It definitely won’t be cheap, even for Singapore, but driving a Tesla is a Silicon Valley technology extravaganza you won’t get anywhere else as the Model X SUV shows
Evangelists are always irritating.
It’s a combination of their sheer enthusiasm (“You HAVE to try this NOW!” “Uh, okay, but…Crossfit at a funeral?”), their glee at being part of the bleeding edge hype train , and the fact that they’re answering a question nobody asked.
I still view Crossfit as one step removed from a cult. Despite cutting down, I am still eating meat. Even if I had the cash, I’m not going to run out and buy a Tesla right frickin’ now, but at least now I understand the reasons why rabid Tesla fans – they’re called EVangelists (EV, geddit?) – exist.
Tesla’s story here is an already dramatic one. Back in 2010 it setup an office here with an eye to sell more than a handful of its Roadster model (its only model back then, basically a Tesla-fied Lotus Elise) with tax-breaks.
Singapore being Singapore, those incentives never materialised, and Tesla left Singapore in 2011 six months after it landed. No surprise, given the hard line against any incentives to car ownership, no matter how clean.
Founder Elon Musk still maintains that Singapore isn’t welcoming of the company, but that’s perhaps because Tesla has failed to understand the realities of doing business here. Singapore isn’t welcoming to cars full stop. Even if they’re powered by unicorn farts, they’re still going to get the heck taxed out of them.
But the allure of owning a Tesla is strong enough that a few were self-imported/PI-ed already back in 2016.
That allure is also why ex-Ferrari dealer Hong Seh Motors started grey imports of Teslas here last year, and has already sold a handful of them. The line-up currently consists of the Model S big sedan, and this, the Model X SUV.
Other Teslas, including the Model 3 and forthcoming Model Y SUV will be available, and the lead time for ordering one is anywhere from a few weeks to months, but Hong Seh says basically anything you can conjure up on the Tesla UK website configurator can be ordered for customers here, including the Model X in six- and seven-seat options.
As the six-months from its then arrival to departure shows, Tesla is a company that moves very quickly, no surprise since we should consider it more of a tech company than a traditional car maker.
The existing models are constantly changing (mostly for the better, from what we gather) and that’s why the car driven here, the Model X 75D is already obsolete. Any future Model Xs sold will be in Long-Range or Performance spec with a 100kWh battery pack (quoted range of approximately 460km) with 0-100km/h dropping to 4.6-seconds and 3.7-seconds respectively, and maximum speed increased to 250km/h.
The fact that Tesla does things differently is quite obvious from appearance of the Model X, unlike the Model S, which could pass off as a normal sedan without a close look.
The Model X has a unique liftback shape – it resembles an engorged Toyota Prius more than a conventional SUV. At 5,055mm long, 2272mm wide, and 1684mm tall, it’s a big machine. Halfway between a BMW X5 and X7 in size, though it’s even wider than the latter, and shorter than both cars.
It looks elegant from the front and side, though the tall rear does appear clunky, the design is pared back, almost too basic – no creases or flourishes here – for a luxury car, if it weren’t for those doors.
The ‘falcon wing’ doors require only 30-cm of clearance on each side (they’ll detect the clearance automatically) and arc gracefully up, then outward on their own.
If anything embodies the idea of a futuristic, self-driving hover pod, it’s the Model X. It’s not just the cool doors, but the panoramic front windscreen and top-windows for the passengers.
There’s huge amounts of room for everyone, and an absolutely cavernous boot with even more underfloor storage, and don’t forget the front boot as well. Combined boot capacity is 2,166-litres, and you could easily fit a whole shopping cart in the back, or even two.
Then there’s the cockpit. Unlike every other luxury car, there’s the pared-back aesthetic again though there’s an obvious reason for it: That infotainment screen.
At 17-inches it’s colossal. Even the new VW Touareg has ‘only’ a 15-inch unit, but it’s not just about comparing inches. In portrait orientation, the way you use it is just like an iPad, you can drag, drop, surf the Net, swipe the virtual slider buttons to customise choices.
