Roadshow

SF Motors has an appetite for Tesla Model X

The SF5 and SF7 have a motor for every corner, but a range that falls in line with physics.

Josh Miller/CNET

SF Motors unveiled itself and its first two planned vehicles at a glitzy global event in Silicon Valley on March 28. Here's the outline of a company in a sea of startups that can look pretty similar from a distance.

It will make two high performance crossovers with sleek coupe lines, the SF5 and SF7. Think Model X without the tricky "falcon" doors but with 1,000 horsepower in the top four-motor configuration that gets to 60mph in 3.0 seconds. Versions with less power, fewer motors and a lower MSRP will be the bulk of production, of course. Notably, SF Motors will design and build its own motors, inverters and batteries as well as assembling cars in its own factories in Indiana and China, factories that actually exist unlike the gold-shovel theater we got from Faraday recently.

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A planned range of 300 miles on a charge is, frankly, nothing special nor is the ability to swallow an 80 percent charge in 30 minutes on a fast charger. But down the road that paradigm could change as they digest the recent acquisition of InEVit and its founder, Martin Eberhard of Tesla fame. In the meantime, SF Motors says a range extender option is under development for virtually endless electric range; Chevy Volt showed that can be a popular architecture, BMW i3 showed it also can't.

Since the fatal Uber/Volvo self-driving crash in Tempe, the world looks at self-driving cars differently. SF Motors CEO John Zhang says his company's head was already wrapped around autonomy as a safety technology, not one that frees you to scroll Facebook as you roll down the highway. They'll continue to develop it as a major driver assist, but not quite replacement.

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Hardly a knob or button in sight. Cool at an unveiling, maddening on the road in our experience. But the seamless expanse of glass interface has merit.

Josh Miller/CNET

Inside, the SF5 and SF7 offer a lot of glass overhead, in front of you and all across the dash. These vehicles are utilities in overall shape, but sybaritic in interior appointments. It's too soon to judge the cabin tech, but assume the stark lack of physical knobs and buttons may change a little. At least I hope it does.

The SF5 goes on pre-order at end of this year while the larger SF7 will join it sometime in 2019. That will also be the time frame when I'll want to see what SF Motors does with its acquisition of InEVit and how well it positions the brand outside the ring of startups forming in Tesla's orbit.