FREMONT, California — The falcon-wing doors go up and down more ways than any real falcon could dream of, the "Ludicrous" power mode slams you against the seat as the car catapults from a stop to 60 mph in a claimed 3.2 seconds, there's a "biowarfare" mode for the cabin air filter and the engineers working on the doors attended ballet performances to study graceful motion.
The 2015 Tesla Model X is here.
More than two years after its first promised delivery date, the all-electric SUV from Tesla Motors Co. made its retail debut Tuesday evening as the first six production models were delivered to their new owners. Cheering them on, and applauding Tesla CEO Elon Musk's every word with enthusiasm that sometimes approached worshipfulness, was a crowd of more than 1,500 of Tesla's biggest fans and proudest owners.
Musk, who said the company is building about five a week now but will be ramping up quickly, got VIN No. 1. He declined to say how many of the new SUVs would be delivered in 2015, but in previous statements has indicated that the Model X won't begin rolling out the factory doors in big numbers until next year.
In fact, if you aren't one of the nearly 25,000 people who've deposited at least $5,000 to reserve the right to buy one, the wait for delivery of a Model X ordered today is at least eight months.
Now the numbers. The Model X is Tesla's second model after the equally late but much-praised Model S sport sedan; it is capable of delivering up to 257 miles on a single charge of its lithium-ion battery pack, according to EPA estimates; it can be ordered with six or seven seats; tow up to 5,000 pounds and race from a dead stop to 60 mph in as little as 3.2 seconds. That power comes despite the Model X weighing in at a hefty 5,441 pounds, about 740 pounds more than the Model S. Combined output from the two motors is 762 horsepower and 713 pound-feet of torque. Top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph. The Tesla-developed sound system is rated at 550 watts and pounds out sounds through an array of 17 speakers.
With the "Ludicrous" power mode that draws more energy from the battery to slingshot the dual-motor, all-wheel-drive Model X P90D (it stands for Performance, 90 kilowatt-hour battery, Dual motors), the SUV lists at $142,000 before any state and federal incentives.
The dialed-down plain-old P90D (non-Ludicrous), capable of 0-60 in 3.8 seconds, is $132,000.
The "P" models will deliver up to 250 miles of range per charge, according to the EPA.
Pricing hasn't been disclosed for a later model, the 90D, that drops some of the deluxe trim and a little bit of power — 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds — but will deliver a slight boost in range — to 257 miles.
Musk said in an interview that if he knew then what he knows now, he would never have undertaken to build such a complicated machine.
He called it the most complex passenger car ever, citing innovations such as the massive panoramic windshield, second-row seats that float on "monopod" supports and pivot forward to make more room for third-row access, a front door that automatically opens for the driver, and those multi-hinged, falcon-wing rear doors that can sense how much room they have in which to maneuver and then temper their rise and spread to match. No one parking next to a Model X should fear parking lot dings. Tesla engineers say the falcon-wing doors will work with as little as 12 inches of clearance.
All versions of the Model X come with the same operating software, massive 17-inch central touchscreen control system and camera, radar and sonar-based safety and automated driving features as the Model S. Those features can be updated and augmented in the future with over-the-air software updates, Musk says.
Despite its power and sporty handling, the Model X is designed to appeal to families, and to female buyers, who account for only about 25 percent of Model S sales but are expected to be the principal buyers of about half of all Model Xs. Thus Musk — the father of five — ordered up the overhead-opening rear doors so that parents could stand closer to the seats to more easily place children in their car seats without back strain or fear of banging heads, child or adult, on low door openings.
As does "Ludicrous" power mode, the international biohazard symbol on the Model X climate control panel shows off Musk's sense of humor, but also his seriousness about building a family-friendly car.
He calls it the "bioweapon mode," and says that the Model X's cabin air filtration system delivers "operating room quality" air that actually filters out most viruses and bacteria.
The main filter, he says, is ten times larger than the main cabin air filter in any other vehicle on the road. The system handles not only hydrocarbons but acid and ammonia gases as well and is, Musk claims, the "first true HEPA filter system available in an automobile."
In the same vein, Musk says, the car was designed to be the safest passenger vehicle on the road. In-house testing to the standards used by federal regulators indicate that the Model X will win top "5-Star" safety ratings in all federal crash test categories, he says. The car actually broke the crash barrier in Tesla's first in-house side impact collision test.
If it performs as advertised, the Model X would be the first SUV to win a five-star rating for rollover protection. That's because the nearly 1-ton battery pack is slung under the floor, giving the tallish SUV an extremely low center of gravity — equal to that of that Honda Civic sedan — virtually cementing the car to the road and making rollovers unlikely, Musk says.
Tesla hopes that combined sales of the sedan and the new SUV will top 50,000 next year. The two "will provide the revenue foundation" for the future Tesla model that will appeal, at least financially, to far more buyers than the six-figure S and X models,
That's the Model 3, due in 2017 according to the latest estimates from Tesla, and designed to compete with cars like the BMW 3 Series in price and performance. Musk has said the target price for the Model 3 will be $35,000, before incentives.
Edmunds says: With the Model X, Tesla can substantially increase its potential buyer pool; now bring on the (more) affordable Model 3.