When the Tesla Model S was launched, it revolutionized the automotive industry and converted an unprecedented amount of drivers to electric vehicles. It did so by crushing range anxiety by offering more than 300 kilometers of range even with their smallest 60 kWh variant and almost 500 kilometers with their largest 90 kWh battery. The Model S also gave birth to a large network of Tesla supercharging stations which brought their EV products one crucial step closer to the infrastructure which makes gasoline powered vehicles so attractive. The design taught us that electric vehicles didn’t need to have awkward proportions and could actually look pretty decent, especially in the hotter P85/P90 trims. Many reviewers also touted the Model S’s handling characteristics and usable space given the “frunk” and hatchback with a flat-folding second row. By building this attractive, sporty, and very practical car, Tesla grew their market share significantly and even drew the adoration of buyers who perhaps couldn’t afford a Model S but could spring for the more attainable Model 3. When we look back in 10-20 years, the Model S and Model 3 will be seen as the volume leaders that pushed the boundaries of alternative energy but I doubt we could say the same about the Model X.
The Model X is UGLY
In terms of styling, the Model S pulled off a futuristic yet elegant look with excellent proportions and a handsome belt line that gave it a coupe-like flair. You can see features that perhaps draw inspiration from some of the newer Maserati, Jaguar, and Aston Martin coupes and sedans; not a bad bunch to bare a resemblance to in my opinion. For the Model X however, the proportions put it in line with some of the worst offenders in automotive design history, these include awkward crossovers like: Pontiac Aztek/Buick Rendezvous, Acura ZDX/Honda Crosstour, and the BMW X6/Mercedes GLE Coupe. The high roofline looks forced and the front fascia is reminiscent of the psychic pokemon, Drowzee. While I can’t quite say it’s a vomit inducing look, the Model X is among the top 5 of the ugliest cars/SUVs in production, especially when you factor in its near $100,000 base price.
The Model X isn’t very Practical
By most people’s accounts, a crossover/SUV should be practical, especially one that is intended to seat up to 7 passengers. However, that same grotesque sloping roofline that may give the X an aerodynamic advantage, cuts dramatically into the cargo area and third-row headroom. To be fair, there’s a decent amount of cargo space behind the third row under where a spare tire and exhaust system would normally be but it doesn’t really help when moving large items where a squared-off rear section would improve usability significantly. Furthermore, while every hatchback/SUV can fold the second row flat to essentially double the cargo volume, the Model X can’t. It can’t because Tesla felt it was better to implement a seat with a unique base design which limits the second row to merely sliding forward and tilting . . . slightly. Simple hinges and sliders would make this car 30% more practical and cheaper to produce but the Model X follows the BMW X6 school of industrial design which has a “make it more stylized and less usable for no good reason” philosophy.
Falcon Doors are Stupid
As mentioned already, the Model X isn’t great for loading large items due to the hatch shape and poor second-row seat design. To make loading things even more difficult, Tesla lost their mind and engineered in “Falcon Doors” which are useless in tight spaces such as, I don’t know, the average home/townhouse garage (YouTube)? But I take offense to the Falcon doors, not for practical reasons, but ethical ones. Primarily, this has to do with the cost of engineering and building these doors, instead of spending R&D funds on something meaningful to either make this a better car or improve EV technology/infrastructure, a tremendous amount of time and money was spent to make the car worse. This alone probably drove the MSRP of the Model X up $10-20k making it less accessible and thus less viable as an alternative energy vehicle. Furthermore, given Tesla’s track record of bugs and quality control, the complexity of this door and long term reliability raises serious concerns. Overall, these doors are as senseless when it comes to industrial design as the clumsy second-row seats but spectacularly more wasteful which in my opinion is the polar opposite of the message Tesla should be sending.
What does this all mean?
I don’t use the term genius lightly, but I definitely think Elon Musk falls into that category, but I grow weary of the cult-like following some have adopted with the Church of Musk. Some are so eager to buy into any Tesla product that they will order multiple units of these $120,000 Model X’s sight unseen just to be a part of Musk’s revolution. Before drinking the Tesla/Musk Kool Aid, understand that Musk is just the face of the Tesla Motors corporation, a company that just as easily falls down a rabbit hole of “design-by-committee” weaknesses as any other tech or car firm. I applaud Tesla for using marketing gimmicks to get millennials and wealthy liberals excited by implementing things like ludicrous mode and falcon doors but they really are gimmicks and gimmicks don’t last. The ludicrous mode is only good for about 3 launches and the motors/sensors in the falcon doors will eventually fail and injure someone or cause some other damage to the vehicle and its surroundings. I wish I could report that the Model X picks up where the Model S left off and that it makes EV that much more viable by offering a more usable form factor that can appeal to a greater audience, however, the Model X is just a heavier, uglier, and more expensive Model S.