The SUV embodies the whiz-bang spirit of Silicon Valley. But in spots it’s still in beta.
It’s been a tough road for Tesla Motors tsla lately. The electric-auto maker has been weathering growing pains since the launch of its Model X sport-utility vehicle, including production delays, quality-control issues, and a recall on third-row seats that could unlatch in a crash. But the Palo Alto company is now delivering the seven-seater in solid numbers, suggesting that it was time to give the luxury family vehicle a road test.
My first impression of the Model X (Tesla lent me a deep blue metallic version) was extremely positive. For starters, the vehicle greets you by automatically opening the driver’s door when you approach it—a chauffeur-esque touch that’s also functional if you are carrying items. When you sit and place your foot on the brake pedal, the door automatically closes.
There are also the double-hinged falcon-wing doors, which flawlessly sensed their surroundings and opened accordingly. (They knew to stop inches from the walls of my narrow garage as well as from cars parked too close in a public lot.) Thanks to their top hinges, the doors also gave me better access to the second- and third-row seats than a traditional door would—a much chicer solution than any minivan could provide.
There is also the industry-leading autopilot system; it drove me for hours on Interstate 405 in Los Angeles without intervention. It also drove me around town, though I had to take over more often. There are two systems that power the Tesla autopilot system: one that controls speed and another that controls steering. Once both sensed acceptable conditions for autopilot to activate, the option appeared at the top of the driver’s information screen. Two tugs on the autopilot stalk later, the Model X was steering, lane-centering, and braking by itself. (It even cut off another driver trying to snake in front of me.) The experience was surreal, but once I got over my lack of control, it was fun to experience and impressive, even though the system is still in its early days. Though one note to Tesla: The company should work extra hard to make sure drivers understand what autopilot can’t yet do, including reading stop signs and traffic lights.
Courtesy of Tesla
And did I mention Ludicrous mode? With one stomp of the right pedal on my highest-end P90D model, I could go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds and turn the 5,300-pound SUV into a screaming sports car. That acceleration cannot be overstated. Unlike a traditional gasoline engine, electric motors offer 100% of available torque immediately, allowing the Model X to leap off the line in a way that will no doubt attract attention from law enforcement. That unsubtle performance is hinted at only by the rear badge: “P” stands for performance, 90 for the 90-kilowatt-hour battery system, “D” for dual motor AWD. The underline signals Ludicrous mode.
Tesla’s Model X includes 12 ultrasonic Autopilot sensors.Photo: Courtesy of Tesla
To further remove the range anxiety of owning an all-electric vehicle, Tesla developed a navigation system that automatically plots your trip as well as stops along the way to allow you to recharge if you’re going farther than 250 miles. (It also tells you how long you’ll need to spend recharging.) The system defaults to show Tesla Supercharger stations first, which appear as red icons on the map; regular chargers show up in gray. If you are driving hard enough to run down your battery’s charge faster, the car will automatically update your trip to get you to a charger sooner.
Flaws? Yes, a few. Tesla promised me that the Model X’s second-row seats move in such a way as to allow a baby seat to be in place and yet still move to access the third row. I borrowed a friend’s three-month-old baby—yes, really—and her Uppababy Mesa babyseat and discovered very quickly that the system moved the rear-facing seat far enough forward to hit the back of the driver’s seat. Worse, it started to tip the second-row seats, squeezing the car seat’s frame with the baby in it. Definitely not okay.
When I asked a Tesla product specialist about the issue, he said that Tesla meant that a car seat could be in place, but not with a baby in it. That’s too important a hair to split. If that is a true limitation of the movable second-row seats, there should be warnings clearly posted inside the vehicle. (There were not.)
Tesla’s Model X includes a “Bioweapon Defense Mode” air filter.Photo: Courtesy of Tesla
Tesla also promised me that I could fit a baby stroller into the front trunk space—this is a family vehicle after all. (Not having a traditional drivetrain frees up lots of great space in the vehicle). I gave it a test with the City Select by Baby Jogger—a foldable model that could hold the removable carseat, rather than a full stroller—and failed, to my frustration. The stroller didn’t fit easily fit into the back of the vehicle, either, without moving the cargo shelf down or folding the third row seats flat—a maneuver that activated the second-row seats to move forward, squeezing the baby seat up against the driver’s seat.
Fit and finish were disappointing in places. Though my test vehicle was new, the weather stripping around one door hung like laundry on a clothesline. And carpeting in spots was poorly glued and fraying on the edges, exposing some wires in the rear cargo area.
The upside of a vehicle from Silicon Valley? Rapid iteration. When early owners complained about doors that opened too slowly, Tesla issued a software upgrade that sped them up by two seconds. Tesla worked tirelessly to solve early issues in its Model S sedan; it’s likely it will do the same with the Model X. Now that’s what I call “value add.”
A version of this article appears in the June 1, 2016 issue of Fortune with the headline “X Marks the Spot.”