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Tesla unveils electric Model X SUV

Not Falcodore: Tesla’s innovative 'falcon' doors might cause trouble in areas with restricted headroom but the EV specialist claims they offer unprecedented access to the interior and make fitting child seats easier.

Seven seats, electric AWD and 'falcon' doors make Tesla Model X SUV unique

10 Feb 2012

UPDATED: 13/02/2012ELECTRIC car specialist Tesla Motors publicly unveiled its seven-seat Model X SUV in an event at its Los Angeles design studio in California on Friday and announced it will enter production late next year.

Tesla sales and marketing manager for the Asia-Pacific region Jay McCormack told GoAuto the first Australian Model X deliveries will take place in late 2014.

Like the Model S, Tesla is taking reservations for the Model X via its website.

Mr McCormack said “queues are already forming” for the all-electric SUV, which will be “competitively priced” with other premium SUVs here.

The Model X has unusual so-called ‘falcon’ rear doors that open upwards like the gullwing items of the Mercedes-Benz SLS Roadster but with a unique folding mechanism that enables them to open in a narrower arc.

Tesla claims the door design offers “unrivalled access” and enables an adult to stand in the middle row, making it easier to install a child seat.

The ‘falcon’ doors also provide some shelter from the rain and are wide enough for relatively easy access to the third row of seats, even when the centre row is occupied.

Sharing the smooth coupe-like styling of Tesla’s Model S luxury sports sedan, the Model X has a similar silhouette to the polarising BMW X6.

55 center imageThough not having the aggressive gas-guzzling image of the X6, the Model X may also be controversial given its rear proportions and doors that could prove impractical in low spaces like household garages or underground car parks.

However, Tesla chief executive Elon Musk said at the Model X unveiling that the ‘falcon’ doors open no higher than a standard SUV tailgate and that the door design enables access in narrow parking spots.

Mr Musk said that, provided a person can fit in the gap between the Model X and a neighbouring vehicle, the rear doors will have enough room to open, providing an advantage over sliding doors, which have to pop outwards in order to slide.

Described as combining the best attributes of an SUV with the utility of a people-mover and the performance of a sportscar, the Model X will be available with 60kWh or 85kWh battery packs located beneath the flat floor.

Tesla says the low centre of gravity provided by the batteries provides “nimble reflexes at every turn”.

The Model X is rear-drive as standard but an optional electric motor on the front axle delivers the traction benefits of all-wheel drive, with a system that automatically redirects drive to where it is needed most.

Mr Musk claimed the Tesla system is able to react far quicker than a traditional mechanical system, with the additional benefit of providing a turning circle “better than a Mini”.

Tesla says that, unlike a conventional AWD set-up, it can provide these benefits without sacrificing efficiency or acceleration – with 0-100km/h coming up in a claimed Porsche 911-trouncing 4.4 seconds.

Advantages gleaned from not having to package an internal combustion drivetrain have enabled the Silicon Valley-based manufacturer to provide “unprecedented cargo space” plus an extra storage compartment under the bonnet.

At the Model X unveiling, the car was driven onto the stage carrying seven adults plus an impressive amount of luggage in the boot – including several suitcases.

Mr Musk said all the rear seats fold flat, meaning “you could practically fit a queen-size bed in there”.

The dashboard has a similar layout to the Model S, with a huge 17-inch multi-function touchscreen display providing access to all controls, with conventional switchgear limited to traditional steering column stalks plus steering wheel-mounted controls for audio and telephone functions.

Tesla says the touchscreen will provide driver controls, vehicle apps and internet connectivity, while an optional panoramic roof will be available to cast extra light on what it describes as a premium interior.

The Model X will be priced similarly to the Model S sedan, which sells in the United States for between $US49,900 ($A46,540) and $US90,000 ($A83,940) depending on specification, after a $US7500 government incentive.

Australian pricing for the Model S has not yet been confirmed, but it is expected to sell here for around $120,000 when first deliveries arrive next year.

Tesla’s philosophy is to develop and sell ever more affordable electric vehicles and Mr Musk has been quoted saying a fourth model aimed at a wider audience will be announced in the next 18 to 24 months.

Mr McCormack told us that Tesla’s first product and Australia’s first factory EV, the Roadster, has sold better than expected, with only six cars from Australia’s allocation remaining.

An upgraded Roadster – available only in Australia, Asia and Europe – was launched last month with reduced pricing from $191,888 plus on-road costs thanks to the strong Australian dollar.

Mr McCormack said Australian reservations for the Model S continue to climb each week, with Tesla now holding more than 8000 reservations worldwide.

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