2021 Tesla Model X Review
Although the Model X debuted over five years ago, it's still essentially a unicorn in the market. Even if you take its showstopping falcon-wing rear doors out of the equation, no other SUV — electric or otherwise — can match the Model X's acceleration. Throw in its impressive 360 miles of estimated driving range and you really do have a one-of-a-kind vehicle.
For 2021, Tesla has updated the interior of the Model X with a higher-definition 17-inch touchscreen, a new instrument panel, and a rather controversial steering wheel design that looks more like something from an airplane than a car. The automaker also changed the name of the Performance version to Plaid, a reference to the Mel Brooks movie Spaceballs.
Direct competitors are few, with Tesla's own Model S sedan the most similar in range and performance. If you don't need the space the Model X offers, the smaller Tesla Model Y is also worth a look. Audi's e-tron SUV is another all-electric luxury SUV, while the Mercedes-Benz GLE offers superior interior materials and build quality, though it's currently only available with a gasoline engine. Is the Model X a truly unique world beater? Read our Expert Rating below to find out.
What's it like to live with?
Edmunds' editorial team acquired and lived with a 2016 Tesla Model X for nearly two years, logging nearly 25,000 miles. As an all new-design for Tesla, it had a few teething problems at first and suffered from some build-quality issues. The 2021 Tesla Model X differs from our early long-term Model X by way of improved cabin materials and significantly upgraded software, and build quality in recent Teslas we've driven is much improved. It's the same generation, though, so many of our observations still apply. To learn more about the Tesla Model X, check out our 2016 Tesla Model X coverage.
There's so many interesting aspects to the Model X — the panoramic windshield, the upward-opening falcon-wing doors and the sports car-beating acceleration — that you can almost overlook the fact that the Tesla Model X is electric. Cargo and passenger space is impressive, too, as long you opt for the five-seat configuration. But subpar smartphone integration and a lack of practicality continue to be weak spots.
How does the Model X drive?
Performance has become the calling card of the Tesla brand and the midsize Model X upholds that reputation. Our test Model X Long Range accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds at the Edmunds test track, which is quick for a luxury SUV. And this isn't even the Performance version.
Balancing out that impressive speed are excellent brakes that are both easy to use in traffic and strong and confident when you need to stop in a hurry. There's enough regenerative braking when lifting off the accelerator that you can often drive around without touching the brake pedal. Ultra-quick steering makes the X feel nimble, while its low center of gravity and adaptive suspension keep body motions to a minimum. This sizable family SUV drives more like a car.
Also worth noting: The adaptive air suspension provides up to 8.9 inches of ground clearance when you need it.
How comfortable is the Model X?
One benefit of the larger Tesla models, including the Model X, is the adaptive air suspension, which significantly improves ride comfort. Even with 20-inch wheels and an exceptionally high tire pressure of 45 psi, the Model X boasts an admirable ability to absorb bumps in the road. This quality, along with a cabin well insulated against outside noise, makes for a very comfortable environment.
As far as seats go, the Model X's are pretty well cushioned and provide enough adjustments to dial in your personal comfort. But the simulated leather upholstery lacks breathability, so even mildly warm weather can make the seats feel swampy. The Model X's climate controls are simple to use, but know that the extra-large windshield lets in a bit more heat during hot summer days than a typical-size windshield.
How’s the interior?
Obviously, the doors are the biggest story here on the Model X. First you have the driver's door that opens automatically and can be shut without lifting a finger (brilliant!). Then you have the rear doors that open like wings (conversation starter!) and provide unmatched access to the rear seats. But they can also be liabilities in places/garages with low ceilings.
The Model X's centralized touchscreen interface is pretty straightforward and easy to use. It's the gateway to most vehicle functions except for a few things the driver needs, such as wiper controls and mirror adjustments. Those thankfully have their own controls.
Interior space is generous for the first and second rows. The complex falcon-wing door mechanisms intrude somewhat on third-row headroom. Oh, and that aforementioned extra-large windshield provides a panoramic view out like no other.
How’s the tech?
For all the technological marvels in the Model X, there are some shortcomings. The lack of proper smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is a big drawback, and Bluetooth is a poor substitute. If you're parked, you've got access to an internet browser that allows you to do stuff like watch Netflix or scroll through YouTube videos — provided you're subscribed to a Tesla data plan or connected to Wi-Fi.
