After years of delays and rampant speculation, it’s finally official – the Model X has arrived. In a live event at the company’s factory in Fremont, California, Tesla CEO Elon Musk personally handed out keys to the first models off the production line, detailing the vehicle’s features and capabilities along the way. The Model X is framed as an uber-safe, uber-clean, semi-autonomous, highly practical, all-electric long-range SUV capable of embarrassing hardcore sports cars in a speed contest. That’s a lot to chew on, even for the most disruptive automaker on the block.

Unlike Tesla’s first model, the Lotus Elise-based Roadster, the Model X was built totally in-house using the existing Model S platform. However, unlike the sedan, this SUV can sit up to seven passengers and carry an attic’s worth of stuff, all while going 250 miles in a charge and hitting 60 mph quick enough to make you see plaid.

Sounds wild, doesn’t it? Read on to see exactly what I mean.

Updated 11/24/2015: An official Tesla Model X configurator confirms that the electric SUV will be priced from $80k - before any incentives and not including $1,200 destination fees. If you will opt for the six seats pack you will have to pay an extra $3k, while the Autopilot function adds $2,5k to the final cost. Other options include a $4,5k premium package, a $2,5k premium sound system and a $1k subzero weather package.

Continue reading to learn more about the 2016 Tesla Model X.

Live Reveal Notes

8:50 PM PST: We are live! Tesla CEO Elon Musk is welcomed on stage, along with the Model X.

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8:54 PM PST: The Model X is called the “safest SUV ever.” It is the first SUV to have a 5-star safety rating in every category. This is thanks to the packaging offered by the all-electric drivetrain – no engine up front to enter the cabin in a front-end crash and a lower propensity for rollover thanks to the floor-mounted battery pack’s low center of mass. There are also several autonomous features, such as automatic braking and side-collision avoidance.

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9:00 PM PST: The Model X will come with filters that offer cabin air cleanliness on par with an operating room. The filters are so effective, Musk jokes they can be used in the event of a biological weapon attack. In typical Tesla playfulness, there is even an air filter setting called “Bioweapon Defense Mode.”

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9:05 PM PST: The Model X’s “falcon doors” are demonstrated. These doors offer greater third-row seat access, even in a tight parking space. There are even sensors that adjust the door opening arc when parked under a low ceiling.

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9:16 PM PST: The Model X demonstrates its utility, including an ability to tow up to 5,000 pounds, plus seven people and their accompanying luggage. There will also be an easily attachable accessories hitch for snowboards, skis, bikes, etc.

9:18 PM PST: The Model X’s performance is highlighted – 0-to-60 mph in 3.2 seconds, top speed of 155 mph. That’s with AWD and a 250-mile range.

9:30 PM PST: The first Model Xs are handed over to their anxious new owners.

Exterior

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Back in February of 2012, Tesla unveiled the Model X concept at its design studios in Los Angeles, and the automotive world was immediately intrigued. Not only was the body style totally different from Tesla’s past offerings, but like most concepts, it came with a variety of outrageous features and a heaping of look-at-me design cues. Funny enough, most of these things actually carried over in the production variant.

The first thing to strike you when looking at the Model X is its minimalistic, teardrop shape. The lines are very much in tune with the styling found on the Model S – the nose is low and lean, rounded at the front and sans grille for reduced aerodynamic drag. The roofline is a broad arc that stretches back into the rear hatch, where the rear end drops off abruptly to bookend the whole thing. Lighting front and rear is slim and slick. Overall, I think the Tesla aesthetic works quite well on a tall SUV.

Tesla went to great lengths to carve away every bit of drag from the Model X’s shape. The result is a 0.24 drag coefficient, which Tesla claims makes the Model X the most aerodynamic SUV in production.

Of course, there’s more to the design than just good looks. Electric vehicles are machines of little gains adding up to big differences, including the aerodynamics. As such, Tesla went to great lengths to carve away every bit of drag from the Model X’s shape. The result is a 0.24 drag coefficient, which Tesla claims makes the Model X the most aerodynamic SUV in production. That drag coefficient figure is a full 20 percent lower than the next most aerodynamic SUV, which is huge in a segment where efficiency is king.

