I’ve driven the car of the future. I just didn’t expect to be able to fit the whole family in the back while I did it.
The Tesla Model X completely re-writes the rule book for SUVs, somehow taking the humble seven seater and transforming it into a sleek, luxurious object of automotive desire.
It’s fast enough to embarrass supercars at traffic lights once you add the Ludicrous mode upgrade and somehow actually manages to make gull-wing doors practical - an incredible achievement for a company that’s been rolling cars off the production line for barely more than a decade.
With unrivalled all-electric range, a tech-filled interior and the ability to drive itself using AI-controlled Autopilot, though, there’s a lot more to get excited about beyond sheer speed and bonkers bodywork.
After finally driving one on UK roads, we’re ready to deliver a verdict on this most prodigious of people carriers.
From the outside, there’s no mistaking the Model X for anything other than a Tesla. It has the same aggressively sculpted headlights, the same small grille and the same bare metal face, just like the recent Model S facelift.
With no need to cool a traditional engine, there’s no need for a massive chrome grill disguising a radiator or air intake - it looks a bit bare at first, but I quickly got used to it. Even if it does remind me a bit of that scene in The Matrix where Neo’s mouth closes up.
It wasn’t as obvious on the metallic blue model I was driving, as the tinted glass blends into the roof, but the Model X has an absolutely huge panoramic windscreen. Once you’re in the driver’s seat, there’s hardly anything obscuring your view of the outside world. Even the sun visors have been hidden away, but you can swing them into place in seconds. They’re held in place with magnets, so you don’t have to fiddle with latches or locks.
You only get the active rear spoiler on the top-end P100D, and even then it’s an optional extra. Without it, the back end looks delightfully subtle - meaning you can give people a surprise when you bolt away from them at traffic lights.
BUCKLE UP, BUCKAROO
With no traditional engine to make room for, the interior feels cavernous.
There’s ample space for driver and passenger up front, with fully adjustable seats. All electric, naturally. There’s space at the rear behind the back seats (with cubby underneath for your charging cable), along with a second, smaller boot under the bonnet.
The real surprise lies in the back, though. You can spec the model X as a five, six or seven seat car, and with the full seven seats, there’s just about room in the third row for two adults. I’d expect these to end up reserved for any younglings, though.
The middle row are mounted to the floor at a single point, a bit like the seats on an airliner, so there’s room underneath to store bits and bobs. The front seats have side pockets, too - something that was sorely missing on the Model S.
The quality of the plastic, leather, chrome and material throughout is impressive, as you’d expect from a luxury car. USB ports in front and back means you can siphon some of your precious range off to keep your smartphone topped up, too.
COME FLY WITH ME
I called them gull-wings earlier, but Tesla calls the rear passenger doors ‘falcon-wing’ - it’s because they’re double-hinged, which makes them more flexible than a yoga instructor.
They’re fitted with ultrasonic sensors that hide behind the bodywork, measuring exactly how much horizontal and vertical space there is to open each door and avoid obstacles. The car can measure ceiling height for when you’re in a multi-storey car park or garage, too. You’ll be able to open them fully with just eleven inches of space.
It’s all electronic, of course - no heavy lifting or stretching required.
Before you scoff into your cornflakes over the thought of actually owning a car with doors that open upwards, I was blown away by how well they worked.
They opened fully in a car park, even when I was flanked by two parked cars, and they give you an unrivalled amount of space to access the rear cabin. If you’ve ever had to wrangle a screaming toddler into a child seat, you’ll understand how useful even a little extra room can be.
Each door has its own sunroof, too, letting in loads of light into the back. Combined with the panoramic windshield, it always feels bright and airy - even when you’ve got a full passenger load.
Even the front doors open electrically, as does the tailgate. Just blip the car-shaped key fob in the right place and the relevant bit pops open. It’s a real party piece, and handy when you’ve got your hands full with shopping bags or errant children.
Once everyone is inside, a quick brush of the brake and all the open doors automatically close before you set off. It’s brilliant, even if I do wish the rear doors were just that tiny bit faster to open and close.