BY Owen Bergwall, Green Car & Technology Contributor Hyundai recently…
Tesla Model X 90D: An Owner’s Perspective
A few weeks ago, my brother (and fellow car enthusiast) connected me with his colleague who happens to be an enthusiastic owner of a brand-new Tesla Model X 90D. Meet Marc Matthews. Based in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Mark leads pre-sales systems engineering as Director of Sales Engineering for Accedian Networks. He has more than 20 years experience in the communications industry, meaning Marc has seen quite a few revolutions in technology. As a so-called “early adopter”, Marc evangelizes for products that make the world better. He bought a laptop, high speed internet, DVR, smartphone, and now, the future of automobiles, early in their release cycle.
In this month’s Industry Pulse feature column, we’re getting the scoop from a new Tesla Model X P90D owner, straight from the Lone Star State. Marc placed the order for his Model X back in 2014 and is excited to finally get to enjoy the car he reserved more than two years ago. Here’s our Q&A with Marc Matthews:
Tell us all about your new, electric baby. What color is it? What options did you select?
My Tesla Model X is a 90D variant, which I picked because it offered the highest range (257 miles) and was cheaper than the P90D. I got most options available, with the exception of the Winter and Towing packages. I “upgraded” the paint to the Pearl White, plus black 22” rims. The dealership called this “the Stormtrooper” version (as in Star Wars). Here is what it looks like:
What’s your favorite feature of your Model X?
It’d have to be the auto-opening and closing driver’s doors. All of the doors have electric open and close capability, but the driver’s door will automatically open when you approach the car with the key fob. Then, when you get in and “start” the car by putting your foot on the brake, the door closes. When you arrive at your destination and put the Model X in Park, the touchscreen displays the door controls. You can make the driver’s door open, get out like a rock-star and walk away from your car. The driver’s door will auto-close once you are a few feet away from the car. Everyone is amazed! There are some people that don’t like the auto-presenting driver’s door, so you can turn it off in the settings screen.
What did you do on your first day with the Model X?
Took it for a drive around town, of course! Driving it takes some getting used to – I read the owners manual again that night to go over features I didn’t learn/remember from the two-hour orientation at the Tesla Service Center.
The Model X is it for us, even for long distances. We are fortunate in Texas to have eight superchargers along the major interstates, and four more being built now.
What’s it like to drive the Model X in (of all places) Texas?
You would think that a state known for oil would not be welcoming to an all electric car. Well, that is mostly correct. There is currently no tax break for buying or driving an electric car – although, to be fair, we don’t have state or local income taxes. Also, Texas is one of the states where the existing junta of car dealers have successfully blocked Tesla’s right to sell directly to the public. Sure, Tesla has several showrooms and there are Service Centers in Dallas, Houston and Austin. However, I had to “buy” my Tesla in California and then transfer the title to Texas. This seems needless and is as easy to get around as not paying sales tax on your Internet purchases.
On the road around town, in an area of big gas-guzzling SUVs and high-end luxury cars, the Model X gets lots of attention. The valets have been excited to “park” it and it always gets front-row treatment.
I have had more than my share of people who want to drag-race me. Apparently, the viral videos that show that the Tesla can beat just about anything on the road inspire people to test their cars. I did NOT buy the “Ludicrous” mode upgrade (it would have been another $22K on top of the $117K spent!), so my Model X 90D “only” does 0-60mph in 4.7 seconds (LOL).
Do you have a separate ICE vehicle that you drive long distances, or is the Model X your primary vehicle?
I do not have a separate ICE vehicle; my wife does, but it is not capable of hauling our whole family including dogs. The Model X is it for us, even for long distances. We are fortunate in Texas to have 8 superchargers along the major interstates, and four more being built now.
I took my first Tesla long-distance trip last weekend. We drove 756 miles round-trip from Dallas to San Antonio. There are two superchargers (Waco and San Marcos) that we used both ways. The Tesla navigation tells you to stop and how long to charge for – it even notifies your iPhone when charging is done! When I told a friend of mine about the trip afterwards, he said that it sounds just like being a pilot: you need to plan how much fuel to bring and where you can stop to refuel. My daughter liked the stops – one was a bakery where we got cookies and the other was an outlet. I am saving on gas, but spending more on food and shopping during these road trips!