Complementing this, we find active aerodynamics in the rear with an automatically adjusting spoiler that either extends or retracts into three settings, depending on the vehicle’s speed. At lower speeds (45 mph and below), the spoiler offers maximum visibility, while higher speeds see the spoiler retract slightly for either higher efficiency or optimum downforce. The spoiler is also equipped with a centrally mounted stop lamp.

Moving back to the front, you’ll find a hugely extended piece of glass for the windshield, which Tesla says offers visibility on par with a helicopter. In a big SUV, visibility is important, and from inside the Model X, even the second-row passengers have a clear view of what’s ahead. This glass also comes with a solar tint transition to protect against the sun.

However, the biggest aesthetic draw of the Model X has to be its “falcon” rear doors. From the outset, Tesla was adamant these show stoppers would make their way to the production model, and it kept good on that promise. Not only do the doors look cool, they’re actually quite functional too (check out the “Interior” section for details).

Additional noteworthy features include daytime running lights and power-folding side-view mirrors with a heating function.

Interior

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Inside the Model X, you’ll find a good deal of space, both for people and things. Let’s start with people first.

There are three rows of seats for up to seven full-size adult passengers – two up front, three in the middle and two in the rear. The middle row isn’t in a bench style, either. Each of the middle seats is in an individual “captain” style, offering greater comfort on the long haul and greater support when testing the limits of the all-electric drivetrain. This seat style also offers space underneath for storage, saving room for legs and feet in the foot well, plus they can tilt and recline independently for greater access to the third row. Meanwhile, the third row can fold flat for more storage.

There are two seating layouts offered. The seven-seater comes with the full two/three/two arrangement outlined above, but there’s also a six-seat arrangement that has the middle seat of the second row removed for added cargo capacity and more individual passenger room.

Customers can choose between three upholstery color schemes – Ultra White, Tan Leather and Black Leather.

The Model X also comes with loads of storage. Small things can be tucked into small pockets on the sides and in the central console. There’s also a spot to “blind holster” your smartphone for quick and easy access.

Larger items can be held in the trunk up front or in the rear cargo area. The front can carry two golf bags, while the rear can carry snowboards and bikes. There’s also a hitch-mounted accessory rack for even more stuff, offering fast installation (10 seconds or less) and full functionality of the trunk. Further practicality comes with the Model X’s large towing capacity (up to 5,000 pounds).

Tesla says the filter is so effective at removing pollen, bacteria, viruses and other nastiness, the air quality inside the Model X rivals that of an operating room.

One unique feature is the large, medical-grade HEPA cabin air filter. Tesla says the filter is so effective at removing pollen, bacteria, viruses and other nastiness, the air quality inside the Model X rivals that of an operating room. There are three settings available for air circulation – outside air circulation, inside air recirculation, and hilariously, “Bioweapon Defense Mode,” which creates a positive pressure inside the cabin to protect against anything wafting in the breeze outside. While definitely tongue-in-cheek, these are features that anyone living in a highly polluted urban environment will find hugely appealing.

To help you ignore the bioweapon apocalypse taking place outside, there is a variety of top-notch tech on offer. This includes a large, 17-inch touchscreen mounted centrally on the dash for control over various vehicle systems, including real-time traffic navigation, communication, vehicle status data, infotainment and more. Voice command is also available. There’s an LCD instrument cluster and a premium 17-speaker sound system.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Tesla without an array of sensors in place to offer the latest autonomous driving features. You’ll find a forward-looking camera, radar and sonar to help the Model X self-park and auto-steer. Tesla says it’ll regularly update these features with the latest software patches to keep them as smart as possible.

There’s also automatic keyless entry, but the Model X does this rather common feature a little differently than most. Using even more sensors, the SUV will detect when the driver is approaching and automatically open the doors for her, much like an invisible chauffer. It’s called “Auto Presenting” front doors, and presumably, the driver will never have to actually touch the door to open it.