The Model X's advanced driver aids also didn't prove as robust as those in other Teslas we've tested. The adaptive cruise control was prone to false positive collision warnings, and lane centering seemed to favor the driver-side line instead of the center. The real-time digital map of all the cars and motorcycles around you is pretty neat to see, and we like that you can pull up the rearview camera anytime you want.
One of the greatest innovations from Tesla, however, is constant over-the-air updates that can add new features and system optimizations. Also, the big center screen is the largest in the industry, with crisp graphics and a stunning Google-based nav system. Our only gripe is that it can leave you temporarily mapless in spotty service areas.
How’s the storage?
Storage is excellent in the Model X. The combination of a large 26-cubic-foot rear cargo area with generous underfloor storage (sans optional third row) plus the largest front trunk in the segment makes the X the best at hauling cargo. Though we don't recommend an EV if you need to tow things over long distances, the Model X is capable of towing up to 5,000 pounds.
In-cabin storage for small items is better than average but still not ideal. There's sizable storage underneath a sliding cover with configurable partitions. They're a bit clumsy, though, and not the most efficient design. A flip-up wireless phone charger holds your phone securely while it charges.
The falcon-wing doors absolutely rule for car seat access, and there's sufficient room for a large rear-facing seat behind an average-size driver. Car seat anchors are tucked a bit deep, though, and the fixed headrests mean awkward routing of top tethers to the side.
How economical is the Model X?
The Model X Long Range we tested (not the latest Long Range Plus) has an EPA-estimated range of 328 miles and a consumption of 35 kWh per 100 miles, which is less efficient than the average luxury EV. But the Model X is one of the larger EVs sold and boasts impressive performance.
In Edmunds' real-world testing, we saw 294 miles of range and matched the EPA's estimate of 35 kWh/100 miles. This involved charging the battery to full for max range, which should only be done for longer road trips. A lower charge for daily use is what the manufacturer recommends.
The X comes with an 11.5-kW onboard charger and the usual assortment of charge cord options, including a standard 120-volt household adapter, a 240-volt SAE adapter (for public charge equipment) and a NEMA 14-50 adapter (what you'd find at an RV park). It also works with Tesla's nationwide Supercharger network, which can make long-distance driving a viable option.
Is the Model X a good value?
Overall, the Model X's pricing is pretty competitive among midsize luxury EVs even without the benefit of a tax credit. Tesla's build quality has steadily improved over the years, though the Model X's is still a bit below the competition. You do get a battery range and performance advantage, but the interior lacks the solidity of an Audi, even if the minimalist design is visually appealing.
The basic warranty is four years and 50,000 miles, which is about average but less than what Jaguar offers. The powertrain is covered for eight years/150,000 miles, and Tesla guarantees that the battery will retain at least 70% of its original capacity over that period.
The Model X is engineered to wow. It'll impress your passengers with its sheer speed and panoramic windshield, and it'll entertain parents in the school pickup line as your kids pile in through an outstretched falcon-wing door. The X's theatrics have likely converted a good number of SUV fans to EVs.
Even a base Model X is pretty fun to hustle around. That's thanks to the low-mounted battery weight that makes it feel more like a car than an SUV. The immediate thrust from the electric motors becomes addicting, so much so that you might swear off gas-powered cars for good.
Which Model X does Edmunds recommend?
Unless you need the absurd level of performance offered by the Plaid trim level, we'd recommend the Model X in its Long Range trim. Not only do you save a considerable amount of money over the Plaid, but you get a longer driving range (as the name suggests) as well as more performance than even the most high-performance SUVs can deliver. A popular option, though not an inexpensive one, is Tesla's Autopilot driver assistance system.
Tesla Model X models
The Tesla Model X is a battery electric SUV with seating for five, six or seven people. Two trim levels are available, Long Range and Plaid (formerly the Performance trim), and every Model X is all-wheel-drive. The estimated range is 360 miles for the Long Range and 340 miles for the Plaid. Of note: Tesla has the ability to upgrade or add features through over-the-air updates, so features may be added or expanded throughout the model year.