The long-awaited Model X is finally on the road – at least, a few of them are. In a super-duper sound-and-light show in Fremont, Elon Musk handed over the keys to the first six buyers. Production is just getting started, and it will take a while to ramp up to full volume. Musk offered no estimate of how many units would be delivered this year, but said that customers placing an order today would get their cars in 8 to 12 months.
The over-two-year delay in delivering the X is down to its list of innovative features, some of which are firsts for an EV, and some for any vehicle. “I think we got a little carried away with the X,” said Musk. “If we had known the true engineering costs and complexity, we would have done fewer things…but now that it’s done, I think anyone who buys it is going to love it.”
The X’s most famous feature, the Falcon Wing doors, may seem like a whizzy toy, but it’s actually quite practical: the doors have two sets of hinges, and can sense how close other objects are, so they can open in improbably small spaces. True to Tesla’s attention to visual details, the doors’ ultrasonic sensors are hidden – there’s no sign of the little round sensors seen on other modern vehicles.
Most of the roof of the car is glass, which reviewers said makes it feel as if you’re in a helicopter or a spaceship. The giant wraparound windshield was surely one of the engineering feats that caused delays. Special layered glass allows a clear view while blocking the sun from overhead, and the sun visors had to be attached to the side pillars.
Musk said he expects Model X to be the first SUV to score five stars in every category of NHTSA crash testing. Whereas legacy SUVs are prone to rollovers because of their high centers of gravity, the Tesla’s 1,000-pound bottom-mounted battery pack makes it difficult to roll, and if it does, it will “land on its feet.”
Model X features a HEPA air filter that Musk said would make the air in the cabin so clean that it could actually filter out pathogens from a biological weapon. “Bioweapon defense mode is there, in the HVAC menu,” Musk said. “If there was a bioweapon attack, all you would need to do is get in your car.”
In a first for electric vehicles, Model X can tow up to 5,000 pounds, even while hauling seven people and plenty of luggage (although this is sure to substantially reduce range). At the party, a Model X showed its stuff by pulling a classic Airstream trailer, and loads of grocery bags (from Whole Foods, of course) were unloaded from the trunk.
Speaking of storage space, there’s plenty of it. The trunk is capacious, even with the rear seats up. There’s more space under the seats, and in the frunk, where the engine isn’t. Model X can be ordered in six- and seven-seat versions.
As any American SUV must, the X accommodates large humans with ease (Musk himself is 6-2). Tall reviewers found the front and middle rows of seats comfortable enough. However, not everyone is impressed with the hard plastic seat backs.