Finally, there are the rear falcon doors. While undoubtedly looking pretty sweet, these are also quite functional in their design, offering greater access to the third row. Parents will enjoy the expanded headroom when placing children in the back, and if parked in a tight spot, the doors need only 30 cm to open fully. Additionally, even more sensors are in place to keep the doors from contacting any nearby obstacles, even adjusting the door swing arc when parked under a low ceiling.

Drivetrain

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The Model X’s fully electric drivetrain is offered in two configurations – the 90D and the P90D. Both come with a pair of electric motors, one driving the front wheels and one driving the rear wheels, with a computer in place to distribute torque appropriately for maximum AWD grip. Both come with a 90-kWh battery, and both can cover 250 miles per charge (257 miles in the 90D).

So then, what’s the difference? Speed. Unholy, ludicrous amounts of speed.

So then, what’s the difference? Speed. Unholy, ludicrous amounts of speed.

The 90D comes with 259 horsepower from both the front and rear electric motor, and when properly applied, 60 mph can appear in as little as 4.8 seconds. That’s mighty quick for any vehicle, let alone a full-size SUV powered by nothing but electrons.

But that’s nothing compared to the performance-oriented P90D. With 259 horsepower in the front and another 503 horsepower in the rear, this top-range iteration of the Model X can hit 60 mph in 3.8 seconds. Install the Ludicrous Speed Upgrade, and you’re looking at a 0-to-60 time of just 3.2 seconds. That’s as fast as a Koenigsegg CCX. In an SUV.

I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.

Right, it’s going to take more than a moment, so I’ll just move on. Top speed for both the 90D and P90D is rated at a never-gonna-use-it 155 mph, while the low-mounted battery pack should provide a low center of gravity and enough rigidity for decent handling as well.

Finally, every Model X owner will have free access to long-distance travel charging thanks to Tesla’s Supercharger Network.

Drivetrain Specifications

Model P90D 90D
Output 259 hp front, 503 rear motor 259 hp front and rear motor
0 to 60 mph 3.8 seconds (3.2 seconds with Ludicrous Speed Upgrade) 4.8 seconds
Top Speed 155 MPH 155 MPH
EPA range 250 miles 257 miles

Safety

Tesla calls the Model X the “safest SUV ever,” and for a variety of reasons.

First, the battery pack and electric motor packaging makes for a variety of crumple zones to protect against impacts. With no engine mounted in the nose, there’s nothing to enter the cabin space in a frontal crash. The low-mounted batteries and low center of gravity also reduce the chance for rollover, while the battery support structure helps to increase side impact protection. Aluminum pillars reinforced with steel rails are used in the construction for improved strength.

Tesla says internal testing predicts the Model X will be the first SUV to receive a 5-star safety rating in every category.

All told, Tesla says internal testing predicts the Model X will be the first SUV to receive a 5-star safety rating in every category. As of this writing, neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA have posted test results to back the claim.

Still, there are several automated safety features onboard the Model X to help it avoid a crash in the first place, such as standard automatic braking and side collision avoidance (sensors that can detect an imminent side-collision and automatically steer away from danger). Tesla also says the Model X comes with the only automatic braking system that works at high speeds.

Finally, considering this is a body style favored by families, there are four LATCH child seat anchors in place, with two in the second row and two in the third row.

Prices

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Current pricing for the Model X looks like $132,000 for the P90D Signature trim and $142,000 for the P90D Founder trim.

As of this writing, there’s no word on when cheaper Model Xs will be made available, but when they are, expect pricing to slot in at roughly $5,000 above similarly equipped Model Ss, falling between $80,000 and $140,000. Of course, the less expensive models will also have shorter range, fewer features and slower acceleration.

Any buyers currently interested in lining up for their own Model X can plunk down a $5,000 deposit for future deliveries (Tesla says estimated delivery dates for new reservations are slated for the latter half of 2016).

