By Steve Laser with Model X Owner Geoff Shawcross
Living in Southern California, we see plenty of Teslas on the road. We’ve been wondering what it’s like to live with Tesla’s newest vehicle, the innovative Model X crossover. So we decided to “Ask the man who owns one.” We met with our friend Geoff and his all-electric pride and joy for two days following the first three months of ownership.
Tesla offers several versions of the Model X. Geoff’s car is the 75D equipped with a 75 kWh battery, offering a 237 mile (EPA) range, Tesla-quoted 130 mph top speed and 0-60 mph sprint in 6.0 seconds. The next level up is the 90D with a 90 kWh battery, 257 mile range, 155 mph top speed and 4.8 sec. 0-60. The top Model X P100D sports a 100 kWh battery, 289 mile range and lightning quick 2.9 sec. 0-60 blast.
We’ll let Geoff pilot the vehicle and the story from here. (Be sure to watch the videos for a more detailed overview).
The Long Wait is Over – Now the Fun Begins
“I wanted the Tesla model X, specifically, because I only drive flexible, SUV-style vehicles,” said Geoff. “I’m not a sedan person. But I wanted to be part of the effort to move away from fossil fuels and I felt that the Tesla was the pinnacle of that type of reality.”
Join us for a drive with Geoff in this video as he talks about ordering the Model X, taking delivery and some of the things he’s experienced during the first three months of ownership.
“It was a $5,000 down payment with an indefinite delivery time,” he explained. “When Tesla notified me that it was time to start the purchase process I was so impressed with the ease and quality of their online purchase process. All of my paperwork, like insurance cards and contact information was filled out online.
“The delivery of the vehicle was impressive. I was assigned a delivery specialist who answered questions and gave me information on the ultimate delivery date and arrangements. One thing I thought was a particularly good idea was she sent me links to videos that helped explain some of the technology, like the Falcon Wing doors and large-screen user interface.”
“Since we had handled so much of the paperwork online, there were only about three pieces of paper to go through at the actual delivery.” he said. “The delivery specialist asked what level of detail we wanted for the delivery. I said probably medium.
“What was surprising is that since I’m in the auto industry you would think it would all be old-hat for me. But the combination and application of features and technology in the Tesla are unusual enough that it was actually sort of overwhelming. That prompted me to ask the delivery person if other people get overwhelmed. She said that happens often. When it does she trims down the level of detail to just the basics. But she said other people would be there for two to three hours going over every little detail.”
In this video, Geoff gives us a Walkaround of Model X features including the Falcon Wing doors and big center display screen inside the cabin.
“I never get tired of watching the Falcon Wing doors work,” he said. “And neither does anyone who is within eyeshot. Just amazing. The Model X has the extra-high windshield, which is dramatically different from driving a conventional car.”
“This also relates to one of the weaknesses of the Model X execution, the upper windshield mesh shade screen.” (It blocks the glass above the driver’s and front passenger’s seats – the shade is not installed in the photo above).
“This shade can be removed or replaced whenever the driver wants to but that is not a smooth affair. The mechanism for holding it in place was definitely an afterthought and not well executed. There are two clip-on edge-holders that constantly fall off.”
“There are a number of settings in the Model X that will make it behave more like a normal car, if the driver wants that,” he explained. “In the case of, say, regenerative braking, I wanted to maximize the energy efficiency by using maximum regenerative braking. But in that setting, when you lift your foot abruptly off the accelerator pedal, it’ll snap your head forward due to the resistance of the electric motors going into regeneration mode.
“I’ve had to develop some skill in using the accelerator to feather into and out of use of power and use of breaking. The big difference is I figure I use the actual friction brake pedal only about 10 percent of the time I used to in a conventional, gas-powered car.”
So what’s the verdict after three months of ownership? Geoff says it’s “Mostly almost entirely fantastic. There’s almost nothing on the road that’s as fast as this. It gives you a goose-bumpy feeling. It doesn’t matter what may be driving around you, you know that if you just step into the throttle you could just leave them in the dust.”
