• Tesla Model X
  • Tesla Model X

First Drive: Tesla Model X P100D

Easy-to-love tech and performance

I’ve wanted to spend some quality time with a Tesla for a long while. Sadly, Elon & Company don’t hand out their electronic keys to just anyone, so I didn’t get any significant seat time until my

Tesla Model X

Steve gets to drive the big (white) green machine

good buddy and colleague Rob K generously lent me his recently acquired bright white Model X P100D for half a day.

The Model X stands tall and sits wide, making a big impression. The shape is nicely rounded, and while the rear lamps seem almost generic, the nose, with its pert little pout and no grille, is still a little emotionless to me.

After sending the falcon-wing doors slowly upward and removing the unnecessary child seat from the middle row, Rob attempted to show me the latest holiday Easter egg Tesla provided. Sadly, the car didn’t respond, but I got to see an amazing video of lights flashing and doors wagging on Rob’s phone. Because Tesla can update your software at any time, changes in displays and vehicle functionality can occur regularly. I did learn that Tesla will warn you it’s coming, so you can stop and not drive the car while it’s going on—a safety precaution.

We chatted about the ingenious Matchbox car sized Model X key, which locks, unlocks, opens, or closes the area on the model you touch.

Off I Go

With a little simple guidance on the controls, Rob sent me off. My goal was to ride through the local curvy roads and hit the freeway, then head south to my see another friend, Michael C, with whom I’d have a relaxing lunch. Then I’d take him on a ride so he could sample the X, too.

Tesla Model X,interior

The elegant interior

The X feels like a room on wheels, with seemly acres between you and the opposite side door. The surfaces wear real carbon fiber, leather, suede and high-quality plastic. The simple fold of the interior door grip is kind of a Scandinavian Design touch.

The windshield is humongous, reaching way up overhead. Tinting keeps you from getting fried, but what about sun visors? Tesla folds them in half lengthwise and tucks them up next to the windshield pillar. They attach magnetically. When you need sun protection, you pull it out and position it where the sun is. That may be in the center of the glass in front of you or at some other angle—you decide. It was still a habit to reach for it in the traditional spot and be disappointed—but I settled in after a while.

The controls are not too hard to figure out. The shifter feels familiar in a modern German sedan way. Steering is smooth and assisted, and the electric motor is nearly silent, so moving out at a light is like asking the magic carpet to please hurry along. I noticed aggressive regenerative braking, so that you can essentially do “one pedal” driving. The brake pedal is a nice place to rest your foot when you’re sitting at a light.

The Big Screen Story

Tesla Model X, interior, capacative screen

The Big Screen

Much has been made of Tesla’s enormous 17 -inch capacitive touch screen—sitting there like a huge iPad—but it’s not just a sea of undifferentiated icons. The stuff that fills an ordinary 7- or 8-inch screen becomes the top half of a screen twice that size. The climate controls, looking clean and logical, are arrayed along the bottom. I saw mostly audio settings and the navigation map and instructions sharing the remaining real estate. So, no squinting required. When I requested directions—using voice commands—the system misunderstood the name I gave, but got it right the second time. When you request a map, it fills the ENTIRE panel, so it’s easy to follow. The narration was completely familiar.

The combined 532 horsepower from the front and rear electric motors and awesome 713 lb.-ft. of torque propel the 5,594-pound Model X along like you’re being launched out of a slingshot. And that’s not even including the expensive Ludicrous mode. Car and Driver clocked a 3.3-second zero-to-60 time.

With the electric motor taking up little space up front, the Model X offers a “frunk” to hold some smallish things.

Tesla Model X

The frunk up front

I decided I’d better visit one of the famous Tesla Superchargers. So, I asked for directions to the nearest one using the voice button. I was directed a few miles away, to the lot at the Computer History Museum. I saw a collection of mixed Teslas parked there, along with something else—a waiting line. Mike, the patient attendant, said that this was one of the busiest Supercharger locations, and lines were normal. I think that some of the more remote locations would be easier to simply pull into. Because I had plenty of charge, I decided that I could wait for next time to sample the charging experience.

Letting the Model X Drive Itself

I got a chance to sample the car’s semi-autonomous driving skills. It’s stone simple to operate. Just pull the little cruise control stalk twice and a blue steering wheel icon pops up on your screen and the car stays in the center of its lane, follows the curves of the road, and stops safely behind the car ahead.

Tesla Model X,interior, dashboard

The dash displays all you need to know

You’re not supposed to let go of the steering wheel, although you can. But after a few seconds, the perimeter of the instrument panel flashes and a message pops up – Put Your Hands on the Wheel! We’ll be having no lawsuits here, thank you very much. I did ride a few times with my hands on my knees and it felt odd, but safe. I’m sure the full autonomy mode will seem like no big deal when it arrives—probably sooner than you think.

When I arrived at my lunch destination, I found a place around the corner and parked. Then, I wondered how I was supposed to turn the car off and lock it. After searching fruitlessly for the “start” button, I phoned Rob. He said, “Just put it in park. When you step out of the car and walk away, the doors will close automatically and the car will lock. Who would have thought of that? It goes against my 47 years of dutifully locking my car every time I leave it. When you walk up to the car, with your key in your pocket, the doors pop open a little, swinging fully open when you draw near.

Those expensive, trouble-prone, but awesome rear falcon-wing doors are fun. I opened and closed them with the door switches. All the doors open and close on their own with just a hum and a gentle electric pull. You could get used to this.

The big audio half of the panel tempted me to sample things I don’t normally listen to. Rob mysteriously didn’t have my favorite—SiriusXM Radio—hooked up, but I touched an icon to hear a

Tesla Model X, technology, key

The “key” to the Model X

podcast about porta potty maintenance and some unfamiliar musical selections on the Tesla Top 20 Music channel.

The biggest surprise for me was that, after a few minutes, I felt relaxed and at home in the Tesla Model X. It’s so pleasant and the electronics work so simply and subtly, that I wanted to just park it and hang out, like a relaxing little hotel room. The driving experience, especially in a P100 model, is super brisk, but the exclusive amenities are what make the cost well-into six-figures.

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About Author: Steve Schaefer

Steve Schaefer has written a weekly automotive column for 25 years, testing more than 1,100 cars. Now, he’s focusing on EVs and hybrids. Steve remembers the joy of riding in his father’s Austin-Healey. After discovering the August, 1963 issue of Motor Trend, he became entranced with the annual model change, and began stalking dealers’ back lots to catch the new models as they rolled off the transporter. Coming from a family that owned three Corvairs, Steve was one of the first Saturn buyers, earning him a prominent spot in their 1994 product catalogue. To continue the GM tradition, Steve now has a Chevrolet Bolt EV. Steve is a founding member of the Western Automotive Journalists. Read his EV/hybrid blog at stevegoesgreen.com.

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