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Tesla's X takes aim at the seven-seat SUV market with extreme performance - and a price to match

Tesla got off to a slow start with the Lotus-based Tesla Roadster, but a decade has now passed since we first drove that car – in fairly shabby two-speed prototype form, straight out of the gates of Potash Lane, Hethel, as it happened.

And there has certainly been some water under the bridge since then.

Have the 100D if you can afford it, for the best range and air springs as standard

The Roadster, now long discontinued, reached fewer than 3000 homes over its four-year life cycle; by way of contrast, Tesla delivered more than 76,000 other new cars last year alone.

So while only a brave few were willing to risk their motoring happiness on an electrified sports car at the turn of the current decade, some 50,000 buyers a year are now switching their preference from fossil fuels to battery power and buying a Tesla Model S executive saloon.

Growth of that kind doesn’t tend to come easy, and there have, of course, been safety controversies, recalls and a few corporate scandals to keep the gossip mill spinning. But the Model S has emphatically succeeded, and it is now a bigger-selling car than almost any other full-sized limousine in the world.

Tesla, being at once a long way from done and ever-keen to talk of its plans, already began talking up the Tesla Model 3 compact saloon before its first seven-seater had rolled out of the factory. That will make Tesla ownership about twice as affordable as it currently is.

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By 2018, Tesla aimed to be making half a million cars a year. It has been a phenomenal transition: from Morgan-scale car-making to Volvo-scale volume production within just seven years. That’s one vehicle life cycle and a mere heartbeat in industry terms.

The new Tesla Model X is the seven-seat SUV reimagined in much the same vein as the luxury saloon was by the Model S.

A 2.5-tonne electric vehicle available with as much as 611bhp, the Model X, is a car for which equally remarkable performance claims on acceleration (0-60mph in 3.2sec) and range (in excess of 300 miles) are being made.

We’re testing it in middle-rung 90D model trim. So will the luxury SUV ever be the same again?

Tesla Model X First drives