by Karl Furlong
Another one of Tesla's success stories, the Model X combines the popularity of an SUV body style with the market's increasing affection for all-electric power into one powerful, compelling package. Thousands of buyers have found the combination difficult to resist, and why wouldn't one be intrigued by the idea of a seven-seater crossover that can cover 0-60 mph in 2.7 seconds in the case of the Model X Performance? Along with an excellent cruising range and access to Tesla's extensive Supercharger network, the Model X still appeals even years after its launch. The Falcon-wing rear doors and enormous central touchscreen are other party tricks that set apart the Model X from more conventional midsize luxury SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne and Mercedes-Benz GLE. While these competitors may lack the Model X's futuristic feel, they are better built and have superior road manners. But for its mix of performance and zero emissions, the Model X Performance is virtually unmatched.
Tesla's rolling updates to its models throughout the year mean that a 2020 Model X made in January could be quite different from a 2020 Model X manufactured in the second half of the year. Nevertheless, perusing the automaker's blog indicates that in September 2019, Software Version 10.0 was released - with over-the-air updates being possible, the update introduced new features like Tesla Theater and Smart Summon. Other changes made last year include updated drive unit technology that improves overall range, faster charging via the new V3 Superchargers, and a fully adaptive suspension. Finally, lane departure avoidance and emergency lane departure avoidance are new safety features that started rolling out to new Teslas last year.
Single Speed Automatic
The Model X hasn't changed too much over the years, but Tesla's minimalist, simple lines have contributed to the crossover still appearing fresh-faced. The Falcon-wing rear doors are one of the exterior's most defining features and, although they look cool when open, they can be a hindrance in certain confined spaces and they take longer to make their journey skywards, which can frustrate. A rear spoiler improves aerodynamics, while the Model X also gets wiper blade defrosters, LED fog lamps, power-folding side mirrors, and 20-inch alloy wheels.
The Model X is a fairly large SUV with its key dimensions being 198.3 inches in length, a wide 89.4 inches including the side mirrors (78.7 inches excluding the side mirrors), 66 inches in height, and with a 116.7-inch wheelbase. The ground clearance is between seven and nine inches and depends on suspension settings. The heavy battery pack results in a curb weight of 5,531 pounds, around 110 lbs heavier than the standard Model X Long Range which we review separately.
Just five colors make up the Model X's available palette and only one, Pearl White Multi-Coat, won't cost you extra. The four remaining shades are Solid Black, Midnight Silver Metallic, Deep Blue Metallic, and Red Multi-Coat, with all costing $1,500 each. The monotone shades all work well with the Model X's lines, but the Deep Blue Metallic is a good choice for adding some exuberance to the crossover's appearance.
It's been well-documented through the years but the Model X's performance is astonishing, and even more so in this Performance guise. The 0-60 mph time of 2.7 seconds makes it faster than both a Porsche Cayenne Turbo and a Lamborghini Urus, as well as Jaguar's electric crossover, the I-Pace. Off the mark, acceleration is aided by the instant power delivery and the dual-motor all-wheel-drive system. The staggering combined power outputs (between the front and rear electric motors) of 778 horsepower and 841 lb-ft of torque make this one of the fastest SUVs ever built, and the acceleration is all completed in drama-free silence. Eventually, wind noise makes itself known as the Model X Performance works its way to a top speed of 163 mph. With an ability to tow a maximum of 5,000 lbs when properly equipped, the Model X Performance is also a practical family SUV, although its range will obviously take a hit when towing.
The Model X Performance's remarkable powertrain combines two electric motors (one in front and one at the back); the front motor is a permanent magnet synchronous unit, while the one at the back is a liquid-cooled induction motor. A 100-kWh battery forms part of the setup, too, along with a single-speed fixed-gear transmission.
With 778 hp and 841 lb-ft of torque, the surge of instantly available power and torque will leave some supercars behind at the traffic lights. Up to the maximum legal limit, very little will be able to keep up with the Model X Performance. Overtaking is a piece of cake as the heavy SUV effortlessly zips past slower traffic. The absence of a traditional engine note doesn't seem like much of a concern with such incredible power underfoot and only adds to the Model X's sci-fi ability to achieve its performance without breaking a sweat.
