Is the 2018 Tesla Model X P100D worth the money?
Love it or hate it, Tesla’s Model X SUV is as cutting edge as it is possible to be.
Like its hatchback/saloon sister, Model X comes in several guises, each having a numeric designation delineating the amount of battery power stored beneath the floor. “P” says this is a performance model that will embarrass most super cars costing three times as much.
Model X lacks the subtle, svelte, sexiness of the Model S.
Let’s don’t mince words: Model X isn’t terribly attractive. More akin to BMW’s bulbus X6 or Merc’s ungainly GLE, Model X has aspirations to being an SUV Coupe. The terms are surely mutually exclusive.
LED lighting is both clever and power saving, and headlights have a smart mode that switches cells on and off when the system detects other road users. High beam can be switched on and left on.
Unlike the cool pop-out Model S door handles, Model X door handles are just big buttons. You press and the door flicks open. There is nothing to grab on to which I found both annoying, and delightful, in equal measures.
The key fob is a baby Tesla for an added touch of campness.
The rampant campery continues with rear “falcon wing” doors which fold up and out of the way. They need a mere 30cms of space between them and the car next door in order to open. It is a bit of a palaver though, and took an absolute age to complete any operation other than the “Christmas dance”. More about that later.
Frankly, I could do without all the electrical assistance too. All doors are power-operated, so the front doors and rear hatch also take an age to open. One wonders what happens when the battery is completely flat, or one of the motors fails.
The test car had optional 22” graphite coloured turbine wheels ($2,800) which made the ride somewhat less subtle than the Model S we loved so much. Our obsession with wheels the size of small planets is not doing us the justice we think they are. It may look good in a car park but that’s about it.
Overall, the look is far less inspiring than the Model S.
The gap between the tyres and the wheel arch varies depending on the height of the adjustable air suspension and on the highest setting makes the wheels look minuscule.
Inside, Model X and Model S feel the same.
At first glance, you get a sense that you’ve entered the film set of a 70’s Sci-Fi.
Model X is more spacious thanks to a higher roof and a vast windscreen. The glass sweeps up and over the front passengers like the bubble cars of the 60’s. You either like or you don’t, and I don’t.
Unique as it is, the panoramic effect soon wears off especially on a sunny day. There is nowhere to hide, and your only option is a cap. There are sun visors of course, but they’re utterly useless. They fold above the front doors.
They can be deployed if you have an hour to spare. It is such a fiddle. You have to lock it into a magnetic catch on the rear view mirror, then unfold the top section. It floats in the middle a vast expanse of glass and is always in the wrong position. The idea is just daft. In the bin with it.
Otherwise, the cabin is minimalist rather than luxurious.
The OCD design ethos removes all clutter to give you the “Ab-Fab-White-Box” effect.
There is a simple LCD for the driver, and another for the centre console. All functions are controlled through the menu system except for a few on the steering column stalks. Only the glove box opener and hazard flashers have dashboard buttons.
Functions including doors, seats, infotainment, and climate are fettled via the main screen. It is by far the best system I’ve used. A large screen allows large buttons, large menus, and lots of space.
Other brands have tried removing buttons from their control systems, but their awful menu designs would test the patience of the cleverest of Mensas. Tesla menus are simple and intuitive.
Access to the third row means using a button to power the 2nd and 1st row seats forward. However, space in the third row is limited to say the least.
The 2nd row comes as a 3-seat bench, or 2 bucket seats with or without a centre console.
Hire car operators use the space between the 2nd row buckets for bags on an airport run. Handy as the centre console is, a bench seat is more practical. I’d go for the 5 seat option.
Cabin ambience is not luxurious in the traditional sense, and certainly not in the same ballpark as the big Mercs and Beemers. Carbon fibre highlights give the cabin a high-tech twist, but I found myself craving wood. I love wood, and I’d like a little more warmth for my many shekels.
Some parts of the trim fall a little short of what you expect for a car costing near 300 grand. Door handles for example. They look neat and organic but feel like cheap plastic, and there is quite a bit of fake metal embellishment too.
Even on longer trips, the interior feels calm and quiet and the seats never loose their support and comfort.
The sound system is good, but not great. I’d expect great, and buyers will too. You can stream music, but there is no Apple CarPlay, which is unforgivable. The usual excuse is the excellence of the brand’s own system, however this is rarely the case.
It is the one and only misdemenour that Tesla’s charismatic figurehead, Elon Musk, should hang his head in shame for.
- All Wheel Drive
- Performance motors (3 motors in “P” models)
- Falcon wing rear doors
- Auto Pilot $6,900 extra
- Smart Cruise Control
- Auto lights and wipers
- 6 seats (2nd row with centre console) $8,300 extra
- Automated Parking
- Silver metallic paint $1,400 extra
- Towing package (2,400 kg capacity)
- 22″ Sonic Carbon Wheels $2,800 extra
- Black Premium Included
- Black Premium Interior Included
- Carbon Fibre Upgrade Included
- Dark Headliner Included
- Ludicrous Speed Upgrade Included
- Tesla Red Brake Callipers Included
- High Power Charger Included
- Towing Package Included (2,400 kg capacity)
- Premium Upgrades Package Included
- Smart Air Suspension Included
- Premium Sound Included
- Subzero Weather Package Included
- Six Seat Interior with centre Console $8,300
The 6 seat option feels more premium but I’d rather have a conventional rear seat. I’d bin the 3rd row altogether. You then get 3 passengers in the rear seat and have extra room for the stuff you’d want in the cargo hold sans 2 useless seats.
