I took a $163,000 Tesla Model X SUV on a road trip and discovered Tesla's greatest weapon isn't its cars (TSLA)


Tesla Model X P100D

  • The Tesla Model X is unrivaled in the electric-vehicle market in terms of its ability to deliver performance, range, and cargo capacity.
  • I first drove the Tesla Model X in 2015 shortly before it was unveiled to the public.
  • Several years later, I decided to take the Model X on a road trip and try out the Tesla Supercharger network.
  • We were impressed by both the Tesla Model X and the company’s network of fast chargers.
  • The Tesla Model X Long Range starts at $75,315, while our fully loaded Model X Performance carried an as-tested price of $163,250.

Tesla unveiled the production Model X SUV in the shadows of its Fremont, California, factory on September 29, 2015.

A few hours before the festive event where the Tesla faithful convened to hear their almighty leader preach the gospel of Falcon Wing doors and Bio-Weapon Defense Mode, I became one of the first people to drive the Model X.

Since then, Tesla’s crossover SUV has become a benchmark in the industry. As a large premium electric crossover SUV, it inhabits a segment with only a handful of rivals like the Audi e-tron and the Jaguar I-Pace.

A few years had passed since I most recently drove the Model X. So I figured a road trip from northern New Jersey to Wilmington, Delaware, would be a good opportunity to check out a new Model X Performance and get reacquainted with the Tesla SUV.

In addition, the 120-mile drive would finally give me the opportunity to try out Tesla’s vaunted Supercharger network.

Though I’ve spent plenty of time behind the wheel of Tesla’s Model S and Model 3, they’ve generally been drives near Business Insider’s headquarters in New York. That means I usually never burn off enough range to require a recharge.

For our road trip, Tesla provided us with a fully loaded Deep Blue Metallic Model X Performance that costs a hefty $163,250. The Tesla Model X Long Range starts at a more affordable $75,315.

Here’s a closer look at our road trip with the Tesla Model X Performance.

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Here it is! Our Tesla Model X Performance test car. The Model X’s rounded edges and sleek, aerodynamic profile are signature traits of the Tesla look. Naturally, the Falcon Wing doors take center stage.

They are perhaps the most striking feature to appear on any of Tesla’s vehicles. Fortunately, the electrically operated, double-hinged doors are also immensely useful — making ingress and egress from the second row a breeze.

Out back, there’s a power-operated rear hatch and a fixed spoiler. The spoiler, while useful in delivering downforce, does obstruct rearward visibility.

Inside, our Model X was decked out in white leather, dark ash wood, and black Alcantara. There’s also Tesla’s famous 17-inch vertical touchscreen.

In front of the driver is a large, configurable digital instrument display.

With no internal combustion engines to be found, the front of the Model X is free to serve as a trunk or, in this case, a frunk.

Open up the hatch and our five-seat Model X boasts acres of cargo room. There’s even a nifty cargo divider.

The Model X can also be had in six- or seven-seat configurations.

After meeting up at Newark Penn Station, we picked up our test car from a nearby parking lot.

Time to head south! Onward to Delaware.

The Model X is terrific on the road. It’s smooth and whisper quiet, and its pair of electric motors deliver effortless supercar-esque acceleration. We didn’t get a chance to do instrumented acceleration runs, but we wouldn’t be shocked if our test car could reel off sub-3.0-second zero-to-60-mph times.

With the massive 100-kWh lithium-ion battery pack located below the passenger compartment, the Model X boasts a remarkably low center gravity for a large SUV. As a result, it’s a capable performer around corners and feels steady and planted when pushed. 

On the highway, we were able to try out Tesla’s Autopilot. It isn’t a semiautonomous driving system. Instead, it’s an advanced form of adaptive cruise control.

The adaptive cruise control worked perfectly. The steering assist did keep the car in the middle of the lane. I was forced to take over a few times, however.

About an hour into the trip, we stopped for lunch in Hamilton, New Jersey, after which I decided to top off the battery at a Supercharger. The Hamilton Supercharger station boasts six Superchargers. When I got there, four of the six were full.

Tesla currently operates a network of more than 14,000 Supercharger stations around the world. The stations boast multiple 480-volt DC fast chargers and are designed to be a safety net for Tesla owners on long road trips.

The location and availability of the Superchargers are also clearly shown on the car’s navigation system. In fact, the Tesla navigation system will even build Supercharger stops into its route guidance if it sees that the car will have a low charge when it reaches the destination.

Using a Supercharger is incredibly simple. Pull your Tesla up within range of the charging plug and …

… open the charge port using a button located inside the car. The charge port will also open on its own if it detects the presence of the charging lead.

And then just plug the charger into the port.

When it’s time to go, press the button atop the plug and it will disengage.

And if you try to drive off with the driving charger still plugged in, don’t worry. The car won’t let you.

My first Supercharging experience got off to a rocky start. The first stall didn’t work. It would try to initiate the charge but couldn’t. We tried to unplug and replug the charger a couple of times. Nada.

Finally, we decided to move to a neighboring stall. Bingo! Worked like a charm!

We spent only about 25 minutes at the charger but got enough juice to get us to our destination and then some.

After a weekend in Delaware, it was time to return to New Jersey.

This time, we made a stop at the Claymont, Delaware, Supercharger station.

It’s located next to a Wawa. If you haven’t had Wawa’s food, you’re really missing out.

All good. This time everything worked without a hitch. The car got charged, and we were soon on our way.

As enjoyable as Tesla’s cars may be, the star of our road trip is undoubtedly the Supercharger network.

We’ve had the chance to experience electric cars from Tesla’s mainstream rivals — Chevrolet and Nissan. While the two have put out very impressive vehicles in the Bolt and the Leaf, neither manufacturer boasts the type of fast-charging network available to Tesla owners.

Even though new-generation electric vehicles deliver enough range to alleviate range anxiety around town, long road trips are still virtually impossible. With the Supercharger network in place, Tesla is able not only to further placate those with fears of running out of juice in everyday driving but also to make multistate road trips a reasonable reality for EV drivers.

I am aware that even with Superchargers, EVs still take way longer to recharge than it takes to fill up a tank of gasoline. It’s still a major step forward in EV infrastructure.

In all honesty, the Supercharger is Tesla’s greatest advantage.