While Tesla has crushed all competitors with regards to acceleration off the line, it hasn't been able to move the goalposts as far dynamically. This doesn't mean that the Model X Performance is bad to drive, it's just that Porsche, Alfa Romeo, and BMW all have SUVs that are less expensive but sharper to drive.
In Normal and Comfort modes, the Model X handles competently without ever being overly generous with feedback through the steering. The all-wheel-drive setup grips well and, most of the time, the Model X conceals its heft quite well. In Sport mode, the steering gains a heaviness to it that doesn't actually contribute to a much sportier driving experience.
The adaptive suspension does a good job of isolating the driver and passengers from surface ruts and imperfections. Combined with the low noise levels (helped by the silent electric motors, of course), the driving experience is a particularly relaxing one. The optional 22-inch wheels look brilliant, but they do degrade the ride quality somewhat, so perhaps a test drive in a model equipped with this option is advised beforehand. A regenerative braking system will provide mild stopping power when you only need to slow down slightly and, once you acclimatize to them, they also contribute to easy, relaxed progress.
With a range of 305 miles, the Model X Performance's capabilities should quell much of the range anxiety that prevents many people from going the EV route. According to the EPA, expect the Model X Performance to return figures of 90/89/90 MPGe city/highway/combined, dropping to 80/77/79 MPGe when equipped with the optional 22-inch wheels. Tesla currently has over 16,000 Superchargers globally, a number that continues to grow; a 15-minute charge at one of its Supercharger stations can provide a range of about 115 miles. The new V3 Superchargers allow for a maximum charging rate of 200 kW, up from the V2 version's 150-kW peak. Tesla now also offers free unlimited Supercharging. An 11.5 kW onboard charger is supplied with the Model X.
When charged at home using a 240-volt outlet, a full charge will take approximately ten hours, so an overnight charge makes the most sense if you don't want to stop anywhere during the day. A regular 120-volt outlet will take a lot longer - close to two days - to achieve a full charge.
Between the panoramic windshield, the Falcon-wing rear doors, and the vast central touchscreen, there is a lot to take in when getting into the Model X for the first time. Like other Tesla models, the clean, clutter-free layout is slick and modern. Unfortunately, the Model X shares the build quality inconsistencies of the Model S, with some panels not aligning perfectly and a less opulent feel than other luxury SUVs at this price. A two-row, five-seater layout is standard, but buyers can upgrade to a six- or seven-seat layout for an added cost. Standard features include wireless phone charging, synthetic leather seats, a heated steering wheel, and a digital gauge cluster. Of course, Tesla's well-publicized Autopilot suite of driver aids makes an appearance here too, with features like blind-spot monitoring being standard.
By default, the Model X Performance accommodates five occupants in two rows. Both front and rear seats are comfortable and supportive. Space for legs and heads is also good, although second-row occupants have adequate rather than excellent legroom. The six-seater configuration replaces the second-row bench seat with two captain's chairs, while also adding a third row with two seats. The seven-seater option, meanwhile, retains the three-seater bench but adds a third row with two seats. In either of these configurations, the third row isn't suitable for adults, as space is extremely tight. A low step-in height improves access to the Model X's cabin, and, while the rear Falcon-wing doors do provide a large opening through which to access the back rows, the doors take frustratingly long to open. Visibility is better than most by virtue of that panoramic windshield, but it can make hotter days a bit more uncomfortable.
An All Black interior color scheme with Ash Wood is standard fare, as are seats trimmed in synthetic leather upholstery. For an extra $1,500, additional color options are availed like Black and White with Dark Ash wood, and Cream with Oak wood. Black with carbon fiber trim goes for $500, while the most expensive choice is Black and White with carbon fiber at $2,000.
Models equipped with three rows of seats have 12.6 cubic feet of space behind the third row, which is sufficient to load two carry-on bags. Underfloor storage is also provided for smaller items. Thanks to the electric powertrain, there are also 6.6 cubes of space available in the 'frunk' (front trunk), which is especially convenient if you've reversed into a parking bay and want to load a few items.
