VIDEO: What’s driving a Tesla Model X like for a first-time electric vehicle user?
March 2, 2018
RENO, Nev. — I feel like I'm on a ride at Disneyland. But I'm not. I'm in downtown Reno driving a Tesla Model X — and I just punched the accelerator (no gas pedals in this ride).
Surging — out of a complete stop — onto Interstate 80 East, I jump from zero to (well past) the 65 mph speed limit in a blink. Here, while an "I feel like I'm riding Space Mountain" smile spreads across my face, a few observations rush to my head.
1: It feels like I'm floating — there's no acceleration drag, no vibrations; just a smooth, slingshot-like burst of speed. You know in Star Wars when the Millennium Falcon jumps to lightspeed? It's not quite that, but it's the closest comparison I can think of. (I realize comparing a sci-fi hyperspace leap to the Tesla Model X's acceleration might be a tad hyperbole, but you'll have to excuse me — I just saw "The Last Jedi").
2: The lack of noise is eerie. No vroooom-ing engine. No wind gusts pounding the panoramic windshield. Nothing.
3: This is fun. I'm having fun.
Let's rewind — err, drop it in reverse.
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The deep blue metallic Tesla Model X I'm driving belongs to Jack Bowers, a longtime electric vehicle enthusiast who over the last decade has racked up 250,000 miles combined in Tesla vehicles. Jack, though, is currently out on a test drive with a fellow member of the media on Feb. 22 in his newly purchased Tesla Model 3.
So I'm joyriding in his X all by my… all right, fine, I'm being supervised. Sitting to my right is the Director of the Sacramento Electric Vehicle Association (SacEV), Guy Hall, who's red multi-coat Model X was muddied up from his drive over Donner Summit on this snowy morning. Hence, we're in Jack's ride.
OK, back to the drive.
This Tesla Model X moves. Even though it's a big, wide SUV, it maneuvers more like a sports car. Before I know it, I'm going 80 on I-80. I ease off the gas and settle into the flow of traffic.
"Now, you're still going 75." Hall says to me. "How are the cops here?"
A beat later, he tacks on: "If you get a speeding ticket, I'll film that part for your video."
Right on cue, I glance in my rear-view and spot an NHP truck picking up speed. My anxiety does the same. Sweat percolates my steering wheel-gripped palms.
I've got a bad feeling about this.
Alas, no cherries and berries for me (not yet, at least). The NHP truck passes me by, and so does my rush of anxiety.
Eventually, I exit off onto Nugget Avenue and park. Guy Hall takes over.
"I'll show you 'Ludicrous' mode," Guy verbally winks at me as he ramps back onto the freeway.
Before I go any further: "Ludicrous" is the Model X's fastest driving mode, offering zero to 60 acceleration in 3.2 seconds. Previously, the fastest mode was called "Insane." Elon Musk and Co. do not lack a sense of humor. When I accelerated earlier, I was in "Chill" mode, apparently, hitting 0 to 60 in just under 5 seconds.
Guy punches it — and we're flying. You know when something amazes you so much it makes you laugh? That's what happens when he hit 60 in 3.2 ticks. As I'm laughing and saying "wow" and "holy cow" over and over, Guy is making nimble lane changes to showcase the ease at which the X performs a passing maneuver.
"It's just a delight to drive," Guy says. "You can go around corners hugging the road because of the low center of gravity. The acceleration is quiet, no vibration …"
Indeed, the X has a low center of gravity because the battery is located in the floor of the car. It's why the X feels incredibly grounded and, truthfully, safer on the road than any car I've driven. Not to mention cooler, what with the car's falcon wing doors, which rise and peel open without a sound, and driver's side door that opens automatically when the driver approaches.
And I haven't even mentioned how well the car stops. Because of the X's regenerative braking system, the accelerator pedal controls both the speeding up and slowing down of the car. In other words, if you take your foot off the pedal, the car slows down — hard — rather than coast.
As I was driving my first few blocks in the X down Center Street, this braking quirk, which I was oblivious to prior to the test drive, literally gave me pause. I nearly asked Guy if the parking brake was left on before he read my mind and educated me on the accelerator's dual purpose.
When you slow the X down, energy is returned back to the battery, said Guy, adding that the brake pedal (yes, there still is a brake pedal) only needs to be used for complete stops.
Once I get the feel of the car down, I don't use the brake pedal again until my test drive came to an end.
And when I was finished, I had to agree with Guy. The Tesla Model X is a delight to drive.