What Did We Buy?
Electric vehicles are still rare, but improvements in range and desirability have raised their profile far beyond their actual sales numbers. Most of the electric vehicles (EVs) currently on the market are compact hatchbacks or sedans. Other than the short-lived Toyota RAV4 EV, electric SUVs have largely been absent.
The new 2016 Tesla Model X changes that. With seating for up to seven passengers and a larger cabin than the Model S sedan upon which it is largely based, the Model X is as close to a purpose-built electric SUV as the world has seen to date.
The Model X's single biggest departure from the Model S is the SUV's unique rear doors, which articulate upward rather than swinging out. They allow access to the two independent captain's chairs that form the second row of seating in our test car, and the two forward-facing fold-flat seats that form the third row.
It's a unique design that claims to alleviate some of the problems with traditional SUVs. We were so intrigued we put down a $40,000 deposit two years ago in order to buy one of the first models off the line. After all, there would be no better test of its usefulness than a year in our test fleet. Now the time has finally come to see how it stacks up.
What Options Does It Have?
The 2016 Tesla Model X is available in three variants: 70D, 90D and P90D. All are equipped with all-wheel drive.
The entry-level 70D starts at $81,200 and includes a 70-kWh battery that's good for 220 miles of driving range, seating for five and a conventional suspension. Standard equipment includes keyless entry, a power liftgate, LED headlights, parking alerts, navigation, blind spot warnings and collision-mitigation braking.
Stepping up to the $96,700 90D adds an air suspension and a 90-kWh battery that delivers quicker acceleration and the longest range (257 miles) of all Model X flavors. The $116,700 P90D bumps up the speed quotient further still, at the expense of a bit of range, which drops to 250 miles.
To experience all of the available features, some of which are unusual, we configured our Model X in the highest specification, a so-called Model X Signature P90D. Starting at $133,200, Signature models are essentially P90Ds bundled with features that would otherwise be optional: leather seating surfaces, autopilot semi-autonomous driving, 22-inch wheels, third-row seats, a high-current (72 amp) onboard charger and the Premium Upgrades package (which includes a motorized driver's door, HEPA cabin air filter, ventilated front seats, extended leather surfaces, synthetic suede headliner and adaptive headlights).
Signature status unlocks another key factor that clinched the decision for us: They're delivered first, jumping the line ahead of the plebeian non-Signature versions. Forget ordering one if you haven't done so already. They were limited to the first 1,000 takers willing to plunk down a $40,000 initial deposit, and all have been accounted for.
Since the Signature is nearly fully loaded, we added only the Ludicrous Speed Upgrade ($10,000), the Subzero Weather package ($1,000) and a Tow package ($750), bringing our grand total to $144,950 before tax and federal/state incentives. Despite our hefty deposit, we still had to bring a $119,000 check when we picked up our Model X at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California.
Why We Bought It
Tesla already has a cultlike following after producing only two models. We owned a Model S sedan for a year and the experience was a mixed bag. It was an exceptional sedan that was riddled with problems.
The Model X promises greater reliability and an even more practical package. Sedans have taken a backseat to crossovers and SUVs for mainstream buyers, so the Model X is a more direct shot at the heart of the market, even if its price still puts it out of reach for most.
Daily use will show if the novel doors are a sign of things to come in SUV design, or a constant source of frustration. We'll also get a chance to sample the quickly expanding supercharger network that was still a work in progress when we owned our Model S. Road trips should be a less daunting prospect this time around.
We'll be keeping our Model X for the next 12 months and aim to put at least 20,000 miles on it. Much of it will be commuting and running errands, but we'll throw in a few road trips and even find something to tow. Along the way we'll assess its comfort, measure its performance and energy consumption, share our driving impressions and track its maintenance needs.
Read along on our long-term road test blog to see daily updates on its progress.
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.