Tesla officially launches the Model X electric SUV, and it's unlike anything out there!

Tesla Model X
© Tesla

I'm not kidding, there's a bioweapon defense mode...

Tesla has been teasing us for years with the Model X, its second vehicle to be built on the second-generation platform developed for the Model S. We've had a pretty good idea for a while of what it would look like and what some of its main differentiating features would be (those articulated 'Falcon Doors' full of sensors that apparently won't bump into anything), but nobody had driven in the final production version, which until last night held a few secrets.

To put things into perspective, here's what was first unveiled in 2012:

Tesla Model X© Tesla

And here's what debuted last night:

Tesla Model X© Tesla

It's not radically different, but it looks sharper and less bulbous. The main cosmetic difference appears to be in the front end.

You can see a video of the launch below, as presented by Elon Musk in all his awkward-public-speaker glory (wouldn't have it any other way!):

8-year, infinite mile battery and drive unit warranty

Some of the things we didn't already know are that it should get 5-star safety ratings all around, which according to Musk's presentation means that there's only a "6.5% chance of being injured in a high-speed accident." This is possible thanks to the huge crumple zone in the front where the engine would be on a regular gasoline-powered vehicle, and thanks to the low-center of gravity (battery in the floor) that prevents rollovers

Tesla Model X© Tesla

The Model X also takes air quality seriously (the opposite of Volkswagen...). The vehicle features a large medical grade HEPA filter like those used in hospitals; it apparently filters pollutants, viruses, and microbes so well that Tesla has even built a ‘bioweapon defense mode’ that creates positive pressure inside the cabin to protect occupants in case of a biological attack. I'm not kidding, I don't think you'll see this feature in most other cars on the road...

To show off how the Falcon doors can sense their environment (via ultrasounds) and avoid bumping into things, and how they can be opened even in very tight space, Musk had a Model X on stage sandwiched between two minivans... And the doors still opened fine:

Model X Falcon doorsTesla/Screen capture

These doors apparently feel a bit like they're sentient. The Model X can detect when you approach it and will open the door automatically for you if it detects via ultrasonics that you are moving towards the doors. Once you're inside, you can close the doors automatically by putting your foot on the brakes. Every time the doors open or close, ultrasonic sensors make sure that they don't bump into things or people.

On video they seem a bit slow, but it's not clear if they're faster when they don't detect any obstacles around. And automatic doors on current minivans are pretty slow too, so it's a price to pay for convenience. At least if these start opening before you get to the vehicle, they'll appear faster than they are in practice.

Tesla Model X© Tesla

As you can see above, the windshield is huge. It looks almost like a fighter jet or helicopter cockpit from the inside. Tesla says it's the largest windshield of any production car, and that's not too hard to believe. And don't worry about the sun; the glass is tinted, and sunshades can come down.

Tesla Model X© Tesla

Of course, the Model X is a direct descendent of the Model S, so it has similar performance. The first Model X available comes with dual motors and a 90kWh battery pack. The front motor produces 259 horsepower and the rear one does 503! Combined torque is 713 lb-ft. Add all of this together and you get a SUV that accelerates from 0 to 60 MPH in 3.2 seconds in “Ludicrous” mode. Top speed for all Model Xs is 155 MPH.

Tesla Model X© Tesla

Official EPA range on the 90D Model X should be 257 miles, and that will no doubt go up over time as more energy-dense batteries are released.

Tesla Model X© Tesla

The Model X is incredibly slippery, with a 0.24 coefficient of drag, making it the most aerodynamic SUV or minivan so far.

Musk brought a Model X pulling a trailer on stage to demonstrate the towing capability (5,000 pounds).

There are two seating configurations, one with 7 seats and one with 6 (removing the center seat in the middle row). And the stereo should be quite something, with 17 speakers and 550 watts of power. And because this is Musk, of course it goes to eleven.

Tesla Model X specs© Tesla

Above are the official specs. Note the 8-year, 'infinite mile battery and drive unit warranty'. Not bad..

Tesla is rolling out the top-of-the-line models first, which are priced like the Model S with an extra $5,000, but over time less expensive models with smaller batteries should come out.

Here are some first drive impressions from a few media outlets. First, The Verge:

"The body of a SUV, but the heart and soul of a Model S. It is extremely high performance."

Here's CNET:

"Compared to other SUVs, it feels really great on the road."

Here's TechCrunch:

"After just a few minutes in this car, I left wanting one."

Update: Is Elon Musk hiding something big in plain sight?

Via Tesla

Tags: Electric Cars | Electric Vehicles

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