CARANDDRIVER: The 2018 Tesla Model X 100D Feels Appropriately Futuristic
One of the more entertaining experiences we had with the Tesla Model X 100D was watching the front doors and “Falcon Wing” rear doors power themselves open and closed, choreographed to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Wizards in Winter” blasting from the speakers, with the car’s LED headlamps, fog lamps, and taillamps flashing and strobing along. That ranks among the numerous surreal moments we had with the Model X, which is a car that offers plenty of novelty.
This audio/visual extravaganza is known as Holiday Show, and it’s an Easter egg that Tesla snuck into the Model X via a late-2016 software update. Others include a Sketchpad mode for the giant 17.0-inch touchscreen; 007, which turns the vehicle’s icon on the navigation screen into James Bond’s famous Lotus Esprit submarine from The Spy Who Loved Me; and Santa Mode, in which the Autopilot monitor screen portrays the Model X as Santa’s sleigh and other cars as reindeer. These are among the more whimsical things one gets to play with after shelling out six figures for an electric SUV.
But there are many other features and qualities that make the Model X interesting. Some are more gimmicky than others, but collectively they contribute to a character that can be described as fresh, digitized, and futuristic.
We have previously dedicated much space to explaining the benefits and drawbacks of the attention-getting Falcon Wing doors, and we won’t belabor the discussion much beyond noting that once the novelty wears off, you must live with slow and cumbersome apertures that take about seven seconds to open and to close. When you’re running late to the airport or rushing your kids to school, that feels like an eternity.
And that assumes they can fully open: The parking structure in this writer’s condo building has high ceilings, but some exposed pipes nearby apparently freaked out the doors’ sensors such that they opened only about halfway, leaving the lower edge of the door at about neck height. Let’s just say we’re glad there aren’t four of ’em.
A possible solution is to use Tesla’s nifty Summon feature that allows the driver and passengers to hop out (presumably somewhere with adequate clearance for the car to fully spread its Falcon Wings) and then, using the Tesla smartphone app, the driver—now in more of a chaperone role, really—may dispatch the car forward or backward into (and out of) a tight parking space. Besides being great fun to show the neighbors or astonish passersby, this is a feature we used for its intended purpose more than once, if only to solve a problem no other car in the world presents.
A Unique Windshield and Interior
In contrast, the gigantic windshield that extends uninterrupted over the front passengers’ heads just seems cooler each time we drive a Model X. A UV-protective gradient tint starting approximately where a conventional windshield header would be keeps occupants from feeling like ants under a magnifying glass on sunny days. Should that not be enough glare protection, a visor deploys from the A-pillar and connects to the rearview mirror. A thin, black wiring cover between the mirror and the header is the only aspect of the windshield design we’d deem unfortunate. The view out is truly spectacular.
Among the Model X’s many other breaks from convention are its front doors that slowly motor open as one approaches them with the key fob on their person; the omission of an on/off switch (tapping the brake pedal automatically closes the driver’s door and turns on the car); and the incorporation of most functions into the giant touchscreen, which is not universally loved by the C/D staff and even Tesla-phile owners acknowledge can be distracting.
The Model X’s lack of cabin switchgear contributes to an interior design that can be described as either sleek or stark. The complexity one expects in a six-figure crossover is missing in the Model X—door pulls, for example, are bends in the wood trim versus a separate handle. Whereas many companies design beautiful dashboards with multiple, ergonomically focused displays and elegant switchgear, the Model X provides only a huge screen surrounded by unremarkable vents. The Tesla’s flat seatback and camel-hump-like integrated headrests appear unsophisticated, as well. That said, the $3300 White Premium interior upgrade gives the space a bit of a Buck Rogers starship vibe, with bright-white upholstery that’s so soft you’d swear it couldn’t have come from a cow—and you’d be right. Tesla uses only synthetic “vegan” leather now.
Range and Recharging
The Model X doesn’t need these Tesla-isms to earn its stripes as a standard-setting electric vehicle. This being a 100D model—not to be confused with the “performance” version, the P100D—it boasts an EPA-estimated 295 miles of range, thanks to its potent, 100.0-kWh battery pack tucked beneath the floor, making it the longest-range electrified crossover on the market. This is six miles further than the P100D and a significant 57 miles more than the 75D version. Most folks could probably skip any sort of overnight or workplace charging for a day or two. Should you get dangerously low on charge, the car will remind you while you’re still within range of one of Tesla’s Supercharger stations, the population of which has risen to 1342 different locations and more than 11,000 individual stalls. That’s a huge jump from the mere 400 or so locations and 2000 chargers available three years ago, when we struggled through a road trip from Michigan to Virginia in a Model S.
And recharging is admirably speedy. We were down to about 10 miles of indicated range at one point, and after exactly one hour plugged into a Supercharger at an upscale mall in Thousand Oaks, California, the Model X showed 240 miles of range.
While the high-performance P100D, which Tesla claims can hit 60 in 2.9 seconds, gets the lion’s share of attention, the regular 100D’s dual electric motors, each rated at 259 horsepower and 243 lb-ft of torque, deliver a mighty shove of their own. Tesla estimates a 4.7-second zero-to-60-mph time. Even though there’s no Ludicrous mode as in the P100D, the 100D’s relative silence, high seating position, and considerable cabin width—combined with the unobstructed view of the outside world becoming a blur—make full-throttle acceleration an immersive experience.
Handling is respectable, thanks no doubt to a low center of gravity, but the steering seems as digital as the rest of the car. The vehicle feels heavy, too. The last Model X we weighed came in at nearly 5600 pounds, although Tesla claims the 100D is about 110 pounds lighter. And while it may weigh as much as Ford’s mammoth Expedition SUV, and while they both have three rows of seats, the third row in the Model X—a $3000 option—is far less usable. Both of the Tesla’s rear rows fold flat, creating a space large enough for a medium-size appliance (presumably an electric one), whereas the second-row captain’s chairs in the six-passenger Model X do not.
Rather than tying updates to a model year, Tesla likes to make running changes that may be beamed down from Elon Musk’s cloud via software updates or to change the content roster and pricing any number of times during a given year. Example: The 100D we drove recently had its base price jump from $97,200 to $100,700 while standardizing features previously found in the Premium Upgrades package, formerly a $6000 option. Still, it’s considerably cheaper than the P100D, which starts at $141K.
The Model X may have influenced the industry, but it remains a novel proposition among premium SUVs. If some of its novelties are silly or annoying, plenty of others are not. And the 100D version proves that you don’t need Ludicrous mode to feel as if you’ve entered the future.
ARTICLE BY STEVE SILER