All awe and wonder
“With a mild motor whine, the doors open up to the biggest access area you may have experienced on any car.”
“Model X design can be best described as space-age with a good blend of reality.”
“It felt more like tinkering with my phone than exploring a car!”
“This had to be one of the longest briefing sessions I ever had prior to collecting a test car,” said Ershad.
Another day and the stale routine: morning alarm, my bed slants up and puts me to sit. Robotic arms with toothbrush and trimmer do the job. As I head into the rest room to answer nature’s call, I can see all the major news scrolling on a screen in front of me. Stepping out, there I have the coffee maker and toaster getting my breakfast ready. Refrigerator doors open by themselves and even my automatic wardrobe closet selects the best outfit for the weather outside. Nearby, I see my personal robot cleaning around the house…and kaboom!
The alarm still continues to buzz and I stretch my arms to somehow get it to snooze again. The former was a dream; a dream that could only come up if you were watching too much sci-fi on Netflix or if you were driving this car the day before. The car is a Tesla Model X. An all-electric SUV—the greenest one on earth now.
I guess the only other car that must have created as much buzz as the Tesla models did in the automotive industry was the 1885 launch by Karl Benz. The good thing about the Tesla launch was that it got every major automaker working double shifts on their electric car projects!
The Tesla Model X is still a sight to behold, even though we’ve become accustomed to seeing a fair number of airport shuttle Model Xs plying on UAE roads. It has that sporty crossover shape you can associate with a BMW X6 or the Mercedes GLE coupe. So yes, electric cars can look just like normal cars without being too swanky or futuristic. And Tesla has definitely worked out a design which would gel with the daily traffic but is noticeable. My taxi trip to pick up the Tesla was in a hybrid Camry, which meant that my drive report for the day was going to look like this: fully gasoline (my daily driver), hybrid (the taxi), and fully electric (the test car). A fleet of Model S and Model X variants neatly parked and plugged in greeted me.
The key fob (which looked like a mini Model X) was handed over to me and after a couple of signatures I was ushered by a Tesla rep to the parking lot to take possession of the Model X in its most powerful P100D avatar with a full-blown feature list. This had to be one of the longest briefing sessions I ever had prior to collecting a test car, because basically, it was completely brand new. For starters, I could move the car out of the parking space with this key fob! I was like a kid listening to his favorite super hero story.
The driver door popped open as I approached the car and as I settled into the beautiful white leather seats, I could feel my excitement meter was already over the limit. As I gazed into the sky through the windshield, which extends right from the hood to the front row seats, I couldn’t help but smile. And yes, there are no buttons or any funny stuff to do before you start the car. In the Tesla, once you are in, you are ready to go. First things first, the lack of the traditional noise worked wonders for me. I had no clue how I would react to driving without an exhaust note, but it felt good and green. The next surprise was how quick the motors braked when I let off the throttle pedal, which took some time to get used to. However, this was made to improve regenerative characteristics and when used properly you can probably drive without using brakes.
My next discovery was the huge central touchscreen, which is the Tesla command center. This one is much bigger than any tablet I’ve found in the tech-shops at the mall. Everything on this car can be controlled through this screen starting with air con, music, and navigation, all the way to opening doors and even running updates to make the Model X more efficient. It felt more like tinkering with my phone than exploring a car! The reality is that you can never finish going through all the features this car has to offer because you never know what the next update has in store.
Our test car had the six-seat configuration (2+2+2), whereas the standard configuration is a five-seat (2+3) or an optional seven-seat setup. The last row folds flat for some impressive cargo space. In the seven-seat version, the second and third rows can fold down to carry decent sized home appliances (but high tech only please!). The interior is chic and so utterly clean that you need to mentally prepare yourself to be as clean as the car! The only downside is the fairly ‘normal’ looking air conditioning vents.
As I got used to the admiring and awestruck glances around, I couldn’t help but pull onto the service road, find a parking spot and try out those beautiful gull-wing passenger doors; which Tesla likes to call Falcon-wings. Now this is going to get all the attention on the road! With a mild motor whine, the doors open up with the biggest ever access area you may have experienced on any car! Forget getting in and out; imagine putting kids in child seats with the comfort of a king. And even though these look huge when opened up, the doors actually take up less space to open and close compared to any conventional (or historical I should say!) door-opening scenario and even have sensors to detect any potential hazard around them.
Driving the Model X is a revelation. It shows us how much technology has progressed. In P100D guise, the Model X has a 100kWh power unit (I almost typed ‘engine’ there). Generating close to 762 horsepower in Ludicrous Mode, which can propel the Model X from standstill to 100 km/h in a shade over three seconds. That is a super fast car! I tried it a couple of times and it is so so addictive! Drive is given to all four wheels through two motors driving each axle. Suspension duties are handled by air suspension units providing confidence on any surface. Massive 20-inch wheels match the car’s proportions and take care of gripping onto the tarmac. Drive feel is planted for a vehicle of these proportions and a good part of it is due to the low center of gravity generated by the battery pack located below the floor. Also the 50/50 weight split helps in pepping up the drive. One of the best things I enjoyed on the Tesla is the good music quality, partly thanks to the lack of a gas burning power plant!
Over to practical numbers, the Tesla Model X claims a range of up to 500 kilometers plus on a full charge. But realistically, around 430 to 450 kilometers would be possible. I did do a 150-kilometer drive the next day with four adults and two kids in the Model X and a quick stop at a ‘super charger’ station. Roughly 30 minutes of charging extended the driving range by 200 kilometers. Driving in economic modes will help improve range, but will not take the fun factor out of driving. The single gear transmission and all those big torque numbers will definitely keep you engaged throughout.
The Model X design can be best described as ‘space age’ with a good blend of reality. The front end looks clean, thanks to no huge air intakes or vents. Full-LED headlights (of course) take care of illumination duties and look great with the DRLs. The profile of the Model X is uncluttered, coupe-like and similar to high-end performance SUVs. Rear end wraps up with mildly tinted tail light clusters and an active spoiler on the P100D version. The charging point is cleverly integrated into the tail light cluster.
To conclude, the Tesla model range depicts the future of automobiles and my first encounter has been all awe and wonder. My two days with the car has certainly worked its way into my internal combustion brain, so much that I have started plans to make my next car replacement a Tesla. There is no other reason other than the high purchase cost which can work against this marque. But still, you save on running costs and you make the earth a better place to be in. There is a lot of debate going on regarding the actual emission values of the Tesla starting right from the point of manufacturing batteries till the production of electricity for charging these cars. I am no science wizard, but my heart says this will be an effective solution for the planet and you don’t lose any driving fun as well.
So yes, the Tesla has made its mark and a pretty strong one that is. And, I hope to have justified the dream I started off with!
Pros: one-of-a-kind road presence, bullet speed acceleration, zero emission, 5 star safety
Cons: charging stations availability, interiors a bit dull for this class (if I am being too critical)
Rivals: Jaguar I-PACE, Audi E-tron, Mercedes EQC, Porsche Mission E Cross Turismo
one word: ludicrously surreal
4.5 / 5 stars
Electric twin motor, 772 hp @ 1 rpm, 967 Nm @ 1 rpm
4WD, 1-speed direct drive
0-100 km/h: 3.1 secs, top speed: 250 km/h, fuel consumption: 565 kms on a full charge
Weight: 2,500 kg