Tesla founder Elon Musk has a knack for the dramatic. After weeks of speculation, dissecting grainy photographs of prototypes and just plain old guessing, Tesla’s new Model X was unveiled at a ceremony and webcast from the company’s design studios. But this was no run-of-the-mill press event. For the Model X’s coming out party, Tesla positioned this new electric crossover within hailing distance of Musk’s other new mode of transportation—his Falcon 9 rocket, currently in testing with NASA. This, the company seemed to be saying, was going to be one heck of a launch party.
When the lights came on and the covering came off, what was finally revealed was an intriguing cross between the utility and hauling capacity of a minivan and the sporting, all-conditions performance of an SUV—with a few of Tesla’s now de rigueur dramatic touches. Tesla calls the Model X a family vehicle with performance roots. CEO Elon summed it up by telling a reporter from the New York Times, “This is kind of the killer app for families. It has more utility than a minivan, and better performance, much better performance, than an SUV.”
The most impressive feature of the Model X is what Tesla is calling its falcon-wing rear doors. These doors, which allow access to the car’s second and third row of seating, rise up and over the car like a gull wing. Since the doors are articulated and hinged in the midle, they lift perpendicular to the ground making access in tight parking spots easy.
Once those doors are lifted, the car’s second most obvious feature becomes apparent. There’s a lot of room in there. The model X has space for seven as well as trunk storage fore and aft due to the fact that the car does not have to accommodate an underfloor drive train. Instead of a transmission running through the center of the car, Tesla mounted the X’s batteries in the car’s platform. Tesla says that apart from creating lots of space, this setup also lowers the vehicle’s center of gravity, making handling much more nimble that that of other cars its size.