Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?

Tesla Model X: Electric, all-wheel drive, and crazy folding doors

Tesla previewed the Model X in Los Angeles, and the highlight of the new vehicle was not the electric power train, but innovative folding side doors.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
2 min read
Tesla Model X
Wayne Cunningham/CNET

LOS ANGELES--The highlight of the Model X introduction, Tesla's SUV, was not the electric power train, but what the company calls the falcon-wing doors.

The manufacturer being Tesla, it was a given that the Model X would be an electrically driven vehicle. So during a preview for a small group of journalists at Tesla's design center in Los Angeles, Tesla CEO Elon Musk focused on the innovative side doors.

These doors lift up from the sides, then hinge in the middle before gaining their full height. Unlike gull-wing doors, Tesla's doors can open in much narrower spaces. Musk said they give the Model X the largest door openings of any passenger car. Impressively, he was able to stand in the car, his head underneath the open door, without crouching.

The Model X, which is built on a slightly elongated version of the Model S platform, has a full third row. Musk demonstrated that it could be accessed without folding down the middle-row seats. Instead, the middle row slid forward.

Tesla Model X preview (photos)

See all photos
Click through for the full photo gallery and more details.

Like the Model S, the Model X has its lithium ion battery pack in the base of the car. Tesla will likely offer the same battery configuration options that it does for the Model S, although the Model X should get 10 percent to 12 percent less range due to its increased weight.

But in keeping with the Model X's SUV-style body, Tesla will offer an all-wheel-drive variant, along with a base rear-wheel-drive model. For all-wheel drive, Tesla puts another motor at the front wheels. Unlike gas engine cars, which can shift torque from front to back, Tesla can reduce or increase torque at each set of wheels individually. That means the car's computer can tell the front motor to apply, for example, 25 percent torque, while still giving 100 percent torque to the rear wheels, based on the driving conditions.

Musk says he does not expect the Model X prototype to change much in its looks when it reaches production. Most changes would be done to improve aerodynamics. The car keeps many of the design elements of the Model S, although with a higher roofline. Tesla Chief Designer Franz von Holzhausen says he tried to design the car to not look too masculine or too feminine.

The Model X is slated to enter production in 2013, with sales beginning in 2014. Pricing is expected to be similar to that of the Model S.