Tesla Motors, the Silicon Valley upstart electric carmaker that has wowed buyers and stock speculators alike with its highly rated and powerful Model S luxury sedan and sharp, Lotus-based electric Roadster, will soon turn its sights toward a third model, the Model X all-electric crossover SUV
Those who follow Tesla closely will note that this exciting new EV was originally slated for a release 2 years ago. A number of engineering challenges have resulted in delays, even as the company’s sedan model has bowled over sales expectations and sent the automaker’s stock price soaring.
First Luxury Electric Crossover SUV Delivers Impressive Range
The Model X will do battle in what has become the hottest of all new-vehicle segments in 2015: luxury crossover SUVs. Tesla will have one advantage on competition like the Acura MDX and Audi Q6, though: all-electric power. Using a standard dual-motor, all-wheel drive system closely related to that in the Model S P85D, the Model X is expected to deliver a cruising range of around 260 miles in its top-spec, 80-kWh trim. Those who opt for the upscale model will also see breathtaking performance with nearly 700 available peak horsepower.
Less-expensive trim levels will offer a 60 kW-h battery pack for a range of around 200 miles. While the crossover is heavier than Tesla’s sedan, liberal use of aluminum in its body and structure contribute to weight savings and increased driving range. As for acceleration, expect it to be one of the quickest SUVs on four wheels as Tesla continues to shatter notions that EVs need to be slow and lacking in driver engagement. Towing capacity is expected to reach around 5,000 pounds, quite a bit less than the typical gas-powered pickup or SUV but in line with other three-row unibody crossovers.
Refined Interior Seating For Seven
With true seating for seven adult passengers in three rows, the Model X will be the most spacious electric on the market. A modern and uncluttered center stack will be dominated by a large, iPad-like touchscreen that controls nearly all of the crossover’s navigation, audio, infotainment and climate control functions. Tesla will give periodic updates over-the-air as new technology develops including the company’s Autopilot system of active driving aid tech that allows partially autonomous vehicle operation during freeway driving and, when on private property, for the car to park itself and be summoned at the owner’s command at the touch of a button.
One key feature confirmed to make the transition from concept to production is the crossover’s DeLorean-style “Falcon Wing” rear doors, which lift upwards to aid in entry to the second and third rows, even in tight spaces. While the final-spec production model has yet to be revealed, Tesla says the design closely resembles concept models and test mules that have been seen making their rounds on the worldwide auto show circuit and proving grounds.
Delays and Challenges
Tesla says it has thousands of prospective buyers who have plunked down deposits for the Model X, and those buyers are beginning to grow impatient. The company has reportedly faced a number of engineering challenges related to the car’s aerodynamics, design and crash-worthiness. Getting those fancy falcon doors just right while maintaining side-impact crash protection has been one of the key engineering headaches that has reportedly delayed Model X production by more than 2 years. Rumors from parts suppliers state that the automaker may have turned to titanium to craft the torsion springs allowing the doors’ upright operation as aluminum did not maintain the desired structural rigidity.
Other factors contributing to the delay have reportedly included achieving the necessary electric cruising range. To come close to or match the Model S sedan’s 270 miles, engineers have worked hard to get the new crossover’s aerodynamics just right. Tesla continues its quest to replace aerodynamically undesirable side mirrors with a sophisticated camera system but has run into trouble with government safety regulators, who in the United States mandate that all vehicles have traditional mirrors. Finally, the crossover’s cooling system is being redesigned to be able to support heavy strain during towing, which requires the electric motors to operate at peak output for extended periods of time, generating quite a bit of heat.
Pricing and Release Date
Despite these challenges, the first Model X crossovers are still slated to be delivered to pre-order customers in the third quarter of 2015 as model-year 2016 vehicles. While Tesla continues to take deposits, the company now states on its website that new pre-orders will not be delivered until early in 2016, suggesting a long backlog. As for pricing, the company targets $70,000 before any federal or state electric-car tax incentives. Top-spec models should cost upwards of $120,000.
Tesla says it will release its fourth model, the much less expensive Model III compact electric sedan, in around 2 years time for the 2017 or 2018 model year. The company, led by its charismatic founder and CEO Elon Musk, hopes to reverse a recent stock price slide related to continued operating losses. Tesla’s stock price (NYSE:TSLA) sits at around $185 as of the time of this writing after peaking at over $275 during 2014.