- Available for £33,000
- Dual or triple electric motor, double-axle drive
- Out-drags pretty much everything short of a remapped 335d
- More novelties than a novelty factory
- Good practicality and comfort, but not fault-free
- You’ll need to do your homework before buying one
When Elon Musk launched his Tesla Roadster in 2008 it was pretty obvious that he wasn’t going to stop there. Not after having put in the vast sums of financial and intellectual investment necessary to start up not just an entirely new car brand but one powered exclusively by electricity rather than conventional fuels.
Range expansion was inevitable. The Model S saloon came along in 2012. Then came the Model X, the six- or seven- (and, much later, five-) seat SUV version of the Model S. Although $5,000 reservations were being taken on the Model X from early 2012 it didn’t go on sale in the US until 2015, and it was spring 2016 before the UK began receiving cars. We’ll get into some of the reasons for the delay in the Engine & Gearbox and Bodywork sections later on.
All versions of the Model X had ‘D’ in their model name, which in Tesla-speak meant dual motors (one on each axle). The first Xs, the 329hp/387lb ft/60kWh 60D and the 416hp/487lb ft/90kWh 90D, were quickly followed, in every sense, by the P90D. The P stood for Performance and the presence of a higher-power rear motor that in the P90D's case took power and torque to 464hp and 612lb ft. Those numbers were shared with the 2017-on 100D and P100D variants, the point of differentiation between the 90 and the 100 being extra range rather than extra performance.
There was a multiplicity of trim/range/performance levels whose names became more peculiar/embarrassing the higher up the range you went. The Standard, Executive, Long Range, Long Range Plus and Performance models sounded normal enough but then you had the Performance Executive Edition, the Performance Ludicrous, the Performance Ludicrous Executive Edition, and perhaps the daftest of them all the Plaid, given that its original meaning was a piece of fabric woven in a cross pattern. This and Ludicrous were references to the chuckletastic Mel Brooks Star Wars spoof Spaceballs, possibly giving you an insight into the Musk mindset.
Trying to establish definitive power, torque or any other tech figures for the Model X, or any Tesla come to that, is a bit like trying to knit fog. Model evolution was a continuous process, software ‘patches’ were sent over the internet directly to cars, and models were renamed on what felt like an hourly basis. What we will say is that, at the beginning of its life, the Model X range stretched from the basic 329hp 60kWh 60D (220-mile claimed range, 6.2sec 0-62mph) to the 605hp 100kWh P100D (claimed 336-mile range and 0-62mph time of 3.1sec), bracketing cars like the 75kWh 75D and 90kWh 90D.
The release of the 325-mile Long Range in 2019, along with a faster 200kW charging rate, ushered in a rationalisation of the Model X offering to encompass the Standard Range AWD, the Long Range AWD and the Long Range Performance AWD. The 351-mile Long Range Plus was added in 2020. Today the range consists of the Model X Dual Motor and the ‘Beyond Ludicrous’ three-motor Plaid that’s been on sale in the US since 2022 and which is expected in the UK sometime in 2023. The Plaid has an advertised range of 333 miles, a 0-62mph time of 2.6sec and a total power output of 1,020hp. These stats make it the highest-performing SUV ever.
The whole business of entering the Tesla community can seem a bit daunting for those who have never gone electric because there is so much to learn not just about the car but also about the Tesla ‘way’. For £35 you can be a Supporter of the Tesla Owners UK club which, besides the access to guides, advice and group discussions that you get for free as a TOUK Member, gives you a range of discounts on merchandise and more useful kit like tyres. You also get free or priority access to Tesla events and free legal advice, which is interesting.
Just over two years ago £50k was the realistic minimum price for a used Model X. Today (April 2023) the entry price has dropped to £33k. At that sort of money is it worth investing not just cash but courage into what, for many, will be a huge leap into the dark? Let’s click on our torches and take a look.
