The Tesla Model X is actually quite different from the Model S. That was one of the key takeaways for Kyle and me while test driving the electric SUV in Santa Barbara. Below is a video combining my first drive in a Model X and Kyle Field’s first drive in a Model X (thanks to Don Baumhefner for bringing it down from Northern California for us to test out!) as well as some videos of a titanium metallic Model X at a Supercharger station and Gene Liu’s black Model X, which we explored at Unplugged Performance on the evening of the Tesla Model 3 unveiling. Following the video are the points that stood out to me following my first drive in the Model X and seeing it in person. (By the way, note that the X and space inside the back, etc., seems a lot bigger in person than in pictures or videos.)
Assuming that you all have a good enough perception of what it’s like to drive a Model S, I’ll use that as a jumping off point to discuss the Model X. Note that new owner and longtime CleanTechnica reader Don Baumhefner will be reviewing the X in greater depth and over a longer period of time for CleanTechnica, and Kyle will drop an article here with his perspective on the vehicle as well.
The seats. My God, the seats! (Yes, I like playing off of that Seinfeld scene.) All of the seats in the X, but especially the front seats, are ludicrously comfortable. I like the Model S seats, but the X seats are a huge level above them. In fact, they are without a doubt the most comfortable car seats I’ve ever experienced. I could get used to those very quickly, and I’m a bit surprised they didn’t get more love in reviews I’ve seen around the web.
Space in the 2nd and 3rd row. Just a few days before exploring Don’s X, we got to explore (only in stationary fashion) the Tesla Model X that Teslarati founder Gene Liu recently got. At that time, sitting in the 2nd and 3rd rows along with a few other dudes between 6’ and 6’3”, I was unpleasantly shocked at the lack of legroom. I was planning to write about that disappointment (and I guess I still am in some way), but I discovered while testing Don’s X more thoroughly that the lack of legroom in both rows stemmed from the front seats being fully (or far) back. Pulling the front seats up quite a bit doesn’t really reduce comfort in the front — I’m 6’ and tried it, and Don’s son is 6’3” and did as well. (Note that we initially started to do it on camera, but then did it more precisely off camera and it worked even better.) Once you do that, there’s plenty of legroom for people up to 6’3” tall in the 1st and 2nd row, and someone 6′ (like me) in the 3rd row. So… you can basically transport tall adults in all three rows without issue. (I’m not sure at what height it would become a challenge. However, the head space does start to get a bit close for people 6’ tall and up, in my experience. It’s not too bad, but if I sat forward much, I could put my head on the ceiling. In both the 2nd and 3rd row, as you can see in the video, cutouts in the roof for window space are particularly useful (critical even) for those taller passengers. Luckily, it works, and the extra light and view is appreciated in other ways as well.
Autopilot. Well, this is in Model S sedans as well, but not the ones I’ve driven. Being the first time driving with autopilot, I was in the same nervous boat of many before me. It is super awkward letting the vehicle drive for you on a fast highway! (But it would have helped me to not get a ticket an hour or so earlier!) I was very hesitant to take my hands away from the wheel, but after a few minutes, I had my hands down on my lap and felt like I was riding in the passenger seat. Pretty astounding. Once doing that, it’s much easier to envision the 100% autonomous vehicles Elon is promising.
Smoooooth. Kyle noticed this first. (Well, he drove first, but he highlighted it and I don’t think I would have paid attention to such detail — amidst everything else — if he hadn’t.) Once I was driving, just following my drive in Kyle’s Model S, I could definitely notice that the Model X had a much smoother and more luxe feel than the Model S. Kyle was sure this was related to the suspension, but I think the super comfy front seats didn’t hurt either. We’re not sure how this compares to a Model S with the air suspension, but it definitely helps to boost the Model X into the luxury SUV category, not just the performance SUV category.
Oh yeah. Speaking of performance… Don’s 90D X didn’t take off as quickly as Kyle’s 85 S (which is probably good for people like me… even if not as fun), but it still has wicked acceleration for an SUV. If you want fun combined with luxury and space, I’m confident you can’t do better than this (yet).
The doors. It’s not just the falcon-wing doors that are cool. I think the way you open the front doors is much nicer than in the Model S or other cars. You have to press on the door handle harder than you press a “button” on a tablet or smartphone, but it’s still a pretty gentle press and feels more natural than the Model S doorhandles. Also pretty cool is how the door closes if you don’t quite shut it all the way — it basically just sucks itself into the proper position in a slow and smooth fashion. Maybe that’s not the most spectacular thing, but I loved it.
Kyle was teasing me because it was taking me a while to start using the button on the Model S trunk to close it (I kept manually pulling the trunk down), but once I got the hang of that, I was pretty ready for the X. There are various buttons spread around the X to open and close doors, and I found that enjoyable/entertaining quite quickly.
Yes, I love the falcon-wing doors (and know some people don’t). First of all, they just look cool — when in the open position and when in the process of opening. The skylights in the middle of the vehicle when they are down are also quite nice. Furthermore, they really do make getting in and out of the Model X much easier than in any comparably sized personal vehicle. I’ve embarked and disembarked from my fair share of minivans and SUVs, and this vehicle is much more comfortable for that process. I can only imagine how much better it is for loading and unloading children and babies compared to other vehicles (not including buses and trams, of course).
Integrated design. Tesla clearly responded to consumer requests for cupholders, storage space, and more conventional comforts with the Model X. I thought everything was integrated very well and had a perfect balance between simplicity and comfort. It became very tempting to blow more money than I should on this vehicle… and that shocks me since I’ve never liked SUVs.
I’ll leave it to Kyle to chime in with his own thoughts about the X, and even more so, to Don, who will be providing a long-term review of the X as he grows with it. This will put CleanTechnica in 3 of the 4 top-selling EVs, with one of our chief writers getting into the other one shortly.
All photos (and most video) by Kyle Field