All awe and wonder

“With a mild motor whine, the doors open up with the biggest ever access area you may have experienced on any car.”

“Model X design can be best described as space-age with a good blend of reality.”

“It felt more like tinkering with my phone rather than exploring a car!”

“This had to be one of the longest briefing sessions I ever had prior to collecting a test car” said Ershad.

Another day and the stale routine - morning alarm, my bed slants up and puts me to sit. Robotic arms with toothbrush and trimmer do the job. As I head into the rest room to answer the nature’s call, I could see all the major news scrolling on a screen in front of me. Stepping out, there I have the coffee maker and bread toaster getting my breakfast ready. Refrigerator doors open by themselves and even my automatic wardrobe closet to select the best outfit for the weather outside. I could also see my personal robot cleaning around in the house and kaboom!!

The alarm is still buzzing and I stretch my arms to somehow hit the snooze button again. It was all just a dream; a dream that could only come up if you were watching too much sci-fi on Netflix or if you were driving this car the previous day. The car is a Tesla Model X. An all electric SUV, the greenest one on earth today.

I guess the only other car that must have created as much buzz as the Tesla models in the automotive industry was the 1885 launch by Karl Benz. The good thing about Tesla’s launch was that it pushed every major automaker to work double shifts on their electric car projects!

The Tesla Model X is still a masterpiece to observe even though we are accustomed seeing a fair number of airport shuttle Model Xs plying on the UAE roads. It has that sporty cross over shape you can associate to a BMW X6 or the Mercedes GLE coupe. So, yes electric cars can look just like normal cars without being too swanky or futuristic.  And Tesla has definitely worked out a design which would gel in with the daily traffic but is noticeable. My taxi trip to pick up the Tesla was in a hybrid Camry which meant that my today’s drive report was going to look like this: Fully Gasoline (my daily driver) – Hybrid (the taxi) - Fully Electric (the test car). I was greeted by a fleet of Model S and Model X variants neatly parked and plugged in!

The keyfob which looked like a mini Model X was handed over to me and after a couple of signatures; I was ushered by a Tesla rep to the parking lot to take possession of the Model X, in its most powerful P100D avatar with a full-blown feature list. This had to be one of the longest briefing sessions I ever had to go through before getting my hands on a test car because basically, it was like completely new. For starters, I could move the car out of the parking space using this keyfob! I felt like a kid listening to his favorite super hero story.

The driver door popped open as I approached the car and as I settled into the beautiful white leather seats, I couldn’t hold my excitement. As I gaze into the sky through the windshield which extends right from the hood till the front row seats, I couldn’t help but smile. And yes, there are no buttons to press or any funny stuff to do before you start the car. In the Tesla; once you are in, you are ready to go. First things first, the absence of the traditional noise worked wonders for me. I never had a clue how I would react to driving without an exhaust note, but it felt good and green. The next surprise was how quickly the brakes responded when I let off the throttle pedal which took me some time to get used to. However, this was made to improve regenerative characteristics and when used properly, you can probably drive without using brakes!

Next up was the huge central touch screen which was the Tesla command centre. This one is much bigger than any tablet I could find in the mall tech-shops. Everything in this car can be controlled through this screen starting from aircon, music, navigation, door controls and even running updates to make the Model X more efficient. It felt more like tinkering with my phone rather than exploring a car! The real thing is that you can never finish going through all the features this car has to offer because you never know what the next update has in store.  

Our test car had the 6-seat configuration (2+2+2), whereas the standard configuration is a 5-seat (2+3) or an optional 7 seat setup. The last row folds flat for some impressive cargo space. In the 7-seat version, the second and third rows can fold down to carry decent sized home appliances (but high tech only please!) The interior is chic and utterly clean that you need to mentally prepare yourself to be as clean as the car! Only weakness is the fairly normal looking aircon vents.

As I got used to admiring and awestruck glances around, I couldn’t help but pull into the service road, find a parking lot and try out those beautiful gull-wing passenger doors; which Tesla likes to call Falcon-wings. Now this is going to attract all the attention on the road! With a mild motor whine, the doors open up with the most spacious access area you may have seen in any car! Forget about getting in and out, imagine putting kids in the child seats with the comfort of a king. And even though these look huge when opened up, the doors actually use less space to open and close compared to any conventional (or historical I should say!) door opening scenario and they even have sensors to detect any potential hazard around them.

Driving the Model X is a revelation. It shows us how much technology has progressed. In P100D guise, the Model X has a 100kWh power unit (I almost typed ‘engine’ there). Generating around 762hp in Ludicrous Mode which can propel it the Model X from standstill to 100kmph in an interval of 3 seconds. That is a superfast car! I tried it a couple of times and it is so, so addictive! Drive is given to all four wheels through two motors driving each axle. Suspension duties are handled by air suspension units providing confidence on any surface. Massive 20” wheels match the car’s proportions and take care of gripping on to the tarmac. Drive feel is planted for a vehicle of this proportions and a good part of it is due to the low centre of gravity generated by the battery pack located below the floor. Also, the 50/50 weight split helps in pepping up the drive. One of the best things I enjoyed on the Tesla is the good music quality, partly thanks to the lack of a gas burning power plant!

Theoretically, the Tesla Model X claims to run for a range of up to 500kms plus on a full charge. But, practically, around 430-450km would be possible. I did do a 150km drive the next day with 4 adults and 2 kids in the Model X and a quick stop at a ‘super charger’ station. Roughly 30mins of charging extended the driving range by 200km. Driving in economic modes will help extend the range without lowering the driving experience. The single gear transmission and all those big torque numbers will definitely keep you engaged throughout.

The Model X design can be best described as space-age with a good blend of reality. The front end looks clean, thanks to no huge air intakes or vents. Full-LED headlights (of course) take care of illumination duties and look great with the DRLs. Profile of the Model X is uncluttered, coupe-like and similar to high end performance SUVs. Rear end wraps up with mildly tinted tail light cluster and an active spoiler on the P100D version. The charging point is cleverly integrated into the tail light cluster.

To conclude, the Tesla model range depicts the future of automobiles and my first encounter has been all awe and wonder. Spending two days with this car have certainly worked its way into my internal combustion brain, so much that once I decide to replace my car, it will be a Tesla I will get. However, the only possible reason that might hold you from buying one its high purchase cost which can work against this marque. But still, you save on running costs and you make the earth a better place to be in. A lot of debates are happening regarding the actual emission values of the Tesla starting right from the point of manufacturing batteries till the production of electricity for charging these cars. I am no science wizard, but my heart says this will be an effective solution for the planet and you won’t have to compromise any driving fun.

So yes, the Tesla has made its mark and a pretty strong one that is. And I hope to have justified the dream I started off with!

Pros: one-of-a-kind road presence, bullet speed acceleration, zero emission, 5-star safety

Cons: Charging stations availability, interiors a bit dull for this class (if I am being too critical)

Rivals: Jaguar I-Pace, Audi E-tron, Mercedes EQC, Porsche Mission E Cross Turismo

One word: Ludicrously surreal

4.5 / 5 stars

Specs

Electric twin motor, 762 bhp @ 1rpm, 967 Nm @ 1rpm

4WD, 1-speed direct drive

0-100 km/h: 3.1 sec, top speed: 250 kph, fuel consumption: 565kms on a full charge

Weight: 2,500 kg