You’re admittedly a huge Tesla and Apple fan. What is it about these innovative companies that have you saying, “Take my money!”?
I love quality products. For me, time is happiness (and in my work, time is money). I switched to Apple computers years ago when I was fed up with “control-alt-delete to fix problems” and “Windoze” updates. I used to build my own PCs, but now Apple does that for me. I usually buy their machines at the beginning of a sales cycle, because you get the latest hardware for a decent price. Plus, they stand by their products (with AppleCare), and you can take them into any Apple store to have a real Genius help you.
The Tesla is NOT the same as an Apple product. If you’ve read the press recently, you know that the Model X has had all kinds of quality problems.
I stopped trying to help my friends/family with their Windows PCs. My Father still buys a new Windows PC every year because they “break”: he gets viruses, or the drivers get screwed up, or the machine gets too slow, or you name it. I pass my old Macs onto my mom and brother – they never have any issues. My mother is using a 2012 Apple Mac Mini and my brother uses my old 2010 MacBook Pro with no complaints, viruses or slowdowns. These four and six year old machines function just as well as the day I bought them. Everybody says “Apple costs more,” but I like less frustration.
The Tesla is NOT the same as an Apple product. If you’ve read the press recently, you know that the Model X has had all kinds of quality problems. I am happy to report that I have not had any problems, but my heart goes out to those who have documented their woes. I think in this day and age of social media, it is easier to blast your issues all over the place. Tesla is one of those companies people seem to love to hate. When I told a friend that I finally got my Model X, he snarked, “Do your falcon wing doors work?!?”
I did not buy the Model X to save time, but rather, I was thinking it would save me money. At the time I reserved, gas was $4/gallon (for regular unleaded — never mind what those Lexus and BMW owners pay for super-unleaded!), and I thought “gas will go higher in the future.” Believe me, when I filled up for $1.33/gallon earlier this year, I was thinking “Oh brother, I’ll never cost-justify the Tesla.” It’s probably still not going to pay for itself in the decade that the batteries are warranted for, but then I can fall back on “helping the planet out for our kids (and their kids, etc)”.
I firmly believe that by the time my 8 year-old daughter is old enough to drive, she will NOT be driving an ICE car, no matter what the price of gas is. Electric cars are the future because of cost and features.
You probably know that they used to burn coal for heat in most homes back in the 1800/1900’s. It created horrible air conditions for people so we moved away from it to heat from electrical and natural gas. I firmly believe that by the time my 8 year-old daughter is old enough to drive, she will NOT be driving an ICE car, no matter what the price of gas is. Electric cars are the future because of cost and features.
Tell us about the delivery experience. What makes this process unique from the traditional dealership delivery process?
Ok, so here is my first negative thing I’ll say about Tesla. I put $5K down on a car I didn’t know a thing about – hadn’t seen any pictures of it, didn’t know what it could do (or couldn’t), or how much it would cost. Tesla happily took my $5K and probably made a lot of money on it over the time they had it.
Well, that first year came and went, and Tesla sent me a holiday card in December 2014 saying that they were “looking forward to delivering my Model X in 2015” and thanking me for my patience. Well, 2015 was nearly over when they announced an event on September 30. This was when they delivered the first five Model X’s and we finally got to see the “finished” product after several years of speculation. However, even after that, I still didn’t know what options there were or how much the damn thing costs. The first 1,000 cars delivered were “Founders” or “Signature” Editions, which were the highest price ($151K) and had every feature available.
I placed my order over two years ago with the expectation that I would receive my car the following year.
Finally, in the second week of December, I was invited to configure my Model X online. I agonized for a full week over different configurations, options, color schemes, etc. I made a trip to the NorthPark Mall showroom to see what the interior would look like. Then, right before Christmas, I “confirmed” my order and went back to waiting.
Know that the entire time before delivery, you really have no idea when you are going to get your car.
