I hate SUVs for the same reason I hate houseboats. Bad houses, bad boats. Luxury SUV’s make me sick. Is there anything more American than the idea that you can have it all, without compromise, for a price? You can’t, otherwise Escalades and Expeditions would be running in NASCAR.
Except now you can, because I just took a Tesla Model X P90D to Ojai, California, and for the first time in my life, I wanted an American car.
The Model X P90D represents everything I hate. It’s an awkwardly-proportioned, 5440 pound, electric, semi-autonomous, 7-seater SUV, packed full of technology that cannot possibly last, from a company critics claim cannot survive.
And I absolutely loved it.
Flaws? It’s a new company. If reliability is your concern, lease one and enjoy the most advanced, brilliant and fascinating vehicle in its class. The standard warranty is four years. Prepare for loaners.
The exterior is what it is. If you want the future now, this is what it looks like. If you’re satisfied with yesterday, you already know what’s available today. I think the X is handsome. Ish. Once behind the wheel, I didn’t care.
The Model X P90D gets about 250 miles of range. I’d like 50 more. Was it a problem? Only in my mind. As with any Tesla, you should install a high-speed charger at home. If not, prepare to meet some new friends at your nearest Tesla Supercharging station, and scratch 2-3 hours a week off your schedule.
The interior is spartan, at best. I still don’t buy into the wisdom of replacing all controls with a touchscreen, however large and gorgeous. The seats are the best I’ve ever used, and that includes the 1972 Citroen DS and SM, my personal benchmarks.
The Model X is a vehicle that makes no sense and yet perfect sense, an SUV with 716 horsepower that does 0-60 in 3.8 seconds, or 3.2 with the “Ludicrous” software upgrade.
A Ferrari Enzo does it in 3.14.
When an SUV can make you vomit while out-accelerating almost every Porsche, Ferrari or Lamborghini ever made, Modena and Stuttgart have a problem. Handling? The X is based on the same platform as the Model S sedan, which means it’s magnificent. Lower the air suspension, set the steering to Sport, and the X shrinks around you. I’ve never felt safe driving an SUV as I would a sports car, until now. Even my old Cayenne Turbo was a brick by comparison.
The Model X is the SUV someone else would have built if they had any balls.
My god, those Falcon doors. Even if the X was utter junk, they could sell a year’s production based solely on these doors. Alas, you don’t need to be Nostradamus to know those will be a problem. If you lease past four years, get the extended warranty.
It has autopilot, which is what Tesla calls its Autonomous Driving suite. Light years ahead of competing systems, it is the only one today that approaches full autonomy. It’ll do 99% of the driving 90% of the time. It has a steep learning curve, but once mastered, autopilot is a revelation. Until Mercedes and Volvo come to the table, everything else is a joke.
The enormous one-piece panoramic windshield makes the cockpit feel like the first row in an IMAX theater. After driving the Model X, every other car feels like you have an eye infection. Why this windshield hasn’t been done before in the US, I don’t understand.
The Model X is the SUV someone else would have built if they had any balls. It is the world’s greatest SUV in a class of one…a class called The Future. The X is to SUV’s what the S is to luxury sedans, which is what Tesla is to the entire car industry: an icepick in the face of convention. Granted, there are stellar cars out there: the Cadillac CTS-V, the Porsche 911, the BMW M2, the Mercedes AMG-GT and the Volvo XC90, but these are jewels in the sediment of an industry left behind by true innovation. I love the Model X not merely as a vehicle, but as a profoundly American vehicle, the automotive manifestation of what this country is supposed to stand for. Ambition. Ingenuity. Confidence.
American inventor mythology is that of someone being told something couldn’t be done, and then doing it. Is there a more American story than Musk’s? The immigrant who became a tech titan, then launched a rocket company, then entered the car business?
The Model X, like Tesla the company, is an example of what happens when you apply that most American of methods to a problem. Throw out the book. Solve it from the ground up. Dealer networks suck? We’ll sell direct. Nowhere to charge? We’ll build our own network, and we’ll make it free. Autonomous Driving? Software updates? Let’s give Tesla owners access to the very best tech, and let’s wirelessly update it all the time.
By these standards, Tesla is the most American car company there is today, and the brilliant Model X is the most American car currently on the market. It is an example of what happens when a company is willing to take risks on our behalf rather than at our expense. Whatever critics may claim about Tesla’s ability to deliver, Musk’s greatest sin is his rush to sell us something truly better, which is why I deem the X worth every penny, flaws and all.
I can’t wait for the Model 3. If you believe in what really makes American great, neither should you.