SPECIFICATION | TESLA MODEL X (2015-on)
Engine: Dual/triple electric motor
Transmission: single-speed, double-axle drive
Power (hp): 329-1,020
Torque (lb ft): 387-752
0-62mph (secs): 6.2-2.6
Top speed (mph): 130-163
Weight (kg): 2,350-2,490
Range (claimed): 220-333
CO2 (g/km): 0
Wheels (in): 19-22
On sale: 2015 - 2023
Price new: from £75,000 (£100,000+ for optioned 100D)
Price now: from £33,000
Data extremes are for 60D and Plaid models
Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Deliveries of the Model X were meant to start in early 2014, but a year before that the start date was put back to late 2014 and then to mid-2015. Deliveries eventually started in late 2015. It’s believed that at least some of the delay was down to battery cooling problems that cropped up when the cars were under additional strain, for example when towing trailers (the Model X was the only Tesla to come with a tow bar as standard, it was a cost extra on the Model Y).
Some sources quote 5,000lb or 2.267 tonnes as the maximum allowed behind a Model X. Others say three tonnes. Others say 1.6 tonnes. The fluidity and variety of the information on Model X’s specifically and Teslas generally makes life hell for any poor mug tasked with writing a guide on them. We don’t know the definitive answer on this but if you’re into serious towing you'll be wanting the upcoming Cybertruck which is rumoured to have a 4.5-tonne limit. ‘Gears’ on the Model X were forwards, backwards and park. You could select these on the central display or via a backup system below the hazard lights bar at the front of the floor console if your screen conked out. Which it might do. More on that later.
Full self-driving capability was available, making the Model X more autonomous at the time of launch than any other production car. Some owners claimed that their Model Xs were a bit too autonomous, accelerating without warning sometimes into the back of other vehicles, but after analysing the data in each case Tesla concluded that these cars were operating as they were designed to.
The claimed full-charge range of Model Xs was, as with all EVs, exactly that: claimed. On an early 100D, range numbers like 250-300 miles were bandied about. The reality was nearer to 200 or considerably less if you regularly indulged in max acceleration. Fortunately, Tesla had a trump card: the Supercharger system. The average rapid charger could pump 50-100kW of electricity into your car's battery in an hour, whereas the Tesla charger could squeeze in 150kW, equating to 170 miles added to your published (again, as opposed to actual) range after a 30-minute plug-in. By early 2023, with the faster 200kW charging rate (or maybe more, we can’t keep up), Tesla reckoned that they'd increased their battery compressability to up to 200 miles in 15 minutes.
What about costs? Since the end of 2022, Tesla has been offering flexible charging prices in the UK from 54p per kilowatt hour for most of the day to 67p for the peak hours of 4pm-8pm. The exclusivity element of only Tesla owners being able to use the Supercharger network was partially eroded in May 2022 when non-Tesla owners were allowed access to selected chargers, albeit at a higher rate. Rates have since been standardised so everyone pays the same amount. The long-term plan is for full access to the system for all EV owners.
It's a good setup with information coming up on Tesla screens telling owners not only where the Supercharger 'stalls' are located but also which individual chargers are available for use. Some but not all Model Xs had free unlimited use of Superchargers. To check if your one does (it’s transferable, so it’s worth checking), you had to open the Tesla app and click onto Specs & Warranty.
What about servicing? Teslas don't demand. There’s no set service schedule as such, with no annual maintenance or regular fluid changes, but it is recommended that you get the brake fluid checked every couple of years (£200 or thereabouts to replace it), replace the cabin air filter every three years (£140), and get the air con serviced every four years (also £140). Being able to organise stuff like this through your X tablet meant that you should never have to ring up the service desk and say that you would like to book your Performance Ludicrous Executive in for some work.
Along with the Model S, the Model X has Tesla's best new car warranty. The Basic Vehicle Limited Warranty covers it for 4 years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. The Battery & Drive Unit Limited Warranty runs for 8 years/150,000 miles with a minimum 70 percent battery retention over the warranty period. More pertinently for our guide, used Model Xs are covered by any remainder of the Basic Warranty's 4 year/50k miles, plus, if the Basic Warranty has expired, an extra 1 year/10k miles starting from your delivery date. Any balance of time in the Battery/Drive warranty still applies to used vehicles.
It appears from the chassis design that Tesla engineers were told to stick rather twist on the Model X. Tesla knew that the underfloor location of the battery pack would automatically provide a desirably low centre of gravity, so maybe the thinking was that not quite so much effort needed to be made on tuning the conventional parts of the chassis.
