After years of delays, Tesla has finally handed over the first run of the Model X, an all-electric SUV with a range of more than 250 miles per charge. The car was focus-grouped and designed to appeal to women, who buy 53 percent of SUVs in the U.S.
Don't forget us dads. It’s the American family this car sings to. I know what I’m talking about. I’m a father of two and an admitted minivan driver (and lover).
Here are seven reasons the Model X may now be the best family car on the road, and why we still won't be buying one.
1. No more dad back
One of the most difficult engineering feats was what Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk calls the falcon-wing doors. Yes, these appeal to parents who grew up watching Back to the Future. They’re also practical. The double-hinged doors lift vertically and are packed with sensors so they won’t get dinged if the next car in the parking lot is crowding the line. The best part: To drop your kid into a car seat, you don’t have to duck, grunt, and scoot like some kind of Neanderthal dad.
2. Legit third row
While lots of SUVs pretend to have third rows, few deliver. Most of these sham rows are small, cramped (even for the little people), and almost impossible to access. The Model X offers a full-sized third row and easy access beneath those falcon wings.
3. Double trunks
Because the Model X is all-electric, there’s no engine, transmission, or other junk in the front. The motor is the size of a couple of watermelons and is tucked beneath the car, leaving plenty of room for two large storage areas, one at each end. Most SUVs make you choose between passenger seating and storage space. The Model X has room for strollers in the front trunk and a large dog bed in the back.
4. No more pit stops (for the car)
With a 257-mile range on a single charge, a family of after-school adventurers never needs to stop. Charging happens at night. If you plan an epic day of errands or a cross-country road trip, the car’s computer will guide you to the nearest Supercharger when you need a top-off. Say goodbye to gas stations, except when the humans need a pit stop.
5. Maintenance free-ish
Electric cars don’t need oil changes, belt swaps, hose checks or other standard maintenance. Tesla recommends taking your car in once a year for a look-over, but that’s about it. When there’s a problem, the car’s computers can often self-diagnose and download a software fix while you’re sleeping, according to the company. You’ll probably never even know about it.
6. Hugs the road
Safety reviews of the Model X are in, and it scored the highest of any SUV on the road. Of note: The battery packs and electric drivetrain are beneath the car, creating a low center of gravity. That means the car responds better to the road, with less tendency to tip than other SUVs. It also comes with automatic braking and steering to avoid front and side collisions.
7. Prepares the kids for space travel
This sport utility vehicle is heavy on the sport. In “ludicrous mode,” the car will sprint from 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds. With futuristic seats and the biggest windshield glass of any passenger car, it also looks and feels a bit like the interior of a Dragon 2 space capsule, which is fun for the whole crew.
And now the drawbacks
There are so many things to like about the Model X. But unlike my Toyota Sienna minivan, the Model X won’t hold a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood flat on the floor when the seats are down. While this makes the treehouse project a bit less manageable, it's a forgivable trade-off for all the features packed into this car.
Sadly, I won’t be buying one. I live in the city, where I park on the street, so I couldn't charge it at home. Then there's the price. The Model X is estimated to start at around $80,000—the lower-end specs haven't been disclosed yet. Ticking off signature-series options such as ludicrous mode, autopilot, tow hitch, and a luxury sound system brings it to almost $145,000. There are college educations to save for.