Think of the Tesla Model X as the latest iPhone – conveniently also called the “X”.
Those around me know just how badly I want a Labrador Retriever. However, my lifestyle right now involves needing to leave town on quick notice, sometimes having as little as just 24 hours warning. As such, as rewarding and exciting as it would be, having a pup would involve some pre-planning and strategic structuring of my schedule. Spending a week in a Canadian winter with a 2018 Tesla Model X P100D is somewhat akin to this lifestyle, despite showing concrete evidence that electric propulsion really is the future of the automotive industry.
For starters, let’s take in the looks – the Model X is a crossover that shares its platform with the rather beautiful Model S. Personally I wasn’t initially a huge fan of its proportions, but after more and more of them have populated our roads, it’s a conservative and rather toned-down look that fits in well. The conversation piece here is the implementation of Falcon Wing doors, which open upwards and can magically open vertically even with cars parked on either side of the Tesla. Only time will tell how these will hold up over ten years of Canadian weather use, but that’s not really the point here.
Think of the Tesla Model X as the latest iPhone – conveniently also called the “X”. It’s the latest and greatest thing, and you’re not really buying into a car; you’re buying into a tech lifestyle. It’s like having the greatest new gadget money can buy shortly after launch date, and just remember that you’re buying something from a company that over a half million people have somewhat-blindly given $1,000 to as a demonstration of the fact that the product is believed in by the masses.
The P100D gets a 100kWh battery, and the “D” stands for a dual-motor setup that gives this luxury crossover all-wheel-drive. The “P” stands for performance, and this ridiculous thing packs some three-phase AC induction motors that push 603 horsepower and 713 lb-ft. of torque. Long story short, it’s insanely fast. Those who are familiar with the previous generation of Tesla vehicles will remember the “Insane Mode”. They’ve now stepped things up and P100D models come with a “Ludicrous Mode”.
Now, it’s pretty hard to describe Ludicrous Mode and the wide-open acceleration of the Model X using words, but let’s give it a whirl. Peak torque comes on right at launch, and the 5,000+lb. Tesla sprints to 100km/h in three seconds flat. There is a video floating around the Internet of it demolishing a 707-horse Grand Cherokee Trackhawk as well as an Audi R8 V10 Plus in a straight line on the drag strip. It accelerates so fast that it almost rearranges your organs and makes you somewhat nauseous if done repeatedly. If a cell phone is placed against the backrest of the seat, if you let go on launch, the phone will be held up by physics without falling.
This is by far the fastest production crossover vehicle in the world off the line, and it’s pretty neat as a gadget. We made use Tesla’s Supercharger network in the Toronto area, and took in the fact that this network allows you to take extended road trips to major cities around North America effortlessly. When plugged into these stations, the Model X charges at speeds that generate up to 500km of driving range for every hour plugged in. We found this realistic, and noted that the car juices itself up to 80% in under 40 minutes, which provides about 450km of range. The remaining 20% will take an extra 40-45 minutes, however.
Plugging your Tesla into a household 110V outlet will only generate 5-6km of range for every hour plugged in, so this is rather impractical. Buyers are encouraged to get Level II chargers installed in their garages, which can recharge the car overnight. The 520km of realistic range we observed in the freezing temperatures is more than enough for most Canadians to pull off their daily commutes. Those who do heavy highway use and cannot compromise in inclement weather may want to consider diesels, as we really aren’t sure about how the Model X’s batteries will perform in extreme cold temperatures. So just like that beautiful Labrador I want to adopt, it does require some planning in our climate.
Since the weight of the batteries is all on the bottom of the car, the center of gravity is very good. This means the Model X handles like it’s on rails. Granted, it’s not as sharp as the Model S sedan, but for a massive crossover, the thing can corner. Ride quality thanks to the Smart Air Suspension is also quite good, and we were impressed with the overall isolation within the cabin. It’s well lit as well, thanks to the huge panoramic windshield that physically goes over the driver’s head. Our test vehicle offered the five-seat two-row configuration, but a third row is optional if you need to fit the entire family.
The inside of the Model X is minimalism at its finest, while contrasting this quite heavily with the latest in technology. Again, we can make the comparison to an iPhone – simplistic enough that everybody can use it but without compromises in capability. The only physical controls are the power window switches, a shifter stalk, a signal/wiper stalk, and power seat controls. Oh, and on either side of the monster 17” capacitive touchscreen are small buttons for the emergency flashers and glove compartment release.
You don’t even need a power on/off button – driving the car is as simple as walking up to it with the key fob in your pocket and allowing the driver’s door to automatically open for you. Once you’re in the seat, just put your foot on the brake and the door will close; the car is also now ready to drive. Everything and anything you will need to do while driving (or being driven in) the Model X is contained within Tesla’s 17” touchscreen, which looks like a giant iPad sitting flush in the dashboard.
Menus within this system include driving settings, cold weather settings, audio, climate, navigation, and even a built-in web browser that curiously functions just fine even when the vehicle is in motion. Naturally, we set this to the DoubleClutch.ca homepage for the duration of our test. Like other EVs, the Model X lacks actual AM radio, but this is compensated for with a variety of Internet streaming apps built-in, such as TuneIn and more. Elon Musk, the mad scientist that he is, has also added Easter eggs such as a Mars mode that can “trick” the navigation into showing that you’re on Mars, and transforming the car image into the Lotus Esprit submarine from “The Spy Who Loved Me”.
On board this vehicle is Tesla’s “Autopilot” technology, which allows for mostly autonomous driving. It’s as simple as flicking the cruise control stalk twice, and allowing the vehicle to drive itself. Since full autonomy isn’t quite legal just yet, the car will beep and yell at you after a minute or two of not having your hands on the wheel, but eliminating this is merely a software flash away. The system uses cameras to monitor your blind spot and can change lanes on command, and can also steer curves effortlessly. This is very similar to Mercedes-Benz’s Intelligent Drive Package (reviewed here).
The Model X P100D we tested is $198,000. Okay, not all of them are this expensive – in fairness, we borrowed quite literally the most expensive example you can buy. The “base” 75D model costs $110,200, has a range of up to 381km, and is plenty fast (5.2 seconds to 100km/h). The P100D starts at $189,600 and ours had a few small options checked off. Also, it’s worth noting that while the 75D qualifies for a $14,000 rebate from the Ontario government, the P100D does not.
So aside from the cost, where are the drawbacks? Well, we noticed a few inconsistent panel gaps that may be limited to our particular test vehicle, and some pieces that didn’t quite line up as well as they should. The massive infotainment computer is great, but the controls for all of the heated seats are built-in, which means if a rear passenger finds their seat too warm, the driver (or passenger) will have to adjust it for them. Lastly, and this isn’t really a quibble, but anyone taking delivery of their first Tesla will strongly benefit from a one to two hour training experience from a specialist, because there really is a lot to take in.
We had a chance to sample Tesla’s new app too, which lets owners have a lot of control over their Model X. It allows you to lock, unlock, and pre-heat the vehicle, among many other things. One of the neatest things we noticed is the ability to let others drive your car without the key, all done securely through the app. In anticipation of the Model 3, which we hear should be starting Canadian deliveries within a few months, the 2018 Tesla Model X P100D is a glimpse into the future of the car. It isn’t perfect, but what it offers is a deep immersion into an alternative automotive lifestyle that is rapidly becoming more common.