The basic models had coil springs but the rest had a simple solution: air suspension set to firm. Air was standard on all Performance Xs from the start, optional on all Xs from 2015 to October 2016, and standard on all Xs after that point. Tesla called it Smart Air Suspension. They upgraded it to adaptive after the 2019 refresh. You could adjust the Model X's height through the touchscreen. If you had a regular height increase that you needed to do, eg clearing a kerb or a sleeping policeman, the Model X would use its GPS tech to remember and automatically re-apply that setting next time you were round that way.
Front control arm failure has been a problem for both the X and the S on which was based. The air suspension could malfunction too, causing poor handling, uneven ride heights, or becoming stuck at the lowest setting. Shuddering and vibration when accelerating at town speeds have also been reported. This is usually down to defective half shafts.
Wheel sizes varied between 19-inch and 22-inch. The bigger the wheel, the smaller the range. 22-inch wheels might chop 15 per cent off the range achievable with 20-inch wheels. Tyres for the big hoops will be up to a grand a set. Faulty brake calipers potentially affecting the operation of the electronic parking brake led to a recall on cars built between February and October 2016. Power steering failure has been an issue, with a recall issued in 2020 for cars built in 2015 and 2016.
Earlier on we mentioned the delay to the start of Model X sales. Besides the battery issues, there were difficulties with the hydraulically-operated falcon-wing doors. Some owners found their doors opening or closing without warning. Poor alignment, squeaks in operation, wind noise and water leaks were also reported. We understand that Tesla took legal action against the Swiss supplier in regards to this. Uncooperative windows have also been a thing.
When working, the falcon-wing doors were undoubtedly cool as long as you weren’t in a low-roofed parking structure. Tesla said that you only needed 18 inches of lateral space between you and the next car to be able to open the doors, a tight ask if you’re sandwiched between two other SUVs. You could drive with the doors open though, so you could open them before parking or just tell your passengers to get the hell out before you moved into your space. Another downside of the falcon wing design was that no storage pockets could be incorporated in them.
There was the option of touch door opening – actual opening, not just unlocking – as long as you had the fob or credit card key about your person. Once you were inside, you just pressed the brake pedal to close the door.
The size and inconsistency of some of the Model X’s panel gaps and its poor paint and leaky seals would have Audi owners fainting in disbelief but advances have gradually been made in this area and also in the area of random suspension rattles.
Sitting in a high-spec Model X with the big pano roof over your head, the biggest windscreen on any production car in front of your face, the 17-inch portrait screen ahead of your left knee and the ‘yoke’ steering wheel in your lap was an alien sort of experience. All the main controls were situated on the yoke, with none of the usual stalks sticking out everywhere. It kind of made you wonder why all cars weren’t like it.
The quality of some of the cabin materials wasn’t quite so inspiring and the standard audio was pretty puny (an ultra hi-fi option cost) but the novel ability of the Model X’s central tablet to run not only every vehicle function but also much of your non-motoring life up to and including global takeover took your mind off most of these issues. We don’t propose to go into all the ways that a Model X will thrill and amaze you here other than to say that there are a lot of them. Autopilot may have generated some high-profile news stories over the years but when everything else was as it should be the system worked brilliantly. This is a sought-after feature in the used Model X market. The smaller digi driver’s display was clear and easy to use.
There was a big recall of nearly 135,000 Xs and S models in the US to look at touchscreen issues that might increase the risk of an accident. Screen freeze or blacking out is certainly not unknown. Nor was loss of access to music, Autopilot, sat nav, air con, radio, camera, indicators and hazard warning lights. The touchscreen could develop a yellowing around its borders caused by the fixing glue heating up. This was an S issue too. UV treatment could improve it but not always cure it.
In spring 2018 the MCU (Media Control Unit) was upgraded to version 2 with a 64Gb eMMC chip compared to the first MCU1’s 8Gb chip which was vulnerable to failure through overwork. You could tell which MCU a 2018 car had by pressing and holding both control wheels on the steering wheel for 10 seconds. If both displays rebooted, then the car had MCU2. If only one rebooted it had MCU1.
‘Ghosting’ was the name given to the onset of double vision that some X drivers have experienced, especially at night with doubled-up oncoming headlights. They put this down to the extraordinary size of the windscreen, but Tesla reckoned that this sort of thing happened in all laminated glass to varying degrees.
