First drive: Tesla Model X: An awesome way to spend $132000

30 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Elon Musk’s Regret: Tesla’s New SUV Might Be a Little Too Good.

Elon Musk will confess to just one regret about Tesla’s new Model X, the dazzling full-size luxury SUV that it unveiled to the public Tuesday night. “I think we got a little carried away,” he said. “There’s far more here than is really necessary to sell a car.” As regrets go, it’s a rather self-flattering one, reminiscent of the unctuous job-seeker who cops to being “too much of a perfectionist” when asked about his greatest weakness. Tesla Motors launched its all-electric Model X crossover Tuesday night, delivering cars to six customers — well, five, if you subtract the one Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk is keeping for himself — but the glitzy event left key questions about the car unanswered.

Musk has said the regular X will start at about $5,000 more than a comparably equipped Tesla Model S electric sports sedan, but there’s no public price sheet. With features, such as falcon-wing-style rear doors that open upward and a front door that opens automatically and closes once the driver is inside, it’s clear Tesla hasn’t abandoned the signature sporty styling visible on its other two models, a sedan and a two-seater.

Packed with wild features like autopilot mode, gullwing—er, “Falcon Wing”—doors, and a “bioweapon defense” button, the X is an awful lot of vehicle. The base model of the all-wheel-drive Model S starts at $76,200 before a $7,500 federal tax credit for electric cars and California’s $2,500 rebate. Tesla head Elon Musk said the car’s signature features represent a new high for automotive engineering, adding that they had been challenging to manufacture and created delays in the car’s launch, which was originally set for 2012 before being expected last year. Tesla’s Model X – one of the only all-electric SUVs on the market – was officially unveiled Tuesday night near the company’s California factory. The car has radar and sonar systems that allow for partial self-driving and automated braking, a 17-inch state-of-the-art touchscreen, and a massive panoramic glass windshield — all while comfortably fitting seven adults and all their belongings.

Musk and his engineers even added a highly developed air filtration system so powerful and effective, it would protect passengers from a biological attack when set to the “bioweapon defense mode.” Musk quipped at the event, “If there’s ever an apocalyptical scenario, press the button.” This latest Tesla car is designed after its predecessor the Model S sedan which was released in 2012, and has so far sold 90,000 cars. The battery instead lies beneath the floor, giving it a center of gravity that should make it immune to the rollover problems that have plagued SUVs past. It also could be that Tesla is still so far away from putting the model into meaningful production and sales that Musk doesn’t yet know what the price will ultimately be, said Mark Spiegel, a hedge fund manager for Stanphyl Capital Partners who is shorting Tesla’s stock, a bet that pays off if Tesla shares fall. (Tesla stock was up 2 cents to $246.67 in midsession trading Wednesday.) The automaker’s website doesn’t reveal much about the vehicle. The public has been anxiously waiting for the Model X reveal since 2012 when Musk announced a prototype, but kept pushing back the official reveal date for years. US luxury SUV sales were up 17 percent through August, five times better than the industry as a whole. “If Tesla’s going to be a more significant player, they need more products, and SUVs are what the market is demanding,” said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst with the car buying site AutoTrader.com.

Tesla says it would deliver cars ordered now in the second half of 2016, but declined to provide any further details on its manufacturing schedule or the timing of more deliveries. The company’s next car, the lower-priced Model 3, is due to launch in 2017 in order to fulfill the company’s goal of selling 500,000 vehicles by 2020. Worse, the attention paid to the X’s groundbreaking design, gee-whiz gadgetry, and gobsmacking performance could solidify the popular image of Tesla’s vehicles as status symbols for our new tech overlords.

But it’s less than ideal for a mission-driven startup that has positioned itself as an underdog disruptor while relying heavily on government tax breaks. Musk has firmly maintained from the start that the company’s luxury vehicles are a mere means to another end: building the $35,000 Model 3 and taking electric vehicles mainstream.

The doors — and the Tesla-designed second-row seats, which all move independently — were among the reasons the Model X’s launch was delayed several times. Now, with all that said: The experience of driving a Tesla—with its ghostly quiet engine, sleek design, radically spacious interior, ground-hugging handling, and otherworldly acceleration—has a way of making one forget to quibble.

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