You read online about other people who are getting theirs. There doesn’t seem to be a rational explanation about who was getting their car – it certainly was not in order of reservation. I was reservation number 9062 and I received my Model X before people who were definitely before me. Was it the options they chose? The paint scheme? The wheels? These conspiracy theories were all fiercely debated in the online Tesla forums.
The financial transaction process (debacle?)…
Then out of the blue on April 8, I get an email saying my Model X is entering production and would be here in late “April / early May.” One day later, my Delivery Specialist in Dallas calls my wife to say we need to get our finances in order for the car…except, she is not contributing anything financially to the car – it’s all my money. Someone at Tesla got confused and used her contact info (which I listed as a backup when I placed the order) instead of mine. Ok, strike 1. I ask them to only deal with me. So, I go online and fill out the wire-transfer information for my bank account. Their website now asks me where I would like to take delivery of the Model X, giving me the choice of either Houston or Austin – no Dallas. Strike Two. I call up my Delivery Specialist and he says something is messed up on their database (no kidding) but promises my vehicle will arrive in Dallas “soon.”
Guess what? The next day, Tesla Motors drafts $112,000 from my bank account! I check online and it still says “in production” with a late April-early May delivery. When I gave them the bank draft info, I expected them to wire it when I was supposed to take delivery of the car So now they have all of my money and I still have no idea when (or if?!) I am going to get my Model X.
My Delivery Specialist calls the next day and says my Model X is on a truck and will be at the Dallas Service Center the next day. He says it will take them a day to clean it up and check it out, but he says I can come pick it up after that.
Call me spoiled, but today I am used to knowing where my order I placed with Amazon Prime is and when it will be delivered… in near real time!
I never felt more clueless about when I was going to get my Model X 90D. It was so bad that I eventually told people to stop asking me (including your brother). I don’t think Tesla knew when they were going to deliver it to me!
When my wife and I show up at the Service Center at our scheduled time, no one was there to great us. No great fanfare or presentation. Our Delivery Specialist was summoned from his office. He introduced us to another person who would walk us through the car and we never saw him again. I am not sure what a “Delivery Specialist” does (btw, that IS his job title on his emails), but he didn’t do much for us.
The person who gave us the two-hour orientation was a Tesla owner who now works for Tesla. I think she liked the car so much that she applied to do this orientation job. She was knowledgable and shared lots about her experiences (although she has a Model S and there are some big difference between the two models). The best part of the orientation was that she patiently answered my wife’s questions. At the end, she gave us a gift bag with a Tesla umbrella, mug and pen. The key fobs come in a nice package like Apple products do. I was bit disappointed that we didn’t get any shirts or hats. I ended up buying a Model X hat before we left.
Online, I have seen some people get red bows on their car, or their name on a sign when they pick up their car. Our experience was very ordinary. As a matter of fact, I’d say we had better experiences with delivery of our Lexus and our Mercedes (both are my wife’s previous cars). The Tesla Dallas Service Center is not especially nice despite being brand new. I guess this doesn’t matter considering that I only have to take the car in once year for service. I honestly hated my local Toyota dealership. The service waiting room reminded me of the scene in the movie “Beetlejuice” where Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin are waiting.
How far is the closest Tesla service center to you? How difficult is it to maintain a Tesla in a state as large as Texas?
I live nearer to Fort Worth than Dallas, so I am 30 miles away. Considering that I haven’t had any problems (knock on wood) and I don’t need to go see them until next April, I am good. Interestingly, they told me I was #10 Model X in DFW area, but they had delivered about 25 vehicles already. They had delivered Model Xs for people from Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana since there are no Service Centers. I REALLY hope that these people didn’t have problems with their Model Xs!
How often do you charge your Model X and where do you charge it?
I charge it every night when I put it in the garage. FWIW, I am one of those guys who religiously plugs my iPhone in at night before I go to bed. I like starting each day with a fresh charge in all of my electronics.
I read online that Tesla recommends plugging in every night, rather than waiting for it to run down to X% to charge. Interestingly, they also recommend that you do not charge it to 100%. It hurts the battery unless you are going to drive on a long trip. So, I start each day with a range of 217 miles (or 80% of the battery).
