The Tesla Model X P100D provides a genuine sense of what the next generation of the motoring world should be like, writes Craig Donaldson
When automotive manufacturers release a new model, there is usually a lot of fanfare attached to such events. Whether or not this fanfare is actually justified, in terms of how important these new models and their new and improved features really are, is another thing.
However, the fanfare accompanying the release of Tesla’s Model X is well justified. Driving a Tesla does provide for an experience akin to what the next generation of the automotive world should be like.
Tesla claims its Model X is the safest, quickest and most capable sport utility vehicle in history, and from a driver’s perspective it feels like this is the real deal. The first reason the Model X is that the car is fully electric (as are all of Tesla’s models). Driving an electric car is a uniquely great experience – whisper quiet and no engine noise (apart from a soft whirr from the electric engines) and no smelly exhaust fumes as well.
Tesla have done a remarkable job with noise insulation as well, so road noise is minimal compared to other premium SUVs. Overall the driving experience is uniquely impressive, and is worthy of the fanfare Tesla makes about the Model X in particular.
Go the distance (fast)
The top of the range Model X, the P100D (P indicates the vehicle is equipped with the high-performance, all-wheel-drive package, while the D means it is equipped with dual motors, fore and aft, driving that power to all four wheels) is also a remarkably quick car. It has the lowest drag coefficient of any SUV, and combined with a 100 kWh battery, it sprints from 0-100 km/h in a viscerally brain-straining 3.1 seconds – close to 1 G-force – in the “ludicrous speed” mode.
This produces certain physical effects in the body. Under maximum acceleration, your eyeballs strain as they are squeezed back in their sockets, your neck flexes to hold the weight of one’s head forward (to prevent it smacking back into the headrest), your tummy gets butterflies on speed and one’s perceptions sharpen acutely in response to a sudden burst of speed which one’s physiology is otherwise unaccustomed to.
“Overall the driving experience is uniquely impressive, and is worthy of the fanfare Tesla makes about the Model X in particular”
And all this in a perfectly family-friendly SUV – a great excuse for any parent to go out and buy a Model X P100D for their family right now. Yet it will manage a good 540 km before it runs out of juice, all the while producing zero emissions – which means Greenpeace corps and other environmentally-friendly folks can also go out and buy a Model X P100D right now.
Tesla acknowledges that a critical component of the adoption of electric vehicles is to create a convenient charging experience, with most Model X owners charging their vehicles overnight with the standard 240V cable. Otherwise Tesla has installed more than a dozen superchargers (which provide up to 120 kilowatts of power to replenish a half charge in about 30 minutes) located from Brisbane all the way through to Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne at the time of writing, and about six “destination chargers” (usually located hotels, restaurants and resorts) with the same connectors owners often install in their garages.
Spacious, comfortable and safe
The P100D is not lacking in space or comfort either, and has got the edge on its premium SUV competitors in these departments too. There are acres of space on the inside, thanks mostly to the fact that the model X doesn’t have a petrol engine and all the space-hogging mechanics that accompany it.
The P100D is available in 5, 6 or 7 seat configuration (another tick for families), and the 7 seat option has impressive leg room for back row occupants. It boasts the largest interior storage capacity of its class with 77 cubic feet in the six seat interior configuration. Given there is no engine up the front, the model X also has front trunk space with enough room for luggage, strollers or two golf bags (just in case you happen to have them handy).
“Greenpeace corps and other environmentally-friendly folks can also go out and buy a Model X P100D right now”
Visibility for driver and passengers is also impressive, and the model X features the largest glass panoramic windshield in production, which tints just at the right eye level so direct sun does not strain driver/passenger eyes with too much glare.
Another unique touch is the falcon wing doors, which open vertically, allowing for easy access to second and third-row seats, even from tight parking spaces. Each door is equipped with sensors to monitor the proximity of surroundings and smoothly open, up and out of the way – providing wide openings for parents to comfortably buckle children in, without straining or bumping their child’s head on the roof.
Tesla has also gone to town on safety for the Model X, which has earned a 5-star safety rating in all categories (the first SUV ever to do so). The batteries are located in the floor of the Model X, which gives it an extremely low centre of gravity, reducing the risk of rollover common in other SUVs. Without a traditional combustion engine, Model X has a crumple zone much larger than other SUVs to absorb the energy of a front end impact.
The model X is loaded with remarkably unique technology, most of which is accessible through the huge 17-inch touchscreen in its centre console. It’s so big that one almost feels the need to reach for a bucket of popcorn to sit back and relax while viewing it. Rather than the usual knobs and buttons, Tesla has wrapped all HVAC controls, entertainment systems, safety and other gadgetry into this one touchscreen, and the user interface is pretty simple and friendly overall. Kudos to Tesla for the thinking that has gone into its design.
Given its sophisticated technological underpinnings, Tesla also offers free over-the-air software updates to make sure the car’s electronics, safety and other features are always up-to-date.
“It’s so big that one almost feels the need to reach for a bucket of popcorn to sit back and relax while viewing it”
One area in which Tesla is known globally is its self-driving technology, called “Tesla Autopilot”. Each Tesla comes with optional full self-driving capability, with eight surround cameras (providing 360 degree visibility around the car at up to 250 meters of range), 12 updated ultrasonic sensors (allowing for detection of both hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of previous systems), and a forward-facing radar (which is able to see through heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead). To make sense of all of this data, a new on-board computer with over 40 times the computing power of the previous generation runs a new Tesla-developed “neural net” for vision, sonar and radar processing software.
Together, this system enables a Tesla to match speed to traffic conditions, keep within a lane, automatically change lanes without requiring driver input, transition from one freeway to another, exit freeways when your destination is near, self-park when near a parking spot and be summoned to and from one’s garage – plenty more reasons why Teslas is the next generation of the automotive world.
Tesla offers a buyback guarantee and 48-month complimentary service plan available for novated lease/salary packaged and fleet customers. Tesla also offers executive and senior management drive days for corporates as well as up to a week-long loan vehicle for executive teams. For more information on the Model X visit the Tesla website. Image: supplied