About a year ago I put down a deposit on the Model X and have been hemming and hawing around what to do about it since then. I originally wanted a Model X and then as the dates kept getting pushed out I pulled the trigger and got my Model S almost two years ago. Now the Model X is finally ready I recently got invited to a private Model X test drive event and wanted to share my impressions.
The Test Drive Event
The event itself was really nothing really special. There was coffee and tea and some snacks and a whole bunch of Tesla employees, and then the people there for the test drives. Every guest got guest passes (which really weren’t needed) and there was a special “20% off Model X apparel online” coupon available.
The store was otherwise closed for this event and the focus was 100% on the Model X. The test drives were scheduled at 15 minute intervals and there looked to be 3 Model X’s going nonstop. The Tesla employee I spoke to said they had 40 test drives scheduled for that day and over 40 for the second day of the 2 day event.
There was a Model X in the showroom with the frunk, trunk and all doors open. The 17″ screen was alive but all the seat and door controls were disabled in the “showroom” mode. This was annoying as you couldn’t get the feel of seats in various positions or play with the doors until the test drive time which was extremely short and limited.
The Model X
A lot has been written about the Model X, so here i’m going to focus on just a few areas that were focus areas for me.
The front and frunk
The front and front trunk (frunk) are quite a bit different from the Model S and I spent a lot of time inspecting it. I’ve seen a lot of pictures of the front of the Model X on white cars but not as many on non-white cars and none in person. The front looks a LOT better to me without the glaring expanse of white you get on the white cars.
I also really like the headlights in that they’re more solid lights (although I like the shape of the lights on my S better) and the side lights. I also like the way the bottom air dam is less visible and how the front radar is not at all visible.
The space behind the Tesla logo is odd. Its at a place you’re going to see it and its a big open area that collects air. The problem is its going to collect a lot of bugs, snow, sand, ice etc. I hope in the winter it doesn’t need air through there as in New England it will be full of crap. I don’t know why they chose/needed to have that area open but I suspect it was a mistake.
The front is an overall better design, but the open area behind the Tesla logo looks like a mistake.
The frunk itself was very spacious and while it lacks the “microwave” area that my older Model S has it definitely has at least as much room. Its a shame they still didn’t make the frunk auto open/close but I understand there are probably laws in the way of that change.
Much has been written about the Model X seats but since they’re integral to how I feel about the car i’m going to cover them here a bit too. The Model X seats are different from the “next generation” Model S seats as these ones are made in house by Tesla. For the short time we sat in them they were much more comfortable than my first generation seats and very luxurious.
The seats are a big upgrade.
The seats dropped a feature which I think was ingenious which is the little pouch on the front of the front seats. In my generation car there’s only one pouch on the drivers seat. In newer Model S’s there is a pouch on the front of each of the front seats. I use that pouch all the time and think its a wonderful feature.
Tesla dropped the pouch on the front seats and its sad to see that go.
While the front doors now have tons of storage in them, the pouch was a great place for charge cards or your phone.
The headrest on the front seats auto-lowers and raises based on how far back the seat is. This is a cool way of avoiding adding another control while still making sure the headrest is at the correct height for safety.
The seat backs are done in glossy black plastic that were covered with fingerprints in every car are another mistake. I was hoping this was a “feature” of the founders/signature series cars and wouldn’t be present in the production cars so we’d get something along the lines of the matte black we have in the Model S, but it seems thats not the case.
The glossy black plastic for the back of the seats is a mistake for a utility vehicle.
My wife, at 5’0″ found the middle seat of the second row very uncomfortable. It doesn’t seem that the seat back angle can be adjusted and her feet didn’t reach the floor when seated. She found the middle seat to be totally uncomfortable. As the driver I found it was hard to see outside with the rear view mirror with that seat in place. Tesla had both 6 and 7 seat cars available for us to check out. There were no 5 seat configuration cars. While we knew it to be the case before we visited, the lack of folding second row seats continues to be a big disappointment.
If we ordered a Model X it would definitely only have 6 seats as the aisle between the middle row seats is really nice and that third seat adds problems.
As you’d expect, the third row seats are tight but they do have more room in them than my other comparison car, the Acrura MDX. In addition to having more leg (knee) room, your feet actually can sit on the floor and go under the seat in front of you giving you more space. For people under 6′ theres plenty of headroom and legroom is reasonable. I should caveat all this that the third row wasn’t reasonable with the third seat in the second row. With that third seat there there really wasn’t enough room for even short adults to sit
Overall the first hand experience left us with the agreement that if we ordered an X it would only be with 6 seats. The forums are full of stories of people coming to similar conclusions.
