Tesla Model X: Winging it
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The words "Countdown to the launch of" in a headline made a Driven staff member quip, "before we know it Countdown supermarkets will be selling cars".
Serendipitously, friends of mine were at that moment in the basement of a Countdown in Hamilton, buying a new Tesla Model X.
It wasn't a dodgy deal, instead Tesla NZ had set up shop for the day in Hamilton at its supercharger in the basement of the Countdown carpark.
The Model X SUV is the second vehicle from the US manufacturer to be launched in New Zealand, following the Tesla S and soon to be joined by the Model 3.
The Model X starts at $129,145 (including on road costs) for a 75D with a 417km EV range.
Driven's test vehicle was the 100D that has a 100kWh battery with a 565km range, the biggest mileage out of the lineup, with a price starting at $169,745.
It has a top speed of 250km/h with 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds.
While a black exterior, cloth interior five-seater is the starter model, my test model had 'vegan' white leather seats (an extra $5100 over the standard cloth).
Those white seats, while on first inspection looked hard to maintain, wiped clean with household spray but better still, at a distance, it looks like you're transporting Storm Troopers.
Auckland | Wairau Valley
$130.28 p/w $521.12 p/m
If you want a six-seater with aisle or console in the middle, you add $9200 to the bill or for the seven-seater the price is $4600 more.
Get ready to spend $9200 for the premium upgrade package that includes self-presenting front door (that opens to exact width as the driver approaches), heated seats and steering wheel, audio system, and medical-grade HEPA air con.
If you want the advanced autopilot expect to add $7700, while the full self-drive is $4600.
For the onyx black 22in wheels add $8400 while metallic paint is an extra $1500.
My friends, keen on a buying a Model X, had flown up to Auckland from the South Island only to find the Tesla store that's temporarily located on Ponsonby Road had moved to Hamilton for the day.
Having just tested the Model X, I arranged for the Tesla again and picked them up from the airport - and there they had the first glance at what it's like to be an owner of the SUV.
I exited the Model X and, tapping the car-shaped key fob three times on the roof, all the passenger doors opened, including the famous falcon doors.
At first glance they are formidable and when raised resemble one of the dragons from Game of Thrones but they aren't as scary as one of Daenerys' winged children.
They are hinged so can open out and slightly up or a little bit open and very high in as small a gap as 30.5cm.
Opening the falcon doors in a supermarket car park can be daunting but remember: if a B-pillar hinged passenger door can't open in this space then the falcon doors won't either.
I have a carpark space in the basement at work and at my first tentative go the falcon doors opened narrowly and lowly with enough room for me to grab my laptop back from the seat.
To close them, you can either tap the fob, press a button on the winged panel of the door, or - as I preferred - on the 17in infotainment centre where you can open and close all the doors plus front trunk (frunk) or boot (trunk).
The infotainment screen, like the Model S, is easy to use, with features such as air con on the bottom of the screen.
Model X has the largest all-glass panoramic windshield in production, but the solar tinting on the upper half of the screen stops you from cooking.
What makes the Model X magical is the instant torque: put your foot on the accelerator and Pow!, you're off at warp speed. It's a feature that never got old, though my leadfoot impacted the battery life but not so much that I had to charge the Model X during my four days in it.
The rear passenger seats have enough head and legroom for adults in all three rows. I loved the easy access to the third row and the fact I could move the second row seats backward and forward.
Tesla Model X
Power source: 100kWh battery
Pro: Instant torque; falcon doors
Con: Needs more safety features