While pricey, you should also figure in the $7,500 federal tax credit currently on offer, plus any state and local incentives you can get your hands on. Depending on where you live and your individual tax situation, that MSRP could see a drastic reduction.

Also of note is the 8-year/infinite-mile battery and drive unit warranty.

Competition

Audi Q8 e-tron

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When it comes to rivaling the Model X, there are few SUVs out there up to the challenge. Audi, however, thinks it has the right stuff with the up-and-coming Q8 e-tron.

Aimed directly at taking on Tesla’s latest, the Q8 e-tron is currently in development, but should bring the same all-electric drivetrain technology as found in the R8 e-tron, only with more output. Styling will also be more aggressive, offering more coupe-like cues than those found on the current Q7. Range will reportedly top over 300 miles, substantially more than the 250-mile Model X.

Read our full review here.

Volvo XC90 T8

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Unlike the Q8 e-tron, this is one model you can actually go out and purchase right now. And unlike the Model X, the XC90 T8 is a plug-in hybrid, mating a 2.0-liter four-cylinder boosted by both a turbo and supercharger to a 60-kilowatt electric motor driving the rear axle. Total combined output is rated at 400 horsepower and 427 pound-feet of torque.

Inside, you’ll find lots of space thanks to Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture, plus tons of luxury, like Nappa leather, wood trim and a crystal gear lever crafted by Swedish glassmaker Orrefors. Outside is the latest design language, including slim headlights, a new grille and sleeker lines.

Read our full review here.

Conclusion

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As Tesla’s third production model, the Model X is designed to help bolster sales and round out the Tesla stable. The automaker wants to move 500,000 units annually by 2020, and in order to do so, it needs more than the Model S sedan. The Model X is the second step towards meeting those goals, with the third being the more affordable up-and-coming Model III.

Essentially, the Model X is Tesla’s latest gambit at moving from offering niche products to died-in-the-wool mainstream vehicles. Should it prove successful, the all-electric lifestyle will encroach even further on the established territory of old school internal combustion.

Can it be done? On paper, it certainly looks possible. The Model X offers all the benefits of an EV, but with fewer drawbacks. The 250-mile range is particularly crucial, and although the infrastructure and technology to support all-electric motoring isn’t on par with conventional gas-powered equivalents, the speed at which they are developing is worth noting. Throw in the Model X’s high practicality, futuristic features like falcon doors and semi-autonomous driving, and of course, ludicrous speed, and you have one very enticing package.

But it isn’t all smiles and roses. The Model X is still very expensive, and although cheaper examples are on the way, they have yet to make an appearance. It’s also worth mentioning that while the Model X is a technological tour-de-force, it is possible to create something that’s over-engineered.

Either way, it’s obvious that Tesla has once again created a real game changer, not just for all-electric cars, but the automobile industry as a whole. Now it just needs to live up to the hype in the long term.

  • Leave it
    • * Expensive
    • * Possibly over-engineered
    • * EV infrastructure not quite there yet

Updated History

Updated 09/29/2015: Tesla officially launched the Model X in a live event at the automaker’s factory in Fremont, California. Continue reading for all the details.

Updated 09/03/2015: Elon Musk confirmed that deliveries of the new Model X will begin on September 29 at the company’s Fremont factory. He also revealed that the standard version will be priced $5,000 more than a comparable Model S with the same options.

Updated 09/01/2015: The first images of the upcoming Model X surfaced online thanks to brand’s private configurator for Signature reservation holders. These new pictures comes with a series o good news: the electric SUV will deliver 259 HP from its front electric motors and 503 HP from the rear ones. It will go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, but a $10k "Ludicrous Speed Upgrade" will decrease it to 3.2 seconds.

Updated 08/06/2015: Elon Musk confirmed that the Model X will be unveiled in September, with deliveries set to begin in the fourth quarter. The new Model X will be offered with lots of cool gadgets, including new Autopilot features.

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