After waiting years for Tesla Motors Inc. to show off the Model X, 52 minutes surely felt like nothing to the adoring fans of the electric-car maker and Chief Executive Elon Musk.
A launch event for the SUV started nearly one hour behind schedule on Tuesday evening, but judging from the wild cheers that accompanied every detail about the car it was meant to highlight, it really didn’t matter.
The X was proof once again that “any type of car can go electric,” Musk told an audience of at least a thousand at a warehouse near the Tesla factory in Fremont, California, before the first five customers (plus Musk) got their hands on a Model X.
Those first customers included venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, who got a white Model X. Musk kept a black Model X with white upholstery for himself, and hinted that another was for Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who was in the audience.
The first Model X owners paid at least $132,000 for a fully loaded “signature” model (including a $40,000 deposit). Prices for other trims weren’t available.
Tesla first showed a concept for the car in 2012, with an initial target launch of late 2013. The car has been continually delayed while sales of the Model S sedan — the first all-electric car fully designed and built by the Silicon Valley auto maker — picked up. Tesla hopes to start production on its next car, the Model 3, in about two years, according to Musk, and price it lower for mass-market consumption.
Musk started Tuesday’s event by extolling the Model X’s five-star safety record, and moved on its air-filtering ability, unveiling a “bioweapon defense mode” meant to protect people inside the car from a chemical attack.
“If there’s ever an apocalyptical scenario,” Musk said, “press the button.”
The wildest cheers came as Musk demonstrated how the falcon wings worked — by having another makers’ minivan and SUV park very near the X, with barely enough space for Musk to squeeze in.
The doors moved up and over smoothly. Unlike gull wings of the past, the falcon-wing door has two hinges to better negotiate tighter spaces, Musk said. The doors also have sensors that can gauge ceiling heights and other obstructions and help navigate around them.
Musk also demonstrated another much talked about feature of the X, its second-row seats. They move forward at the press of a button to allow access to the third row. The car comes with auto emergency breaking and side-collision avoidance as a standard feature. It also comes with a cell-phone holster that can charge any phones, he said.
“It’s the small things that are important,” Musk said.
The Signature Model X comes with a 90 kWh battery that powers it for 250 miles between charges. It reaches top speeds of 155 miles per hour, and goes from zero to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds.