Tesla unveils radical Model X crossover

30 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Elon Musk releases the Tesla Model X—an electric SUV built for women.

Three and a half years after Tesla CEO Elon Musk first teased the public with the Model X—an electric crossover SUV with falcon-wing doors—the company has delivered the vehicle to its first customers. In a splashy debut at Tesla’s Fremont, California, warehouse, the company handed the keys of the Model X Signature Edition, a $132,000 model with all the trimmings, to five early customers who put down a $40,000 payment to reserve the vehicle.

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. Musk said that the company’s mission had always been to bring zero-emission transportation to the world as quickly as possible. “We did it with a sedan” — Tesla’s Model S — “and now we’ve done it with an SUV.” During a demonstration of the car’s safety features, Musk pointed out that it had received uniform five-star ratings for collision protection and had far less propensity to roll over than other SUVs because of its low center of gravity created by the battery pack slung beneath the passenger cabin. A lot of information has already been released in the lead-up, but I am here to find out the things we don’t already know and to attempt to rub my face on this sweet-looking vehicle. The company, however, did not reveal key details analysts and buyers have been patiently waiting for, including the price tag for its base model, or the number of units that will be available this year.

U.S. 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. With the performance upgrade—what Tesla calls “ludicrous mode”—its power train (the same found in Tesla’s all-wheel-drive Model S) can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds, with a top speed of 155 miles per hour. Since 2012, Tesla has manufactured a single car, the Model S, a favorite among Hollywood players like Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg that proved there is market for luxurious, long-range pure-electric vehicles. It also has those DeLorean-style falcon wing doors in the rear (but they’re hinged so they can open in tight spaces), and an estimated range of more than 250 miles (up to 257). Pre-orderers are getting the specced-out Signature Edition, and they’re long sold-out, which means that a whole lot of people were willing to pay upwards of $130,000 to be an early adopter.

Tesla is betting Model X will appeal to families with its roomy interior—and in particular resonate with women, who purchase 53% of small SUVs in the US, according to JD Power & Associates. The safety smarts come from the design of the car: not having an engine allows Tesla to re-engineer the car, making a much larger front-impact crumple zone, and great strength for side-on impacts. There’s no need for clever software to defeat emissions, but there is a giant HEPA air filter, which should make that dirty city air cleaner to breathe.

The doors will “auto-present,” or in other words, open for you; the windshield is gigantic, so it feels like “sitting in a helicopter cockpit”; and the middle row of seats moves around automatically, so you can get your children in when your hands are full. Both Audi and Mercedes plan to start production on their electric cars by the end of the decade, and Porsche appears to not be too far behind in getting its concept electric sports car to market. 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.

Either way, you’ll have to get in line: the first six customers got their keys tonight, but if you order one now, you’ll be waiting months or years for delivery.

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