We said Audi went to war on buttons in the latest A6, but Tesla decided to excommunicate them long ago – there are no other buttons (steering wheel and controls aside) in the cockpit, and you control everything from the ‘tablet’, from the lights, to all of the doors (all five are electric), climate control, and driving settings.
In fact, there isn’t even a starter button. You simply walk up to the car, the driver door opens automatically, you get in, hit the brake and it closes by itself, shift to ‘D’ and you roll off.
Reverse the process when you park, no buttons needed. In fact we couldn’t figure out how to leave the car in ‘idle’ unlocked, which is why all the static photos are with the wing-mirrors folded in (duh).
The driving experience is what you’d expect from a luxury EV. Like the Jaguar I-Pace, there’s a tremendous amount of instant-go available to you at all times, the cabin whisper quiet (except for a few creaks) as you swoosh along silently.
Air suspension levels the car automatically, and like the Jag, the low-mount battery gives the Model X a level of agility unexpected from a 2.3-tonne SUV.
It’s also a very safe vehicle. the only one, Tesla boasts, to rate five stars in everything on the US NHTSA safety tests. Autopilot, which despite the name isn’t a self-drive system but an adaptive cruise with steering assist (like BMW and Mercedes), isn’t approved for use here (though it’s present as standard on all Teslas).
But the useful byproduct is the car’s traffic display, which shows you a 360-degree virtual view surrounding traffic on the instrument panel – cars, trucks, even motorcycles – and is terribly useful as the world’s most detailed blind-spot indicator system.
Tesla was really the first legit luxury EV maker, because its battery and management tech was up to scratch and the cars delivered proper range.
The Model X 75D has a quoted range of 380km, we started at 97 percent and ended with 60 percent, covering 100km in the process. That included time stationary for shoots, and Ju-Len driving, so netting close to 300km on a single charge should be very possible for normal people.
There are no Superchargers (Tesla’s fast-charge network) here, and the car only has a Type 2 AC charging capability without the Combined Charging System (CCS) plug, so fast-charge on SP’s DC chargers isn’t possible.
Hong Seh supplies a Schneider wallbox using three-phase 240V electricity with the car, and it says a full charge is doable in under five hours.
So what is it really like the drive a Tesla in Singapore?
We’d say it’s the most impressive American car we’ve ever driven, but that would be damning it with faint praise, because they’re generally not very good.
It really does feel like a car from Silicon Valley not Stuttgart, the metaphor of an iPhone on wheels was never more appropriate. Everything possible is automated, the emphasis is on the user experience, you can choose and customise everything.
If there is a drawback, it’s that the level of opulence and nitty gritty build quality isn’t as high as you’d find on a German luxury car, keeping in mind you’ll be paying more than $500k with COE for the new variants of the Model X.
Also consider that because of Singapore’s archaic Road Tax calculations, the Model X’s annual road tax bill is an eye-watering $8,347 – a Ferrari Portofino’s $3,724 for its 600hp, 3.9-litre V8 seems a bargain in comparison.
Tesla’s broad appeal lies not just in it being a next-wave car, it would even appeal to people who hate driving but love the idea of a high tech mobility device.
Keep in mind that the Model X first appeared three years ago. If we had tried it back then, it would have been utterly mind-blowing. Conventional carmakers are still playing catch-up, they’re not that far off anymore.
I wouldn’t interrupt a funeral to force someone into the driver’s seat, but the experience of driving a Tesla is compelling enough that I’d recommend trying one before you die.
Tesla Model X 75D
|Electric Motor||Dual 259hp motors, 658Nm total|
|Battery||Lithium ion, 75kWh|
|Charge Time / Type||4-5 hours / Schneider wallbox, 3-phase 240V|
|VES Band / CO2||A2/ 0gkm|
|Agent||Hong Seh Motors|
|Price||S$440,000 with COE (as tested)|