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Tesla Model X 90D

Click to view picture gallery“Taking photos of the new Tesla
  Model X in a car park is proving
  tricky. The car is attracting so much
  attention that I
m struggling to get
  a clean picture. But then, I have left
  the ‘Falcon Wing
rear doors open,
  an attitude that
s not exactly shy
  and retiring...”

It's basically a Model S transformed into a seven-seat, four-wheel drive SUV with gullwing — sorry, Falcon Wing — doors.

So… why the Falcons? Tesla claims having doors that lift up at the rear is more space-efficient than conventional (or even sliding) doors, as well as being easier to access.

Certainly raising the double-hinged doors (electrically, of course) means you can climb aboard without having to stoop at all, and I should imagine fitting child seats would be a doddle. Must admit, I was far from convinced before I tried them; afterwards, I think it all works rather well. By the way: the rear windows do go down; just not all the way down.

Despite the lofty ride
height, this doesn’t feel
like a top-heavy SUV
to drive — it corners with
great confidence
and you can adjust the
air suspension to one
of four ride height
positions, all of which
offer a comfortable
There are five-, six-, and seven-seat cabin formats on offer in the Model X; and all versions have huge space up front.

I was a bit worried that the headroom in the middle row of seats might be compromised by the rear door design, but the recessed roof panels mean there's no issue here (that said, the centre seat in a three-set only has enough clearance for people up to around 5ft 9in tall).

As for the rearmost pair of seats, headroom is pretty good here, too, but legroom can be tight for adults because legs are also offset from the centreline.

With all seven seats in place, luggage room is somewhat meagre (although since there's no engine up front, you'll find extra load space there). Space is definitely more generous when you fold the rearmost seats, which is done, naturally, by the push of a button. However, you have to press the seat button again to put it back up, which means opening the rear Falcon door again... all a bit of a phaff.

The Model X looks far better in the metal than it does in photos: sleek, elegant and well proportioned but it is a very large car. Based on the same platform as the Model S, it's the same length as its sister model but slightly wider and a fair bit taller. That loftiness gives you a pleasingly commanding view of the road ahead but due to the thick roof pillars, not to the sides or rear.

Speaking of the view, the huge windscreen the largest of any production vehicle, says Tesla extends right into the roof. Driving on roads around Heathrow, I got some fantastic views of aircraft flying overhead. One downside of the huge screen, though, is the constant need to adjust the narrow sun visor when the sun's low.

Despite the lofty ride height, this doesn't feel like a top-heavy SUV to drive. With a lot of the weight (a hefty 2,467kg) contained in the battery pack low down in the chassis, it corners with great confidence. You can adjust the air suspension to one of four ride height positions, all of which offer a comfortable ride. You can also alter the steering feel to give it a sportier drive, or a more comfortable one.

All Model Xs are four-wheel drive (as indicated by the 'D' in their badging) and there was certainly no lack of grip during my dry-weather test and that grip is achieved by each wheel being fed its torque by computer instantaneously.

The Model X ‘90’
 version packs
the equivalent of 371bhp
and can outdrag just
about any supercar
from the lights thanks to
a 0-60mph time of just
2.9 seconds...”
Is this an off-roader? You're having a laugh, aren't you? The lack of a transfer box and its relatively low ground clearance tell you all you need to know about its street-orientated spec. It can tow things, though, unlike the Model S (or any other electric vehicle); as much as 2,270kg can be trailed behind the X.

Power these days doesn't come out of the barrel of a gun but out of the cells of a battery, and Tesla offers its Model X SUV customers a choice of three different battery outputs: 75kWh, 90kWh and 100kWh.

The 90 version that I tested certainly doesn't lack oomph with a 0-60mph time of just 2.9 seconds it can outdrag just about any supercar from the lights. And speaking of drag, the Model X's aerodynamic efficiency is better than any other SUV, with a Cd figure of 0.24.

Tesla makes great play of its Autopilot system, which takes over certain elements of the driving for you when you switch it on. It works very well in practice, automatically changing lanes for you when you indicate, for instance, all the while keeping a safe distance to vehicles all around you. It's not a 100% self-driving vehicle yet so you still need to intervene, say, when a car is merging on to the motorway from your left.

A lot of superlatives fly about in relation to the Model X. Tesla claims that this is the safest SUV ever made. It also says it's the cleanest car on the inside (thanks to 'medical grade' air filters), as well as being the cleanest on the outside; it offers zero tailpipe emissions and if you use Tesla's new solar charging home roof tiles, there's fully renewable energy on offer, too.

Few other electric vehicles approach the Model X's single-charge range, either: up to 336 miles. By the way, Tesla is moving away from its 'free supercharging' deal in 2017 it's no longer unlimited. Instead, you get 400kW of credits annually, enough power for around 1,000 miles. Since most people charge at home anyway, this isn't such a big deal.

The Model X certainly isn't a cheap option prices start at £76,500 with the government grant factored in but the Model X arguably has a full flush of zeitgeist cards in its hand: a seven-seat SUV with zero emissions and gullwing doors. Sorry, Falcon Wings. It's all very cool. ~ Chris Rees

Tesla Model X 90D | £85,000
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-60mph: 2.9 seconds | Test Average: N/A
Power: 371bhp | Torque: 325lb ft | CO2: 0g/km