Both the third row and the second-row bench seats (60/40 split) can be folded flat, but the six-seater model's second-row captain's chairs can't be folded. With all the rear seats fully forward and/or folded, total space behind the front seats is 70.7 cubes for the six-seater, 76.5 cubes for the seven-seater, and 81.2 cubes for the five-seater. If you don't require the extra seating capacity, the five-seater model is best for cargo.
For an SUV, Tesla hasn't been overly generous with small-item storage options. The rear doors can't accommodate door pockets due to the manner in which they open, although front and rear occupants do get cupholders. There are storage compartments in front but they aren't especially large.
With a focus on technology rather than opulence, the Model X Performance comes fitted with a heated steering wheel, heated seats for all passengers, self-presenting and closing front doors, auto-dimming and power-folding side mirrors, wireless phone charging, dual-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, and a garage door opener. For the driver's convenience, there is a power-adjustable seat (the same goes for the front passenger), a rearview camera, and a power liftgate, while technologies like forward collision warning, emergency braking, and blind-spot monitoring - along with the fitment of 12 airbags - provides extra peace of mind. Tesla's upgraded Autopilot suite (dubbed Full Self-Driving Capability) is optional and, although it doesn't actually equate to fully autonomous driving, it does add extras like Autopark for both parallel and perpendicular spaces.
The dashboard is dominated by the 17-inch touchscreen, which controls the infotainment, climate, and other vehicle settings via its crisp, responsive display. It's a novel way of interacting with the vehicle and, although it makes aspects like navigation and the camera system a pleasure to use, some functions are still better catered for with physical buttons. One of the system's unique advantages is the ability for new features to be added via over-the-air updates, as Tesla releases them. While Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are missing, you do get HD Radio, a Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, USB ports, and SiriusXM satellite radio. A 17-speaker sound system is said to have been tuned to meet the acoustic requirements of the Model X's quiet cabin.
So far, the 2020 Tesla Model X hasn't been subject to any recalls and, promisingly, the same is true for last year's Model X. Some 2016/2017 models had an issue for second-row seatbacks that may move if an accident occurs, but it seems that these problems have been dealt with. Although Tesla has been criticized for sub-par build quality, this is more of a cosmetic issue than anything else.
Tesla's four-year/50,000-mile basic vehicle warranty matches most competitors, while an eight-year/150,000-mile warranty applies to the battery and drive unit.
According to the NHTSA, the Model X is an exceedingly safe SUV. In fact, it's the first SUV to score five stars in every single test run by the authority, including the frontal crash, side crash, and rollover tests. The IIHS hasn't yet assessed the Model X for crashworthiness.
Two aspects of the Model X's construction have contributed to its impressive safety reputation. For one, the manufacturer was able to design an even more effective front crumple zone as no internal combustion engine had to be accommodated. Secondly, the battery pack's positioning in the floor helps to lower the Model X's center of gravity, diminishing the risk of a rollover.
This serious approach to safety continues with the standard specification, which boasts 12 airbags (including knee airbags), a rollover crash sensor, surround-view cameras, electronic stability control, and LED fog lights. The Autopilot suite comprises blind-spot monitoring, collision avoidance, emergency braking, lane keeping assist, and lane departure warning. Tesla's Full Self-Driving Capability upgrade is a bit of a misnomer, as the added features don't turn this into a fully autonomous vehicle. The upgrade does, however, add auto lane change, navigate on Autopilot, Autopark (into parallel and perpendicular spaces), and Summon, whereby the car will find you in a car park. Traffic light/stop sign recognition and automatic city street driving are on their way soon.
Despite only minor changes being made to the 2020 Tesla Model X Performance, it's still an exceptional SUV that will leave newer, non-electric crossovers for dead in a drag race. A seven-seater SUV simply shouldn't be able to accelerate to 60 mph in under three seconds, but the Model X Performance successfully blurs the lines between a family chariot and supercar-like pace. Perhaps the greatest threat to the Model X is the arrival of the smaller Model Y, which has a more wallet-friendly price and, although slower, is still capable of superb performance. While sales of the Model X dipped slightly last year, it still managed to find almost 20,000 homes in North America, so many buyers haven't been put off by the average build quality and the high price. We also have reservations about the three-row versions' tight space, but for families with smaller kids, it could be exactly what they need. Throw in the Model X's range of over 300 miles, and it's still a formidable all-electric SUV.