Even though DFW is a big area, I haven’t had a need to recharge during the day (yet). There are chargers from a variety of networks all over the place. The Tesla Nav will show you where.
At home, I didn’t go for the “fancy” Tesla High-Powered-Wall-Charger (HPWC); it was $750 plus even more to have an electrician install it. I did select an electrician from Tesla’s website; when he came out he told me he had installed hundreds of EV chargers. I decided to go with a NEMA 14-50 outlet, which is the same outlet an electric oven uses. It cost me $375 and it charges the Model X with 40A of current. From empty, it would take about 5 hours to charge, but I rarely am empty at the end of the day. Plus, the way the lithium batteries work, you can charge from 0-50% very quickly (like under 20 minutes), but then as you get closer to 100%, it takes longer and longer to “fill up”. This is part of the reason Tesla doesn’t recommend charging to 100% except for trips.
I decided to join two EV charging networks: Blink and Chargepoint. Both cost nothing to join; you just give them your billing info and they send you an RFID card you use at their chargers to buy electricity. I have tried both networks and they are pretty simple. The amount of power varies per location: for example, I charged at a Whole Foods for an hour and it only added 12 miles of range.
Have you experienced any technical issues with the doors (falcon-wing or otherwise) or other electronic components?
To be honest, I have had to “reboot” my 17” touch-screen twice… because it told me to. Actually, it had a message to contact Tesla Service, but I knew from reading online forums that I just needed to reboot the screen by holding down the two buttons simultaneously.
On Tesla’s falcon-wing doors…
You’re still able to use your car, right?
The doors work, but they are not perfect. First, they WILL hit you, but not hard; it is more like a rude-awakening. Second, they can be finicky. I find that the best way to open and close them is through the touchscreen. Third, I am not stupid enough to try to open the falcon-wing doors in places that MIGHT have a problem. My garage is a great example: the rails for the garage door would likely not be detected by the FWD. If I pull in backwards, the doors open fine because there are no rails above them.
Have you found resources like Facebook Tesla owners’ groups and things like that to be helpful in the knowledge-sharing economy?
The Facebook Tesla group is more or less worthless because 1) it is not searchable (or maybe I don’t know how to search it) and 2) it is not set up like a normal online forum is (with different groups for different topics). It is mostly people posting pics of when they get their Tesla.
I honestly spend hours reading; if you don’t, then you’re not getting the most of our your Tesla.
The official Tesla Forum is not that good because 1) it has no search and 2) apparently, people get banned by Tesla if they are too negative. The most helpful resource I’ve found is Tesla Motors Club. I feel sorry for people that don’t know to read these forums. It’s just like any other electronics I buy. I honestly spend hours reading; if you don’t, then you’re not getting the most of our your Tesla. A good example is the many “Easter Eggs” like 007 mode or the rainbow charge port.
So, the Model X has a pretty large windshield…how’s that working out with the hot Texas sun?
Don’t know yet. It hasn’t been THAT hot yet, but we have had sunny days and I haven’t noticed it being too hot inside the car – only bright. I had the front two windows tinted 15% to match the back (which were done at the factory). I asked the tint installer about the front windshield. He said that it would cost over $500 to tint because it requires such a large single piece of tint. If I wanted to live with a seam half-way up, he could do it for under $200. BTW, the cockpit/windshield is awesome otherwise!
What else would you like to share with the world (or just Be Car Chic’s small slice of it) about the Model X, or your opinion on Tesla in general?
In closing, I would say that I am NOT a Tesla “fanboy”…yet. I want to love everything about the car, the company, Elon Musk, but there has been too much bad publicity.
I am hoping that the most expensive car I have ever bought (by 2x) doesn’t turn out to be today’s version of the Ford Pinto or AMC Pacer (or more appropriately: a DeLorean).
When you spend so much and invest so much energy in something, you question if you are being too critical if you complain.
Aren’t there bigger problems in the world other than the fact that the USB ports don’t charge devices faster than 500A?! (BTW, the front two do 2.1A, but even that is slow by today’s standards).
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