With its lineup of electric vehicles, Tesla is an unconventional company that thrives on throwing normality out the window. And while breaking the mold can benefit consumers, the benefit is questionable in the case of the Model X. With enough gee-whiz gizmos to give William Gibson a thrill, the X seemingly sacrifices practicality for the purpose of showboating.
The Model X SUV doesn't shine brightly. Although the X is quick and doesn't consume a drop of gasoline, it isn't as quiet, doesn't ride as comfortably, and demonstrates severely compromised usability and utility in everyday use. The new yoke steering wheel adds insult to injury. There are no stalks for turn signals, wipers, high beams or horn. Instead drivers have to press buttons on the stubby steering wheel and take their eyes off the road for added distraction. Turns that require hand-over-hand movements—such as pulling into a driveway or parking—leave one of your hands without part of the wheel to hold onto. It’s also extremely difficult to keep both hands on the yoke as you unwind the wheel after taking a turn. In some cases, the yoke simply slipped out of our test driver’s hands, which is dangerous.
Novelties such as the prominent motorized "falcon wing" rear doors that articulate upward and the humongous windshield will be the talk of the neighborhood. But ultimately, any advantage they bring is outweighed by a bigger disadvantage. For example, the rear doors create an immense opening, but their time-consuming opening and closing act gets very old, very fast. Even the electrically-actuated front doors are overcomplicated, forcing constant fussing with fiddly flush door handles. And that huge windshield creates a panoramic view overhead but struggles to keep out intense sun glare.