We’ve already driven the Tesla Model X, but what’s it like to live with the 100D model for a week, when its range is tested in the real-world – as well as its off-road ability?
We’ve already driven the Tesla Model X so we know that it’s an incredible feat of engineering, but what’s it like to live with for a week? What is its real-world electric driving range? How easy is it to charge? And it’s referred to as an SUV, but is it actually capable of driving off-road?
The Tesla Model X, like the Model S, is basically a skateboard with a huge battery sitting inside it (a 100 kWh battery in our test car). On top of this sits a body – in the case of the Model X, a taller body than the Model S. This allows seven forward-facing seats, plus a boot, plus a luggage compartment at the front. But the most visually dramatic aspect of the car are the Falcon Wing rear doors which lift upwards to allow access to the rear seats. This may sound like a gimmick, but there’s no other car on sale in the UK that’s easier to get a small child in and out of a car seat thanks to the massive headroom that the doors provide.
We think the Model X looks good, but for photography in a grey week in January, there are few colours worse than the grey of this Model X press car. Also, because the body is so large, the Model X needs huge wheels to make them look in proportion with the rest of the car (our 20-inch wheels looked too small). If you want to see a much better-looking Model X, see our previous Tesla Model X review – in blue and with larger 22 inch wheels (the ride was still good even with these wheels).
The interior of the Model X is more about the latest tech than trying to rival a conventional German premium approach. The huge central touchscreen houses all the main controls – and there are a lot of features on the screen. You can open and close all the doors from the touchscreen, although you can also close the driver’s door by putting your foot on the brake (one to watch out for in case someone is peering inside the driver’s door when you get in).
One thing that the touchscreen didn’t seem able to control was lowering the third row of seats. And trying to do this for the first time in the dark will be a challenge, as there’s no obvious release mechanism to lower the seats. Instead what you do get is a ‘secret’ button on the side of the seats at the top, which you press once to lower the headrests, then press again to lower the seats. This seems to be a somewhat difficult approach for a car where virtually everything else is automated.
Just like opening and closing the doors, the entire approach to unlocking and starting your car has been turned on its head by Tesla. You can’t unlock (or lock) the Model X (it does it for you when you press the door handle – with the door opening automatically), and you can’t switch it on, as it’s already on. So all you do is press down the gear selector on the right hand side of the steering column to engage Drive. It’s a shame that this gear selector is obviously stolen from a Mercedes, and isn’t something innovative and high tech, ie. more in keeping with the rest of the car. And there’s no way of changing gears manually.
If it’s safe to do so, if you floor the accelerator, you’ll experience a sensation that is more appropriate to a supercar than a two and half tonne SUV. Except that virtually all supercars will deafen you – and anyone else who’s around at the time – yet the Model X is capable of 0-60mph in 4.7 seconds almost silently. Supercars also have fluctuating levels of torque, whereas the Model X just rides the wave of 100% constant torque at all times.
There are no traditional driving modes to choose from, but there’s a wide range of settings that you can adjust from the touchscreen. The first item that we changed was the level of regenerative braking, to the ‘low’ setting. The standard setting gives lots of regen braking, which means the car is more efficient, as it’s capturing more energy that would otherwise be lost, but when you lift off the accelerator, the brake lights go on, which must be very annoying for people following you (although a clever touch is that the instrument panel shows you the back of the car, and when the brake lights are activated). And then there’s the steering; the Sport setting gives the best weighting – in our opinion the other two settings are too light.
The performance of the Model X 100D is amazing, and the ride is excellent, but it needs to be remembered that in terms of handling, this is a large 2.5 tonne SUV, so although the suspension keeps the body impressively in check for the weight of the car, the Model X can’t really be described as agile.
Once underway, the Model X is extremely quiet from a mechanical point of view, but some road noise does intrude into the cabin. You’ll also notice pretty quickly that the Model X has an absolutely huge windscreen. Because it’s not possible to have a traditional sunroof due to the way that the rear doors are hinged in the centre of the roof, the windscreen that extends upwards into the front part of the roof aims to make up for this. However the opinion of everyone who went in the car was that this lets in too much light. There’s a sun visor that you can pull across from the side pillar next to the windscreen, but this only covers a very small portion of the huge glass area.
Although we’ve driven a Model X before, this was the first time we’d had one for a week, which enabled us to see how it coped with the range of challenges that a typical week would throw at it. One task was driving to the top of a hill for a walk – and it happened to be a very steep, muddy hill. The height of the air suspension can also be adjusted via another option on the touchscreen, and there are a number of settings, including the ability to select a very high ride height, which meant that there was thankfully no scraping of the battery on the uneven track, and combined with the all-wheel drive system, the Model X managed to climb its way to the top of the muddy hill. However there was a certain amount of slipping and sliding, as the tyres featured absolutely no tread pattern suitable for off-roading – something that always amazes us with all-wheel drive SUVs, even electric ones. However you can specify winter tyres for a Model X.
