Tesla reckons that its all-electric Model X is the safest, fastest and most capable sport utility vehicle in history. With all-wheel drive and battery options that can give you well over 300 miles of range, the Model X has ample seating for seven adults and all of their gear. And it can be almost ludicrously fast too. It's a pretty unique proposition.
Whatever Model X variant you choose, you'll get four-wheel drive, courtesy of a pair of electric motors, one powering the rear wheels and one for the front pair. The brand has now standarised 100kWh battery power. In the standard 'Long Range' variant you get a 314 mile WLTP driving range. Alternatively, in the top Performance flagship model, there's a 301 mile driving range and a huge 691bhp output thanks to what Tesla calls a 'Ludicrous Speed Upgrade' that makes this variant capable of rest to 60mph in just 2.6s on the way to 155mph flat out.
The driving experience of this Model X is unlike that of any other large SUV. For starters, it's a pure electric vehicle, so there's no noise from an internal combustion engine to deal with, only the distant hum of the two electric motors. That makes this an astonishingly refined means of travel, with comfort levels embellished by the standard air suspension system which is able to adjust the ride height through either manual or automatic means. The car lowers itself at speed on the highway but can be raised for low speed work over poorer surfaces - though it's not really designed for any sort of 'off piste' terrain, despite the standard fitment of All-Wheel Drive across the range.
On the move, you'll be impressed by the easy seamless way this Model X gains its speed, though the acceleration does tail off noticeably at higher speeds. The regenerative brakes take some getting used to: come off the throttle and it's as if you've pressed the brake. What this means is that most of the time, you won't need to use the brakes at all. 'Smart Air Suspension' is standard but many still seem to find the ride quality quite firm. Like all electric vehicles, weight is an issue - a Model X weighs in at nearly 2.5-tonnes - but Tesla has minimised the effect of this by centrally mounting all that mass beneath the cabin floor, this approach giving the car an impressively low centre of gravity. As a result, there's less bodyroll through tighter turns than you might expect and there might even be some fun to be had were it not for the rather lifeless steering.
The Model X may not immediately strike you as a classically-styled SUV but it's certainly obvious from the start that this is a much more practical proposition than Tesla's original offering, the Model S. The Model X's design party piece lies with the gull-wing 'Falcon Wing' rear doors that make entering the vehicle something of a theatrical event. Tesla says they can open in a confined space too, thanks to a double-hinged design (there's a hinge on the roof and another above the window line) that allows the doors to raise up with as little as 11 inches of clearance outwards. There are also ultrasonic sensors that lie beneath the bodywork so you can't open the door into an immovable object.
The front doors open conventionally but are electrically powered, with the driver's door opening automatically when you unlock the car with the key fob. Step inside and a press of the brake pedal will see the doors close behind you. With both doors open, there's brilliant access into and out of the car, so, for example, strapping a childseat into the rear is far easier than it would be in a conventional SUV. The Model X comes as standard with two rows of seats. If you specify the optional third seating row, the middle row seats move forward at the push of a button to aid access into the third row. Adults will fit into the very back but will probably need the middle row slid forward a bit if they're to travel in any real comfort.
The Model X is a very desirable thing. It's also a very expensive thing. Still, if you were already going to spend upwards of £80,000 on a luxury SUV, it's certainly a more rational choice than something more conventional in this segment.
Caveats are few. Yes, battery charging does require a little more thought than just topping up a tank and if a car is shared between a married couple for instance, you'll both need to be on the ball with it. Other than that, there's very little not to like. The interior is adventurous, the packaging is efficient and the acceleration is quite simply astonishing. Quite simply, the Model X sets a fresh standard for what cars of this kind can do.Click here to find out more about our Tesla Model X range