The new Tesla Model X all-electric SUV has made its European debut at Geneva, and is expected to reach the first customers here this year.
The seven-seat SUV features the same unusual ‘Falcon Wing’ doors that were a key part of the prototype Model X unveiled in 2013. These swing upwards to allow entry into the cabin, and require only 30cm of space on either side of the car to open.
Sonar sensors are fitted to each door - and the car’s roof - to monitor surroundings and adjust how far the doors open. The driver’s door automatically opens and closes when the driver is detected.
Power for the SUV comes from the same dual-electric motor setup as the Model S P85D. In the performance-oriented P90D, the front motor offers up 259bhp, and the rear adds an extra 503bhp, giving a combined output of 762bhp and 713b ft of torque.
Tesla says the all-wheel-drive Model X is capable of sprinting to 62mph in 3.2 seconds and has a top speed of 155mph. The floor-mounted battery pack is said to give the Model X a low centre of gravity and “ideal weight distribution for exhilarating performance and superior handling.” The Model X has a drag coefficient of 0.24, which Tesla says is the lowest of any SUV in history, and weighs 2468kg - making it heavier than both the Range Rover Sport hybrid and BMW’s X5 eDrive.
The P90D Model X is capable of travelling up to 250 miles on a single charge. As previously confirmed, the P90D will be available with the same ‘Ludicrous’ mode as the Model S, and its in this mode that the SUV manages its 0-62mph sprint time of 3.2 seconds. In standard mode, the car covers the same distance in 3.8 seconds.
The standard 90D version, meanwhile, has a 257-mile range and reaches 60mph in 4.8 seconds. Its motors each offer 259bhp - giving a combined total of 518bhp.
An active spoiler features at the rear of the car, and automatically adjusts to three positions depending on speed. At low speeds, the spoiler is lowered for better visibility, while at higher speeds it retracts for improved efficiency.
As expected, the Model X’s cabin is based on that of the Model S, and includes the large 17in touchscreen infotainment system which has become a hallmark of Tesla’s cars. The front fascia includes an integrated HEPA filter system, which is said to provide “medical-grade air to the cabin, no matter what is going on outside”.
While Tesla hasn’t specified how much luggage space is inside the Model X, the manufacturer has said the car is “the first electric vehicle” to offer a towing capacity of 2276kg.
Standard safety features on the Model X include autonomous emergency braking and a side collision detection system, as well as a forward-facing camera, radar and sonar sensors.
Tesla says its wireless updates will continually improve the Model X’s safety functions, including its steering and parking assistance systems. The company says these updates will bring “the Model X ever closer to autonomous operation”.
Designed to be “the safest car on the road,” Tesla says it expects the Model X to receive full five-star safety ratings from global test agencies - including Europe’s NCAP.
The company says that because the space under the bonnet isn’t used to house a large engine, it’s instead used as a large crumple zone to absorb the energy of an impact. The car’s battery pack and occupants are protected by the use of aluminium pillars, which also improve stiffness.
At an event where the first production Model Xs were handed over to owners in California, Tesla boss Elon Musk said: “It’s important to show that any type of car can go electric. We showed a sports car can go electric, we’ve showed it with a sedan and now we’re going to show that we can do it with an SUV. It's important that we move to a sustainable world sooner rather than later."
Production of the Model X is scheduled to take place at Tesla’s California plant, which already makes the Model S. Tesla manufacturing boss Gilbert Passin has previously said the factory is already set up to deal with multiple body styles: “We can build many models on the same line. The Model S is just one ‘top hat’ on a platform that is very modular. All our pressing modules are very adjustable and we’re working on improving that flexibility even further and making it faster at the moment.
“This plant is all about high flexibility at a low cost. We can handle different designs effectively and quickly.”
Batteries for the Model X will eventually be supplied by Tesla’s own Gigafactory, which is due to open in 2017. The new factory is designed to drive down costs for electric vehicle manufacturing by introducing economies of scale - with reports suggesting overall costs could eventually be cut by up to 30%.
The Gigafactory will help Tesla as it strives to reach targets of producing 500,000 vehicles per year by the end of 2020. Speaking to Bloomberg, Musk said the Model X would double the company’s current sales volume. The company plans to sell 55,000 vehicles worldwide in 2015.
Initially, it was thought the Model X might not make it to the UK, because it was thought to be too large. However, the appetite for crossovers and SUVs in Europe is understood to have swayed the decision.
Full pricing has yet to be revealed, but is expected to start at around £65,000. The first cars are expected to arrive in the UK towards the middle of 2016.
The Tesla range will then gain another variant, the BMW 3 Series-rivalling Model 3, in mid-2017.
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