“Every once in a while when I’m having a little bit of fun, on an entrance ramp on the freeway I’ll really lean into the throttle and you can scare the crap out of yourself,” he said…as I prepared to hang on for dear life. “Because electric motors have instant maximum torque you don’t have to ramp up to maximum power, they have it immediately.” (No worries – the speed limit was only 25 mph in this neighborhood.)
“And there are no gears so you don’t have any shift points where you lose a little momentum. So if you step into it you go continuous, smooth, squish you back in your seat kind of power. I’m not a big roller coaster person, when I really lean into it, it makes my nerves tingle in a kind of scary way.”
“Here’s one of the interesting stories, and this involves Elon Musk because he has his hands all over anything that Tesla designs,” said Geoff. “Elon was apparently very concerned with the opening of the Falcon Wing doors. He wanted this to be like the frame of a painting. You’ll notice that there is virtually no seam showing. There is one at the top and the bottom but they are very hard to notice. Also take a look at the pedestal design for the seats. The whole presentation from the side of the car was intended to be very art like and well-crafted.”
Underneath, Model X is fitted with double wishbone, virtual steer axis coil-spring front suspension and independent multi-link coil spring rear suspension. It also has variable ratio, speed-sensitive, rack-and-pinion electronic power steering.
Inside, the 14-way power adjustable heated front seats with memory are very comfortable, supportive and trimmed with tan leather. There’s a center console with armrest and concealed storage. Model X has four standard USB ports for media and power with an extra port included on models with six or seven seats.
The second-row monopost seats move independently, sliding and tilting forward and back. “With the six-passenger model, to gain access to the third-row seat, you could climb in through the aisle,” said Geoff. “Yet a more convenient way is to press a switch on the seatback and it slides forward for easier access to the third row.”
“Rear seats offer space for two passengers and fold easily from the cargo area. There’s a soft-touch button on the shoulder of each seat. The first press puts the headrest down, the second releases the seatback and it can be pushed forward.”
With three rows of seats, a front trunk and rear cargo compartment, plus room under the second-row seats, there’s plenty of space for different sized gear and luggage. Tesla quotes total interior storage for the six-passenger Model X at 77.0 cubic feet.
Without a big gasoline engine under the hood, Model X has a trunk up front. The space also serves as a large crumple zone that Tesla says is designed to absorb the energy of a high-speed impact. The battery location under the floor gives Model X a very low center of gravity to aid handling and help reduce the risk of rollover.
“The way you start the Model X is kind of trippy,” Geoff demonstrated. “There is no start button or ignition. You just sit in the driver seat and you can leave the driver’s door open, since all of the doors and hatch are electrically controlled.
“The real heart of any Tesla is the center display (above right) because it really is the way you manage many of the vehicle systems compared to a traditional car where you have lots of knobs and switches. For instance, there are no radio knobs. If you want to listen to music you just touch the music symbol and now you have not only standard radio but also Internet radio.”
“The driver just presses the brake pedal which starts the vehicle, silently, and automatically closes the driver’s door,” he said. “The only way you can tell the vehicle is on, besides seeing the gauge display (above), is that the climate control system turns on and you can feel a breeze.
“The thing you really become aware of is this is much more like a ‘laptop with four wheels’ than it is like a ‘tractor’ type of mechanism. I just had a software update last night, the third major update I’ve had in three months of ownership. Anytime they want to offer you an update you’ll see a notification on the display and they’ll ask when you want to do it just like it would be for your computer. And the next thing you know the displays change and even the operation of the vehicle, although that has not been as noticeable to me.”
“Navigation can give you the full-screen image for a map. And if you want to know where the nearest Superchargers are you can set up a whole trip and navigate specifically from Supercharger to Supercharger if you’re doing a long trip. That’s the type of support you get. You have the whole issue of range anxiety, yet they really have anticipated that.”
“Down at the base of the screen is some really important stuff,” he said. “You’ve got heated seats so either the driver or passenger can set their seats for heating. You’re controlling the climate control here, once again no knobs or buttons, it’s all touchscreen.
