Crowd Pleaser

BY Philip Ng

Tesla expands its lineup with an all-electric SUV that has Porsche-baiting performance and massive falcon-wing doors. Method to the madness? Let's see.

From the introduction of the Roadster in 2008 to the obscenely quick Model S sedan on sale now, Tesla has been the biggest driving force advocating fully electric cars, with battery range and power improving year after year. In an attempt to enter the ever burgeoning SUV market it has unveiled the Model X, a luxury SUV for the urban jungle with the commanding driving position and lavish fittings one would expect from such a car, but with the power to scare many sports cars and the practicality to match some MPVs.

This practicality is a result of clever packaging. Without the need to contend with gearboxes or fuel tanks, the model X is blessed with more space than any of its gasoline rivals can muster, with seven seats and two luggage compartments which should be more than sufficient for family trips. The theme of practicality continues with rear "falcon-wing" doors that open outwards and upwards. Though it seems like merely a novelty, the Falcon wing doors afford the same access as one would expect from a minivan but without the penalty in style, making ingress and egress easy and access to the last row of seats a cinch. Moreover, these doors only require a scant 30 cm of width to open up fully.

If you are into novelties however, fear not as the Model X has you covered. For instance, all four doors are motorized and have sensors that can detect obstructions, meaning that you can get into your Model X without ever touching the door handle. Once you're in, you are greeted with an airy cabin courtesy of a windscreen that is the largest piece of curved glass installed in any car, while a 17 inch touch-screen runs down the center console, resembling a stretched iPad rather than merely an interface. As expected, the infotainment system will carry over all the technology from the Model S, but it is not yet confirmed if Tesla's new "Autopilot" (an active system that learns as it manages speed, distance between cars and lane changing manoeuvres) will be available on the Model X. Given that Tesla constantly sends software updates to its cars though, it is more likely than not that it will be offered at some point.

With all this technology, space and weight of the battery pack, the Model X is a portly beast weighing in at just shy of 2.5 tons. However despite the weight, it can not only deliver over 400 kilometers of range, but also give bona-fide sports cars a hard time at the stoplights. The top-trim P90D Ludicrous (yes that's really its name) belts out 762 horsepower, sending this SUV to 97 km/h in a mere 3.2 seconds. In short, it means this SUV can embarrass a Porsche 911 Carrera S. Even the standard P90 offers more than enough performance, hitting 97 km/h in under 5 seconds. For predictable handling, power is sent to all four wheels via an electric motor on each axle and the battery pack is mounted low down to ensure stability. Even if you should overcook it, you can rest assured that you'll be safe as Tesla predicts a 5-star safety rating in all categories.

With the Model X it appears as though Tesla has created a real crowd pleaser, with all 25,000 pre-order slots spoken for. And with the popularity of SUVs, practicality that none of its rivals can touch, performance that is in another league and all the intriguing novelties on offer, it is no wonder. We can only hope we will get to see one on Singapore roads soon.