At $104,990, the Model X Performance doesn't come cheaply. The price excludes tax, licensing, registration, a $100 order fee, and the manufacturer's $1,200 destination charge. Unfortunately, the federal tax credit for new Teslas (worth $1,875) expired at the end of 2019 so no longer applies to 2020 models. As of December 3rd, 2019, the Model X no longer qualifies for the California Clean Air Rebate as the crossover carries an MSRP of over $60,000.
The Model X Performance is a standalone variant that tops the Model X range. It's powered by dual electric motors producing a combined 778 hp and 841 lb-ft of torque, with power going to all four wheels via a single-speed, fixed-gear transmission. With Ludicrous Mode enabled, a 0-60 mph time of just 2.7 seconds is possible. A 100-kWh battery allows for a range of just over 300 miles.
Outside, the Model X Performance rides on 20-inch wheels and has LED fog lights, Falcon-wing rear doors, power-folding side mirrors, and a panoramic windshield. The cabin seats either five, six, or seven occupants, with all seats upholstered in synthetic leather. Seat heating is standard, along with power-adjustable front seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 17-inch touchscreen, and a 17-speaker audio system. A comprehensive safety spec equips the Model X with 12 airbags, blind-spot monitoring, collision avoidance, and emergency braking, while an enhanced Autopilot suite is optionally available with technologies like auto lane change and Autopark.
Tesla prefers to equip its vehicles to a high level from the start, negating the need for an excessive options list. As a result, the only major upgrade is the Full Self-Driving Capability, which adds auto lane change, Autopark, and Summon to the Autopilot suite for $7,000 - technically, this doesn't transform the Model X into a fully autonomous vehicle, but it does take over even more actions that would typically require driver intervention. Beyond this, 22-inch alloy wheels can be specified for $5,500, although these do firm up the ride and decrease the Model X's range. The six-seater layout costs $6,500 and the seven-seater option goes for $3,500.
The five-seater model provides the most useful cargo capacity, so we'd stick with this configuration unless you absolutely must have the extra seats. We'd refrain from the 22-inch wheel upgrade as they reduce that all-important range between charges. Although $7,000 is a lot of money, we would tick the box for the Full Self-Driving Capability upgrade as it grants access to Tesla's most advanced driver aids, some of which seem sent from the future. Our favorite interior color scheme is the Cream and Oak Wood decor, which, although not as practical as black, adds a touch of class to the somewhat stark cabin. Together with the ordering fee and the destination charge, the total works out to $114,790.
For exactly $20,000 less, the Tesla Model X Long Range Plus provides improved range but less performance. The 0-60 mph time drops to 4.4 seconds (1.7 seconds down on the Model X Performance) but the cruising range between charges increases by over 40 miles relative to the Performance variant, based on Tesla's latest claims. Other than this, the two models are similarly equipped, although the Performance does have access to a wider selection of interior color schemes. Considering that the Long Range Plus is still properly potent, we think it's the better buy here as, in the real world, its performance deficit is hardly likely to be noticed. But, if you must have the ultimate Model X, there is no replacement for the mind-blowing acceleration of the Model X Performance when hooked up to Ludicrous Mode.
The sexy I-Pace is Jaguar's first all-electric vehicle and the automaker made sure that it got things right from the start. With strong acceleration, superb handling, and a luxurious cabin, it's got all the ingredients needed to succeed. It also helps that the I-Pace starts at well over $30,000 less than the Model X Performance. Of course, the Jag isn't quite as fast, but few would describe a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds as slow. The I-Pace's smaller 90 kWh battery limits its range to below 240 miles, some way off the Model X Performance's 305 miles, but it's still quite good for an EV. With less mass to haul around, the I-Pace is more fun to drive and it has a classier, better-built cabin than the Model X. Total cargo capacity is better in the Model X and those rear Falcon-wing doors look cool, but the I-Pace is also a practical SUV with a well-sized trunk. The Model X is still the performance SUV king, but considering the price difference, we'd go for the newer I-Pace.
Check out some informative Tesla Model X Performance video reviews below.