“You can open and close any of the doors from here. You can move the rear seats to help a passenger get into the third row, you can manage the height of the suspension. If you had a steep driveway and had to raise the nose from scraping, forevermore it will remember that location and when you drive home it will automatically raise the car without you having to redo the command.”
“One of the really remarkable things with Tesla is the attention to detail. This is my car (above screen), not just any Tesla,” he pointed out. “This is my color of paint and my optional wheels. Check out the level of detail (and see what happens when Geoff activates a turn signal in the Walkaround video).
“If the headlights were on, they’re automatic, you’d see that they’re on the screen. In the main display (behind the steering wheel), I’m also getting the blinkers showing. If I was driving it would have the vehicle oriented forward and I could see when I put the brakes on the brake lights would illuminate on the screen.”
Visiting a Supercharger Station – Wave of the Future
We made this video at a Tesla Supercharger station in the South Bay area of Los Angeles. Geoff shows how quick and easy it is to charge the batteries here.
With its long driving range, Geoff usually charges his Model X overnight at home. Yet when a quick charge is needed, or if he’s planning a longer drive than his usual daily commute, he visits Tesla’s Supercharger network.
Designed and built by Tesla, it allows owners to charge their vehicles in minutes instead of hours. Tesla says the Supercharger is “more powerful than any charging technology to date,” providing up to 120 kilowatts of power to replenish a half charge in about 30 minutes.
Superchargers are strategically placed to allow owners to drive from station to station with minimal stops. Many stations are located near amenities like roadside diners, cafes, wi-fi hotspots and shopping centers.
The Supercharger station that we visited (above and in our video) is next to a hotel. There’s a coffee shop across the street if the driver wants to rest or fill-up too.
“With the Supercharger, the charging process is really simple,” Geoff demonstrated. “You don’t need the cable that comes with the vehicle. The cable is supplied by the Supercharger. You just pull it out and you point it at the charge port and press the button and it opens automatically. Then you plug it in and once it’s flashing green (around the port) you know you’re charging.
“Inside the car, there’s a lot of important, useful information you can get from the charging display. The car knows what it’s plugged into so it’s telling you that you are Supercharging. On a daily basis my regular range is 205 miles. In the photo below, the car is estimating that it will take 30 minutes more for charging.”
“The number of miles for range is moving up while we’re sitting here. This is the only kind of charging that it happens at that kind of speed. At home I have a 220 circuit and I get 20 miles of range per hour of charging. On a 110 regular household plug I get about three miles per hour of charging. You can see we’re getting 164 miles per hour (above) of charging on the supercharger so it’s well worth being plugged into a Supercharger.”
What about Tesla’s Autopilot feature? Geoff’s Model X was built with the Autopilot hardware, yet activating the software costs an additional $3,000 (for owners who have already purchased and taken delivery of their vehicles). While Geoff says he’d like to have the smart cruise control feature that comes with the upgrade, he’s not interested (for now) in the car “driving itself.” Plus, he added that his budget is pretty much maxed out from the initial vehicle purchase.
Wrapping Up Our Story – The Bottom Line
New vehicle pricing at the time Geoff bought his Model X was $80,000 for the base MSRP, including all-wheel drive (but not including potential Federal or State tax credits). Options on his Model X include Titanium Metallic Paint ($1,000), 22-inch Silver Turbine Wheels ($4,500), Tan Leather Seats ($2,500), Dark Ash Wood Decor ($750) plus destination and doc fees for a bottom line of $89,950.
We thanked Geoff for spending time with us on location in Palos Verdes and Redondo Beach, Calif. and for his valuable insights into three months of Model X ownership. As he continues to rack up the miles on his Model X, we hope to catch up with him again for a future update to this story.
Tesla Model X prices, features and specifications are subject to change without notice by the automaker.
The Model X featured in this story is privately owned.
Story, photos and videos copyright © 2016 CarNichiWa.com