Before we had the test drive we got a lecture from the sales guy on how we shouldn’t pull on any of the doors, and to only use buttons to open and close the doors. Also we were to be careful getting into the Model X as as soon as you step on the brake it closes all the front doors which may surprise you and/or others around the car. This was off putting and sounded like they were covering up for things.
On the doors, the area you press is not any part of the chrome area, but a specific spot in the middle. Pressing near the edge won’t open the door. Its like its a small push button covered by a long piece of chrome. This design is poor and unintuitive. Also, pressing a button and then stepping back to let the car do its thing is cute a first but was already annoying by the end of the event. I understand Tesla had a number of problems with the auto-presenting handles (I never had any trouble on my car), but this isn’t the solution.
The outside button to open the doors is poor and unintuitive.
The falcon wing doors (FWD) worked well and we opened them in a tight spot (next to my car) and they did their magic. A different time, standing outside I pressed open and then intentionally didn’t get out of the way and it correctly stopped partially open. An annoying thing here is you can’t get it out of this partially open state by pressing on the door handle — I had to get into the front seat and hold down a button to clear the FWD is obstructed warning. If I had had to get to that front door/sear between two cars and I was on the wrong side of that FWD it would have been a problem.
The falcon wing doors work like magic, but overall the Model X doors are quirky.
A nice upgrade to the Model X that should and could be done to the Model S is the addition of cupholders to the rear seats and USB chargers. My family would love that addition and there’s no reason for Tesla not to do that.
The updated climate controls on the 17″ screen are very intuitive and well done to allow you to control the front and rear settings independently as well as the seat heating and cooling.
There are a number of small but great upgrades in the Model X.
Having room under the middle row seats will be really helpful for those lugging stuff around. Since there are no door pockets or under floor storage in the Model S like you get in many SUV and minivans I imagine a lot of stuff will be stored under these seats in storage bins etc.
Tesla came up with really innovative sun visors that hide on the side pillars of the Model X when not in use and cross the expansive windshield to magnetically attach to the rear view mirror when needed. These have two different heights you can use depending on how much sun you need to block and have a lighted vanity light in them.
The problem with these sun visors is they’re new, very long and you have to manipulate them. This means they need to be able to take a lot of force and be very study/stable. I’ve heard stories of Model X owners already having to have had multiple repairs done on the sun visor. I got a chance to see the issue first hand with the Model X on the showroom floor where the whole sun visor was coming apart near the hinge:
Along with the doors the sun visors look like they will be another troublesome area on the Model X.
The sun visors on the Model X are very cool but will be another troublesome area.
The figured ash wood trim is a unique offering to the Model X which isn’t available on the Model S and has a really nice look to it. We both liked the look even more than our obeche matte wood trim on my Model S.
Model X Pros and Cons
I’m going to summarize my impressions here, but before I do keep in mind my point of reference — i’m a happy Model S owner that was considering exchanging it for the Model X. So these pros and cons are versus what I have today. If I was thinking about a newer Acura MDX or Mercedes SUV versus a Model X and needed a SUV, then the choice of a Model X would be a no-brainer.
- The seats are much more comfortable than those in my Model S and possibly better than Model S next generation seats
- Cooled seats would be really nice in the summers
- The things that Tesla has added since my Model S was built like AWD and Autopilot
- Much improved fit an finish — the car seems much better built than my early 2014 Model S which is less than 2 years old.
- Ease of access to the second and third row seats is really nice
- Large frunk
- Ride height is better
- Visibility out of the panoramic windshield and the views
- Comes with a nice front center console
- Quirky front and falcon wing doors
- Lack of folding second row seats
- Middle seat in middle row is poor in many ways
- Glossy seat backs
- Delicate sun visors
- Sun glare at times thanks to the new windshield
- Width – this is a very wide car, wider than a Hummer, and the Model S was already wide
- Looks – While a sharp car, I think the Model S looks better
- Requires air suspension (90D and above) (adds to cost)
- Lost the front pocket on the seats
- Area/gap behind Tesla logo on front
- Still has front arm rests at bad height (for me) and silly cupholders in them
The Test Drive
The test drive was rushed. They wanted you in the car and driving then out and back in the showroom. The drive itself was out of the lot, a U turn then onto I-95, up 2 exits, then off, and back down I-95 and back to the showroom. It was maybe 10 minutes and 95% highway driving. You couldn’t get a real feel for the handling of the car in that time, how the light would play on the windshield at different angles, or really anything of substance.