One issue that we did have during our week with the car was that we were encouraged to allow a software update overnight, which we did, but it didn’t work – and the next morning the screen was frozen with a message telling us that it hadn’t worked. It’s not ideal driving a car where all the functions are controlled via the touchscreen, yet the touchscreen if frozen and inoperative. Thankfully a quick call to Tesla taught us how to do a system reset, by pressing the brake pedal for ten seconds at the same time as pressing the two rotary dials on the steering wheel. So proving that a Tesla is more computer than car.
Being all-electric, the Tesla Model X uses no petrol or diesel, and has zero tailpipe emissions. It has an official NEDC range of 351 miles. One journey that we undertook was 190 miles, with around 100 miles at 70mph motorway speeds, and around 80 miles on A and B-roads at 60mph. The remaining 10 miles were on country roads and up and down a steep muddy hill. When we started the journey, the car displayed a range of 282 miles. When we returned home after 190 miles we had a range of 45 miles left – so resulting in a real-world range of 235 miles. This was mostly conducted at high speeds, so the predicted range of 282 miles is likely to be possible if driven more slowly.
We covered around 600 miles during the entire week in the Model X. Although we have a Type 1 7kW charger at home (not compatible with a Tesla), and a dedicated 3 pin socket for EV charging (too slow), neither of these were of use for the Model X, so we had to search out Superchargers. The satnav shows clearly where they are, the only problem is that the closest Supercharger to home, at a hotel on the M56 South of Warrington, only has two bays, and both times that we dropped in here there was a queue of Teslas waiting to charge – so a half-hour charge took one and half hours – resulting in being late for appointments.
Travelling North was more successful – there are 15 bays at the Charnock Richard services on the M6 – although only on the Northbound side, and getting access to them via a hotel that’s currently a building site isn’t straightforward. The charging speed was around 250 miles per hour, which makes travel by Tesla around the UK very do-able.
We also dropped into Burtonwood services on the M62 North of Warrington, where there was a delightful vision of 10 shiny new Superchargers – but very disappointingly, none of them were working yet.
Tesla has one of the best public charging infrastructures in terms of ease of use and speed, but it seems that the sale of Teslas in the UK is outstripping availability of charge points in some places, so Tesla is having to keep up with demand by continually expanding its Supercharger network.
If you do charge your car at home, using a charge point supplied by Tesla, it should cost between £0 – £15 depending upon how much charge is needed and on your electricity tariff.
Our Tesla Model X 100D cost £87,200. On top of this were options, including ‘Midnight Silver Metallic Paint’ (£950), Black Premium/Light Headliner (£3,100), Premium Upgrades Package (£5,700), Seven Seat Interior (£2,800), Destination & Doc Fee (£850), taking the total price to £100,600, after the £4,500 UK government plug-in vehicle grant. Unusually for an EV, the Tesla Model X can tow up to 2,250 kg.
There are four Model X variants: the 75D with a 75 kWh battery, giving an NEDC range of 259 miles; the 90D, with a 90 kWh battery, giving an NEDC range of 303 miles; the 100D with a 100 kWh battery, giving an NEDC range of 351 miles; and the P100D, which also has a 100 kWh battery, but with a 0-60mph time of 2.9 seconds, so the range is slightly less than the 100D, at 336 miles.
Model X prices start from £75,400 for the 75D. You can lease one from £641 per month, and it has a low 9% Benefit in Kind tax rate.
Tesla calculates that the Model X will save you £5,900 in fuel compared to a petrol car over five years.
The Tesla Model X is the only all-electric, 300-mile range, all-wheel drive, seven-seat SUV that you can buy. It’s amazing to drive, and our week with the car shows that it can fit into your life perfectly, even if a very muddy hill is involved. And it’s from a company that didn’t even exist 15 years ago. At £100,000, it’s not cheap – but it’s the future. Anyone who fears electric cars, or still compares them to milk floats, needs to drive the Tesla Model X, and it’s highly likely that most of these people would be converted to EVs.
So the Model X is excellent to live with when you’ve got it, but it’s not until the car has gone that you really appreciate it. Jumping from the Tesla into the next car on test – which in our case happened to have a diesel engine, clutch and gears – really showed how old fashioned such a vehicle feels to drive in comparison.
Here at Green Car Guide, we aim to provide independent and honest advice; if a diesel car is a more suitable solution for someone than an electric car, we would tell them. However the Tesla Model X really shows what is possible, and it starts to make it difficult to argue against electric cars. Okay, so £100,000 certainly isn’t affordable for most people, but it shows that electric cars can be practical, and from now on we will start to see a wide range of pure electric SUVs – and other body styles – from a variety of manufacturers that will be more affordable, and that will also offer other approaches – such as a focus on greater agility in some cases. But the Tesla Model X will always be able to claim that it was the first all-electric, 300-mile range, all-wheel drive, 7-seat SUV that can fit easily into your life, and that’s why it deserves a Green Car Guide rating of 10 out of 10.