Test Drive: Tesla’s Model X Is Electrifying The Future
The iPad-like dashboard comes with a button for "Ludicrous Plus mode."
If you like people to look at your car, and thus at you, there are few things on the road that will turn as many heads, nor start as many conversations, as the Tesla Model X. If you find super cars a bit too loud and brash and prefer your performance quiet but deadly, this is the vehicle of your future.
If you want a car that will get you the kind of attention you’d normally receive for dropping your pants and playing the spoons on your buttocks, you don’t have to buy a big, loud, scary Italian super car, because you can cause just as much of a fuss with a vehicle that’s effectively the complete opposite.
Tesla’s Model X – unlike previous efforts from the electrifying disruptor brand created by eccentric billionaire genius Elon Musk – is not a sports car, it is a giant SUV/people mover that looks like it was designed using the back end of a chicken (it’s strangely smooth and egg-like).
But it does stop traffic, and cause strangers to stop you to ask questions, not only because it’s a Tesla and people are fascinated by the brand, but because of its Falcon Wing doors (how Elon resisted his geek urge to call them Millennium Falcon Doors remains a mystery).
Vast, unhinged and unlike anything the world has ever seen, these uplifting, genuinely ingenious doors garner even more attention than the now passé scissor units you find on a Lamborghini Aventador. Perhaps because they rise about eight feet in the air, swooping up and out from the sides of the vehicle so that you can actually operate them in very tight spaces (they require as little as 50cm of clearance).
Not just fun to watch, and to operate via buttons on your touch screen, they’re also hugely practical, allowing passengers to basically walk into the rear with hardly any bending.
The space throughout the vehicle, thanks to the radical lack of an engine in this all-electric futuristicar, is astonishing and you can choose to have five, six or seven seats, all of which look a bit Starship Enterprisey.
So, it’s practical, at least until we come to the inevitable debate over the range anxiety inherent in owning an EV in a country with so few charging stations, but you should also know that it is, unlike any other vehicle of this size, fun to drive as well.
So much fun, in fact, that it also takes on some super cars in the performance stakes as well as the eyeball-grabbing ones. Your Model X, which provides all of its 447kW and an astonishing 1074Nm of torque from the moment you hit the throttle (EVs don’t have to worry about gears, or ignition, or exhaust, they just go), comes with something called Ludicrous Plus mode.
Not only does this sound like fun, when you press the button for it, using a central screen so beautiful and vast it looks like a coffee-table-sized iPad, you are given the option of going ahead with maximum attack or choosing to back out of the choice by clicking a tab marked “No, I want my Mommy”.
It’s hard not to love a car with a sense of humour, and even more so not to love one that makes you laugh out loud, through admittedly gritted teeth, as it launches you from a standing start to 100km/h in 3.1 seconds. That would be fast in something small and sexy, like a Porsche or a Ferrari, but in a car this big it is simply staggering.
Even the way this giant barge goes around corners is surprisingly wonderful, although there is something artificial and video-game-esque about the disconnected, drive-by-wire steering. Overall, though, it is a huge amount of hilarious to drive, and genuinely has no competitors at all when it comes to moving this many people in this amount of comfort, at speed.
What makes it uniquely fast, that electric powerplant, is also what makes it slightly challenging to live with, of course. Tesla claims a range of 542km between charges, which won’t exactly get you to the outback, where there aren’t exactly a lot of charging stations. And the fact is you’d have to drive it like a terrified granny to get that far off a single charge.
Put your foot down, as it’s extremely tempting to do, and you can watch your expected range dropping fast. It’s a lot like a good old petrol-engined car in that way.
If you were only ever going to use your Model X to commute, or largely within city limits, it would work fine, and you’d easily go a week of journeys between charges.
Fortunately, this is the kind of car that will only be bought by someone who has other cars for those longer journeys, or simply flies instead, because it is extremely expensive, as most attention-grabbing objects are.
The P100D version (think lots of power) of the Model X we tested has a starting price of $203,600, but our test vehicle had a few extras that quickly saw its price rise to a sizeable $265,723. (there are cheaper, less powerful versions of the Model X, with the basic version starting at $139,233). It’s not quite Ferrari money, but it’s a hell of a lot of cash for a giant people mover that doesn’t make a sound.
It sure will get you noticed, though, even if people don’t hear you coming.
Published 19 December, 2017