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Tesla Model X unveiled

Winged warrior: the Model X will launch in Australia late in 2016 complete with futuristic space-aware doors.

Elon Musk calls Tesla’s latest car, the Model X SUV, the 'safest SUV ever'

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Tesla logo30 Sep 2015

By TIM ROBSON

TESLA’s founder Elon Musk has premiered his company’s latest creation, the Model X seven-seater SUV via a live webcast event in California.

“It’s important to show that any kinds of car can go electric,” said Mr Musk.

“We showed you can make a compelling sports car with the Roadster, we showed that you could do it with a sedan, and now we’re going to show you that we can do it with an SUV.”

The Model X will be launched in 90D and P90D variants, and will go on sale in Australia from late 2016. The all-wheel-drive twin-engined 90D has a claimed range of 413km, a top speed of 250km/h and a 0-96km/h time of 4.8 seconds.

No pricing has been announced, but Tesla has indicated that the Model X will be priced similarly to the Model S sedan, which tops out at $148,000 plus on-road costs when sold here.

Power for the P90D is 568kW, while combined torque is 913Nm. The car weighs in at 2468kg for the P90D.

The P90D performance variant will come with the Ludicrous mode as an option, which allows the Model X to accelerate to 96km/h in just 3.2 seconds. “This goes so fast it’s wrong,” said Mr Musk. In normal mode, the P90D’s time to 96km/h is 3.8 seconds. It loses a bit of range, dropping to 402km, but maintains the same top speed.

Details regarding the charging of the new model are yet to be revealed.

Tesla is calling the Model X the safest SUV ever made. “It’ll protect you under any circumstance you can imagine,” said Mr Musk.

The Model X is the first SUV to be scored five stars across the US’s National Highway and Transport Safety Association (NHTSA) standard testing regimen, equating to a better-than ten per cent chance of being seriously injured in a high speed crash. Mr Musk claims that the Model X has achieved a score equating to 6.5 per cent.

A large front crumple zone (thanks to a lack of an engine), low scores for side intrusion and a lower centre of gravity contribute to the Model X’s rating.

Its battery pack is laid along the length and width of the floorpan, reducing the car’s centre of gravity and providing a larger surface to transfer crash loads more effectively than a regular SUV, according to Tesla.

The Model X also comes standard with automatic emergency braking and side collision avoidance, which uses ultrasonic sensors along the side of the car to steer it away from an impending collision.

The sensors themselves have been reinvented, with the circular discs eliminated and placed on the inside of the body panels. “We invented a sensor that can see through metal,” said Mr Musk.

A “medical quality” HEPA particulate filter is said to be another automotive first, and filters out gases, bacteria and viruses. “We designed this car well before recent events,” he joked, referring to the VW ‘dieselgate’ saga, “but recent events have illustrated the importance of air safety.”

Mr Musk also revealed a button in the Model X’s dash-mounted touchscreen he called the Bioweapon Defense Mode, joking “we’re trying to be a leader in apocalyptic defence scenarios.”

The car’s signature ‘falcon wing’ doors can be opened in tight spaces, thanks to a dual-hinge arrangement that allows them to swing upwards and inwards.

“We were trying to solve the problem of how you access the third row if you have child seats in the second row,” said Mr Musk. “We wanted to have an opening that gave real utility to the third row.And it also looks cool.”

The second row sculpted bucket seats tilt forward, allowing access to the third row, while allowing storage beneath them.

Mr Musk demonstrated the action of the doors by parking two other vehicles in close proximity, showing that the gullwing doors articulate on two hinges rather than one. “It’s the best aperture out there,” said Mr Musk.

The car automatically senses roof and sidewall height of surrounding roofs and walls, allowing the doors to open without impact.

No further details of the interior were offered during the presentation.

Mr Musk handed over the first five production cars to excited owners on stage, reserving the first production car – a jet black Model X with black rims known as VIN 1 – for himself.

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