The Model X was the most aerodynamically efficient SUV on the market but its slippery shape didn’t negatively impact on passenger comfort. The initial default seating was for seven as the five-seat version wasn't produced until the early summer of 2022. The six-seat 'exec' layout attracted a fairly hefty premium of (we think) around £4k. Petrified second-row passengers experiencing the barmy acceleration of the hyper X models for the first time would have been pleased to note the amount of space their legs had to fly up into the air. Headroom was good there too, and getting in and out was a breeze thanks to the falcon-wing doors which closed at the push of a button. All three of those row-two chairs were electrically adjustable fore and aft, the centre one only from the main tablet screen.
Even the SUV’s traditionally poorly catered-for row-three occupants were well looked after in terms of space and airiness, although the one-piece construction of the row-two seats/headrests afforded little forward vision to back seat riders and the encroachment of the tailgate made you wonder how taller passengers might fare on a long journey. At least you knew that good levels of standard safety kit earned the Model X a five-star Euro NCAP rating, although there was a recall in mid-2017 to software-patch a non-deploying passenger airbag and another one shortly after to adjust seat-recline cables for the second row.
Isofix points were very neatly accessible underneath a flap. General storage for drinks, grub etc was as good as you’d expect for an American car, with the previously mentioned proviso of there not being any pockets in the falcon-wing doors. There was no loading lip for the boot, which with the back row folded flat to create more luggage space (the middle row didn’t) could hold up to 2,367 litres, which sounds unfeasibly large. The lack of any oily bits up front meant there was another cargo space under the bonnet holding 187 litres. Altogether the Model X had most of the ingredients that you’d want in a useable and user-friendly family wagon.
One of the biggest obstacles to Model X ownership in the early days was the £75,000 cost of buying one. Eight years on (is it really that long?), that’s much less of an issue. They're still not cheap, but the drop in entry-level prices to not much more than £30,000 certainly dulls the sting.
Other factors will have replaced simple purchase costs in the minds of many potential used Tesla buyers. The two most obvious ones are the expected lifespan of the batteries and the new volatility of energy prices. Again there’s no room here to get into all that stuff, but with regards to energy, things have obviously changed big time since 2018 when Tesla electricity usage costs amounted to around 5p a mile.
Nowadays the price gap between electricity and the headline liquid fuels is a lot narrower, especially if you're using the Supercharger network a lot rather than charging at home. Factors like these, plus the fact that constant updates and development make newer examples better, mean that cheap entry prices for older Model Xs don’t constitute the irresistible temptation you’d like to hope they might. Especially when you look at the problems they’ve had.
Classics apart, used car purchases always put affordability and desirability into direct conflict with each other and that’s particularly true with the Model X. You'll need to do your homework on whether a Model X makes economic sense. If you're not that bothered about running costs, the X's recipe of refinement, performance, practicality and enduring differentness may well be attractive enough on its own to seal the deal. You'll never experience the same feeling of manufacturing quality that you get in the best European cars but you will experience more than enough 'surprise and delight' elements to make you glad that you didn't go down the conventional route, should you choose a Tesla.
The good thing about shopping for a used Model X is that EVs don’t fit the old 12,000 miles-a-year average that used to be applied to internal combustion cars. A quick glance through the 90-odd Model Xs that were for sale on PH Classifieds at the time of writing confirmed that the vast majority of them don’t do anything like that sort of annual mileage. The highest mileage example on PH was this seven-seat 90D from 2016 with 110,000 miles. It was the only one to have cracked the six-figure mark. The next leggiest example was at 84,000.
Around seven in ten of those PH Model Xs had covered fewer than 40,000 miles, and many were a long way under that, highlighting their typical use as urban family runabouts or second cars, and if our PH sample is representative most Model Xs will have had fewer than three owners. Many you'll see will be single-owner cars.
We have seen Xs for sale in the UK at just over £33,000 but the best value one on PH as we went to press was this 37,000-mile 6-seat 75D with the new-gen MCU2 at £43,989. For a more full-fat experience less than £1,000 more will buy this 90D with 74,000 miles. For some, it will be Performance Ludicrous or nothing. If that’s you, there’s a good choice on PH, including this 8,000-miler at £65k on the electronic nose.
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