2016 Tesla Model X Debuts with 257-Mile Range, Falcon Doors

Claimed to be the safest SUV ever made.

The ManufacturerphotographerJake HolmeswriterJohn Lammphotographer

The 2016 Tesla Model X finally made its official debut at an event in California, with both journalists and Tesla buyers in attendance. With Falcon Wing doors and a driving range up to 257 miles per charge, the Model X stays true to Tesla's promise of building a futuristic three-row crossover.

Design-wise, the 2016 Tesla Model X is very similar to the concept we've seen for the past two years. It has a rounded silhouette and appears like a taller version of the Model S sedan. The Model X's rounded nose has narrow headlights and a flat, plain fascia broken up only by a small black grille design. Out back, the sloping rear window leads to a subtle active spoiler and a flat rear fascia, broken by a horizontal chrome trim piece.

Below 45 mph, the rear spoiler adjusts to improve rear visibility for the driver, while at higher speeds the spoiler moves to reduce drag by 1.6 percent.

The car's Falcon Wing rear doors rise vertically so that passengers can easily access both the second and third rows of seats. Ultrasonic sensors allow the doors to automatically adjust to opening within short garages or narrow spaces without hitting obstacles; the doors can open with only 12 inches of room at the side of the vehicle. Tesla even developed a new type of ultrasonic sensor that can be hidden inside the metal skin of the doors.

Dual-motor powertrain
The 2016 Tesla Model X uses the company's dual-motor powertrain that features a front motor rated for 259 hp and rear motor is rated for 503 hp. Tesla says the P90D version of the car will reach 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and can manage a top speed of 155 mph -- impressive figures given its curb weight of 5,441 lb. Pony up $10,000 for the "Ludicrous Mode" package and that 0-60-mph time drops to a claimed 3.2 seconds. When equipped with its towing package, the Model X can also tow up to 5,000 lb.

As revealed by the EPA, the standard 2016 Tesla Model X 90D will return 92 mpge combined and have a driving range of 257 miles, while the more powerful P90D model will average 89 mpge and boast a driving range of 250 miles. Both the cars have a 90-kWh battery pack.

Plenty of safety tech
Tesla CEO Elon Musk emphasized that the company took intensive steps to make the Model X as tough as possible in frontal and side crashes. So safe, in fact, that he said it will easily best the NHTSA five-star crash-test rating.

"We've created the safest SUV ever. It's the first SUV that's five stars in every [NHTSA crash-test] category," Musk said. Moreover, he said that because the floor-mounted battery pack keeps the Model X's center of gravity low, it "has half the roll-over propensity of any other SUV or minivan." Also helping safety is standard forward-emergency braking.

Other clever technologies include a special HEPA cabin-air filter that is claimed to be 10 times larger than that in a regular car. The climate-control system also has three layers of activated carbon, which Musk said can make the interior air as clean as "a hospital operating room."

Taking that idea to its illogical conclusion is an unusual button for the climate system that maximizes air filtration for polluted areas: "You just push the bioweapon defense mode button. This is a real button," Musk said. "We're trying to be a leader in apocalyptic defense scenario."

Inside, the 2016 Tesla Model X uses the same color display screens as the Model S sedan. A large horizontal display serves as the instrument cluster, while an enormous 17-inch vertical touchscreen dominates the center console. There's also a special bin that holds smartphones, a 17-speaker sound system, and a special rear hitch attachment for ski or bike racks.

Exact pricing for the 2016 Tesla Model X still has yet to be announced, but Musk previously said the cars would have about a $5,000 premium over the Model S sedan. A leaked online configurator had revealed that a fully loaded 2016 Tesla Model X Signature would start at $133,200 after destination charges and before any tax breaks.

The 2016 Tesla Model X is on sale now -- after all, CEO Musk gave out the very first cars to customers at the press conference in California. Stay tuned for official pricing details and our first drive review of the all-electric crossover.

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