Don't expect to find a starter button or anything like that, all you are required to do it strap your seatbelt on, select 'D', and you're good to go.

One of the first things you'll notice when you get behind the wheel of the Model X is the addictive nature of its acceleration. Thanks to instant power delivery from the electric motors, the Model X has a significant amount of get-up-and-go at any speed.

A clever regenerative braking system helps to recharge the batteries by storing energy whenever your foot is lifted of the accelerator. After a bit of time to adjust, you'll find you rely on the main brakes less and less.

Thanks to a low centre of gravity due to the weight of the batteries in the floorplan, the Model S saloon always handled corners in an impressive fashion – despite its size. This trend continues in the Model X for the most part, although there is a noticeable amount more lean in the bends.

AOL Cars verdict

Eye-watering price tag aside, the Model X is a car to get excited about. It has all the trappings of a properly upmarket SUV – an attractive exterior, high-quality interior and plenty of space – but combines these factors with incredibly low running costs and surprisingly addictive performance. While there isn't currently anything on the market that directly rivals it, there are a number of traditional combustion engine SUVs that offer comparable drives and cabins although at considerably lower prices.

Not only is the Model X great as an EV, it's also great compared to its rivals. With proper charging infrastructure in place and a 'money no object' approach to buying one, there are few that will be let down by the Model X.

The Knowledge:

Power (bhp): 371
Torque (Nm): 440
Max speed (mph): 155
0-60mph: 4.8 seconds
Emissions (g/km): 0 (combined)
Price: circa £95,000
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