Road test: Tesla Model X

Tesla Model X at the Tesla Supercharger station at The Last Exit, Jebel Ali. Victor Besa for The National
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Until Tesla’s UAE launch earlier this week, owning one of the Californian carmaker’s already-iconic cars here seemed little more than a pipe dream for most of us without the means or time to import one – let alone the practicalities of running a fully electric car in a country with limited charging options.

Now, however, with the Model S and X open for orders, for delivery in the summer, and a nascent network of Tesla-branded charging stations due to become nationwide by the end of this year, it’s suddenly a very real prospect.

Having already driven the ultra-fast Ludicrous edition of the Model S in Austria last year, before Tesla confirmed an official presence in the Middle East, I would have no hesitation in recommending that piece of automotive lightning. But what of its SUV sibling, the Model X?

Well for one, the full-battery-power Ludicrous option isn’t restricted to the S, giving the X, which I tested in P90D form in Dubai, the claim to being the fastest SUV in history. With the X’s added elements, however, from its more-futuristic, full-aluminium design (dramatic falcon-wing doors and all) through to its capacity to carry seven full-sized adults, it’s arguably an even more capable car than the S.

In a country where claims to the biggest and best are vital currency, the all-wheel-drive X has other suitably boastful feathers in its cap, including its panoramic windscreen, which curves up into its roof to create something of an observatory to the outside world, also opening up the vistas for rear-seat passengers. It is, Tesla says, the biggest windscreen of its type in production.

The battery’s positioning, beneath the X’s floor, gives 50:50 weight distribution that Tesla claims makes it incredibly stable and almost immune to rollovers. Should the worst happen, though, crash tests have shown that the X will be one of the safest vehicles in its category, with collision avoidance and automatic emergency braking.

Which might be just as well, because when you flip the virtual switch on the X’s massive central control panel from “Sport” to “Ludicrous”, then launch it from 0 to 100kph in a fantabulous 3.1 seconds, you can almost feel your mind – and perhaps time itself – bending. Your instincts will tell you that cars of these dimensions just shouldn’t have this kind of acceleration; the pick-up at mid-range speeds is also positively intergalactic.

The regenerative braking, which can be set to standard or low, has the triple effect that when you ease off the accelerator, it slows the car automatically while extending the range (which can be up to 500 kilometres in total) and brake life. It takes a few moments to get used to – in more or less all but sharp-braking situations, the car has slowed itself sufficiently by the time your right foot has instinctively reached for the left-hand pedal – but once you have, it’s an innovation you won’t tire of.

Tesla’s forward-gazing modus operandi extends into its entertainment system, with Spotify integrated into the audio options, while those fearing a global apocalypse can rest easy knowing that one tap of the bioweapon-defence mode (marked with a toxic logo) will keep the air inside the car breathable.

Luggage space is plentiful, especially in five-seat mode, with the two rear seats folded down flat and cubbyholes beneath the single-stem seats. Access to the rear seating is painless thanks to those unfurling falcon-wing doors, which can be automatically operated via the car’s Tesla-shaped key fob, too. On top of all that, the X can tow up to 2,270 kilograms behind it, just in case you can’t fit all your world belongings into the car itself.

Hyperbole might get old fast, but the Model X is far more than a trendsetting fad to appeal to tech hipsters and environmental warriors. With dizzying supercar performance married to spades of real-world practicality, it might just be the all-round most impressive car currently on sale in the UAE.


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