The P90D had plenty of pickup as I expected and it was much quicker than my S85 but, at least for the short time I got to drive it, it seemed to be too sensitive on the accelerator — it was going faster than I intended earlier than I intended. I assume i’d get used to that in time. The regenerative braking also seemed to be less powerful than the Model S, possibly because of the increased weight of the car itself, but again I didn’t have a ton of time to experiment with it or even check the settings.
The test drive was a rushed affair but at least we finally got to see and drive one.
Since we were just doing highway driving and the X isn’t really much different than the S in that regard I took the time to play with autopilot a bit. This was my first experience with autopilot and overall it was a great experience. It did choose (safe) positions in the lane I wouldn’t have which would take some time to get used to, but overall I loved the autopilot displays and awareness, the traffic-aware cruise control (TACC) and how easy it all was to operate.
Autopilot is really nice.
Generally sitting in the Model X you feel a bit higher up but not enormously so. The panoramic windshield is really nice, but we were driving on a sunny day and the sun was in the top right of my vision area and was a bit bothersome. The sun was above where the sun visor could cover and in the tinted area but it was still this bright light up and to the right that was annoying (also, I had polarized sunglasses on). I’m not sure i’d like that experience long term. Also, my wife pointed out that on these clean Model X’s we were driving the windshield had no salt/road scum outside the wiper area but any car you’ve had for a bit would have that covering that large expanse of glass. On a normal windshield thats a small area, but on the X you’ll see a lot of that.
The expansive windshield is really nice, but the sun does get in your eyes despite the tinting and special sun visor.
The Hard Sell
At any normal dealership after a test drive i’d be ready and expecting a hard sell, but at Tesla I wasn’t so I was surprised when I got one, or at least one for Tesla. After the test drive the sales guy had us go to a computer and login to the MyTesla site with our login and configure a Model X the way we’d want it. It would have been easier (I have a crazy hard password I don’t remember) and more friendly if you could have configured the Model X as a guest just to discuss options/pricing as you do in a normal Model S sales cycle.
Going through the configuration quickly revealed that Tesla has made some changes since I last logged in — the hidden second charger option is no longer hidden (finally!), they killed the 85kW battery option (essentially increasing my potential price as I wouldn’t have wanted the 90kW upgrade) and you can save your configuration now so you don’t have to reconfigure each time you go back in. There were a few other tweaks but nothing else major stood out.
After we configured the X and spoke a bit about the options he was asking us why we weren’t ready to press the order button. They were clearly driven to get as many orders entered as possible from these events and I understand the desire to get orders but you can’t expect people to make an on-the-spot $100,000+ decision after a brief 10 minute test drive and haven just seen the car in person for the first time. People may want to go talk about it, think about options, discuss it some more, etc. The style around this portion of the event could have been better and i’ll chalk it up to inexperience of the person and perhaps a corporate mandate to push that order button.
Anyway for us, the car and the drive all reconfirmed what i’ve been thinking — if I get another Tesla now it would be a newer Model S and definitely not the Model X.
I would prefer a new Model S over a Model X.
I explained this to the sales guy and he perked up a bit to hear that i’d like to test drive a new Model S 90D perhaps thinking he could salvage something from this time with a Model S order. He said he’d try to make the Model S test drive happen, but despite there being over a dozen corporate Model S’s at this location and a few dozen employees they couldn’t get me into one and we left after a half hour of them scrambling around. I’m scheduled for a 90D test drive in a couple weeks.
Many people looking at the Model X are coming from an ICE SUV or minivan and are looking to keep the size and utility while going electric. The Model X has many things that make it a great choice over other SUVs — its all electric, it has a fantastic user interface for controlling everything on that 17″ screen, it’s super fast, has easy access to second and third row seats, etc.
For me the comparison is quite different. I’m coming from one of the best cars made, my Model S, and looking for something better. While the Model X has many things i’d like to have that my Model S doesn’t, it also has things I definitely do not want. The doors are completely quirky. The seats are a mistake in a number of ways. Also, I suspect that, while impressive, that panoramic windshield will be another problem.
I would love to have all wheel drive, upgraded seats, autopilot, a heated steering wheel, front door pockets, heated AND cooled seats, and a few other things I don’t have today. Most of those can be had on a newer Model S. It can’t tow or haul more than 5 people but I don’t really need those things.
The Model X isn’t for me, not because its not a great car, but because i’m not in the target audience for it.
