LOS ANGELES— Last night at the design and engineering studio for Tesla Motors (TSLA), CEO Elon Musk revealed his company's next space-age creation. Dubbed the Model X, it's an all-electric crossover/sport-utility/category-defying vehicle that features dual-motor all-wheel-drive, three rows of seating for up to seven passengers, and roof-hinged rear "falcon wing" doors (named after the Falcon rocket from sister company SpaceX).
Photo by Robert KerianBased on the same platform as Tesla's electric Model S sedan that's slated for delivery to customers in July (and available with 60 or 85 kWh battery packs, which should deliver a range of 200 to 250 miles on a single charge), the Model X breaks new ground for EVs with its fore-and-aft motors. As for expected performance, Musk claimed that the Model X will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, which he noted is quicker than a Porsche 911. After taking a ride in a Model X prototype, I can confirm that it feels sporty even by sports car standards. The prototype was fast on straightaways and exhibited very little body roll while cornering, thanks to a low center of gravity imparted by the batteries' in-floor location.
Like the Model S, pricing will be in the $50,000 - $75,000 range, depending on equipment (the dual-motor all-wheel-drive system is optional; base configuration will be rear-wheel drive). Interested parties can begin placing deposits at noon, February 10, through Teslamotors.com. Musk says that production on the 2014 model will begin in late 2013.
During the Model X's official introduction, the front trunk, or "frunk" latch did not release—the presentation's only notable hitch—but Musk seemed unperturbed. He demonstrated the utility offered by the "falcon wing" doors by standing upright in the second row. When later asked about the comparisons gullwing doors would inevitably draw to DeLorean's infamous flop, Musk replied: "If I had a dollar for every time somebody brought up John DeLorean's name, I wouldn't need an IPO."
Photo by Robert Kerian