- 3 electric motors, one front and two rear.
- Power/Torque – 521kw/1250Nm
- 1 Speed auto
- Electric gear selector
- Variable height Air suspension
- 0-100kph – 2.4 seconds (ludicrous + mode)
In comfort (chill) mode, acceleration feels less brutal than the insanity of ludicrous and Ludicrous +.
Steering has a certain aloofness about it. The scary part is how quickly you get used to the system doing everything for you. The Smart Cruise Control has an Auto Pilot which as good as drives the car for you. Tesla says the driver is, as always, fully responsible for them and everyone around them.
Comfort on 22” wheels is not surprising given how genteel the Model S was. It felt slightly less compliant than the hatchback saloon which rides on smaller 21” rims.
Sometimes the lack of button controls come back to haunt you as you reach for a button to change a radio station. However, as you’re cruising down the highway at 110, minor foibles like the lack of CarPlay fade into the sunset.
The gear selector, courtesy of Daimler AG, is confusing. Sited where Australians would normally expect an indicator stalk to be, you often find you’ve slipped the old girl in to neutral by mistake. Thankfully you can’t get to the opposite gear while the car is moving.
The 6 seat option is a bit of a waste of money. Why? Because no one can actually fill the 3rd row and the 2nd row simultaneously, unless the occupants have no legs.
Like all electric cars, the drive is about doing the right thing for the environment. You can offset your charging with green credits if you’re clever.
Although a longer drive is possible, the real world is a different animal altogether. Unlike a petrol car, you can’t call a little man to come and fill your tank on the side of the road. Instead, you’d have to be towed when you run out of juice. It might not cost you dollars, but it will certainly cost you time.
Charging is the Achilles heel. Tesla Super Chargers are the best options but are few and far between. They are “paired”, A and B, so while you’re the only one of the pair at the charging point, you’ll fully charge in a little over an hour.
If you are on A, and someone parks next to you on B, your current is shared so your time is doubled. As long as both you and you car have cell reception, the car will keep you posted on how the charging is going.
Apparently, there is a charge for overstaying your welcome at a super charger. After returning the car, my phone received a curt message telling me charges would apply if I didn’t remove the Model X from the outlet.
Many functions including climate, unlocking, and vehicle information can be viewed and controlled remotely through a smart phone app.
Free charging has passed in to history, although a referral from an existing owner will still bring free supercharging to a new owner. It is stupidly confusing but the imminent arrival of the Model 3 has changed the landscape. Free charging does not apply to 2nd hand Teslas.
I charged several times. Finding the neatly concealed bays at the shopping centre in Broadway was a task. There are few signs, and no directions on either the shopping centre or Tesla website..
This was my only charging option, and were I to be an owner, I’d soon tire of schlepping to a station once or twice a week.
Tesla says that most owners will have a “destination” charger installed at work and at home, but these are trickle-charging only. The most you’ll get is 80km per hour of charging.
HELPFUL TIP: Remember, heating drains the battery faster than a drag queen at an all-you-can-drink buffet.
Tesla says most people don’t drive more than 50k a day, and they’re probably right. But fossil-fueled drivers have access to a huge range of range refueling options that electric car owners don’t.
Tesla is in the process of laying off staff. Should we be worried?
- 5 star (tested 2015)
- Auto Pilot and smart cruise control
- Lane Warning and active guidance
- Reversing camera
- Cross traffic warning
- Blind spot monitoring
- Vehicle safety monitoring.
- Emergency notifications
- GPS Vehicle tracking
- Remote acecess
- Falcon wing doors
- Subtle and elegant cabin design
- AWD with 3 motors
- Long range
Not So Good Bits
- Range anxiety towards end of charge
- Limited super chargers
- Some suspect shutlines
- Some areas feel cheap and need improvement
As always, I felt a slight sadness as the big T disappeared in the rearview mirror.
Model X is not perfect, far from it. But, it is as cutting edge as a current road going car is possible to be, so here are just a few final thoughts:
Updates are done over WiFi of 3G. They take around an hour and a half and you can’t use the car whilst the update is in progress. If you park your car in an underground carpark in a multi-story unit block, you have no reception. What then?
Page 17 of the user guide warns not to leave anything in the front trunk that might bump against the internal opener. It may open mid trip. Perhaps a plakky cover might sort that?
The Christmas Dance plays very, VERY, loud music while flapping the doors and mirrors, and flashing the lights. Our car sulked when asked to perform. It completed only one of the requests. The rest of the time the system froze leaving the Model X little more than a door-stop for several minutes.
It is hard not to be overwhelmed by the rose-coloured-glasses that accompany a drive in a Tesla. Once the razzle-dazzle fades, you’re left with a stunning piece of tech. There is no “engine” to become tired and old and little or no servicing required.
Reliability of electronics notwithstanding, your car should last a very long time. Company updates bring new features for your existing hardware, and self-driving is only a piece of legislation away.
Tesla is, and remains, one of my favourite cars of all time.
Facts and Figures
Price: $205,700 ( $283,755 as tested – drive away)
Engine: 3 X 3-phase induction motors, Front + rear motor comb output up to 581kW, 1,250Nm
Transmission: 1 speed fixed gear
Safety: 5 star
Warranty: 8 year or 160,000 km and 8 year or unlimited km for battery/drivetrain
Alan Rating: 9/10