Thoughts, comments? Drop me a note in the comments section below. Also I took many additional pictures which are available over on Flickr.
M. Sterling said:
I love the honesty of your review, especially the crazy part about doors closing automatically.
Thanks! Worth checking out in person for sure.
Thanks for the detailed review. I like reading reviews from other Model S owners to get a true comparison of the two best cars in the world.
David Bryant said:
Good, thorough, frank report. Thanks! And I am sorry for your disappointment.
Tesla Owner said:
This review is kind of sad. Sounds like so many of their “new features” are over engineered to not be either functional enough or durable enough.
The X target market is quite narrow – people with young children that are rich enough they don’t mind a lot of spit and goldfish crackers in their 100K car.
I hope Tesla can sell enough to these families to keep them going.
I guess for me, I’m perfectly happy in any car seat really. The only car I have ever thought was uncomfortable was Subarus. I rented one once and those seats really hurt. I’ve driven a lot of loaners with all the seat versions. I try to review them during my test drives but after a minute I forget about it as they don’t feel any different to me.
I found autopilot fun but in the end more effort than typical self autopilot driving when it got confused. (Not that I wouldn’t ever use it), autopilot just does not justify paying 50K to trade up.
I don’t see you trading up your Model S for a newer one.
Generally most car seats work for me but the newer ones (in both the S and X) definitely feel better. Not worth a $50K upgrade though! I think it makes more sense to wait for updates to autopilot hardware and maybe a S refresh in a few years. I suspect the 3 will be too small for my tastes. Now, if they did another roadster that would be tempting .
Tesla Owner said:
It is funny I’m sort of thinking a Model 3 might be a good fit. The Model S is too wide here as we are getting really overbuilt on the San Francisco Peninsula. How much wider is the X BTW?
My dream would be a car more narrow than the S but with a 500 mile range battery.
I’ve already done the Roadster. It was just too small for my taste in terms of storage capability and even just the cabin space was oh so small.
ModelS owner from Belgium! said:
Thanks for this review.
Being a model S owner myself (and 110% loving it) this article got me thinking. I read another frank (yet fair) article on model X earlier this week, that is quite aligned with your point of view article (overengineered, …). Bottom line is that Model X is a great showcase of Tesla engineering capabilities, but maybe not the best business choice for Tesla and more over it doesn’t fit in Tesla master plan (driving down production costs and increasing production efficiency with every new model). Only time will tell if it was a wise decision to first produce this complex SUV or Tesla had better skip it to directly to produce the model3. As model S owner, I really want Tesla to succeed in the long term (that will impact resale value of my 2014 model S), so I’m also impacted as Tesla continues to make ever bigger big business bets.
Have a read of the other article i referred to https://www.carthrottle.com/post/4-ways-tesla-screwed-up-with-the-model-x/
Thanks for the comments and sharing that link. As a Model S owner and shareholder the experience was concerning. I don’t necessarily think they could have skipped right to the 3 but a simpler (and more functional) SUV would have made a LOT more sense.
Nick Howe (@nickjhowe) said:
Hey Rob. Your thoughts mirror mine almost exactly. I didn’t have a reservation for an X, but i was lucky enough to be offered a Founders car. In the end I decided to pass, for many of the reasons you highlight above. As Elon said the other day “I don’t think anyone will make a car like this ever again”, and I think he’s right. Lots of people love this car, but whereas I’ve hardly found anyone who doesn’t like the Model S, there are plenty of people who don’t like the X. I’m definitely sticking with my S – at least until the Model 3 gets revealed…
A founders one would have been a bit tougher just because it was founders but good choice!
Great review! I appreciate the insights like how the windshield might look with salt and dirt on the outer edges.
RS232C the serial user said:
Without seeing the car, I share the majority of your thoughts and that made me change my initial order for a Model X to my current Model S 85D. I’m glad I did change the order, what you say shows that I was 90% sure for the S. The bad part? I like SUVs, and a tiny part of me says “what if”, and the other part of me says “go read again this great review”. May be the Y will be the SUV or CUV to buy 🙂 thank you for your review
towing capacity not the promised 10000lbs and lack of folding second row seats killed the deal for ,e
Its definitely more of the Sport vs Utility in the SUV wording.
I was sold on the mantra ” where utility meets performance “.. I find very little utility in the design of the model X .. could have been a killer SUV. Even the most basic SUVs and Mini Vans have more utility
I drove a minivan for a few days recently and the seats and storage and doors are much better in a Chrysler Town and Country. The rest of the car is crap though