The respected automotive news outlet AutoWeek recently posted a new review of the Tesla Model X P90D — a largely enthusiastic and positive one.
The pros (according to the review): A market-leading range, Autopilot, and the extensive nearly unique (in a production vehicle) tech options.
The cons: The Model X is expensive, and the exterior design is “a bit bland.” (Author’s note: Personally, the description I heard a while back comparing the model to a pregnant hippo is still what I see when I look at the outside of the Model X.)
While I’m not a fan of the general writing style used in the article (or the assumptions/ projections made about John Muir), there are a couple of bits that are probably worth highlighting. Here you go:
“We played around with the Autopilot as much as we could. Ours had the recently-downloaded 8.0 upgrade, which improved Autopilot through better radar vision of the road and obstacles, as well as many other improvements. We switched it on and cruised away. The Autopilot worked perfectly, for several minutes. You have to wiggle the steering wheel every couple of minutes to make it think you’re still ‘driving.’ This was a bit of an annoyance, especially if you thought you could just go to sleep and let the car drive itself, which you can’t. It will be fun to play around with Autopilot when it becomes more fully autonomous. Nonetheless it was a little more relaxing to drive this way than with simple cruise control that required a driver to steer. Full autonomy will be coming, we are told, but wasn’t available on our test car.”
“…On twisty mountain two-lanes the Autopilot did a surprisingly good job of staying right in the middle of the lane. While you or I might have aimed for the apexes and then drifted out to the outside of the lane, Autopilot just kept right straight down the middle. It was a little weird. Eventually the Autopilot told us to do the driving, as the road got really twisty. So we took the wheel.”
“…To maximize those 105 miles of range we first tried kicking it into neutral on the long downhill sections. The Volkswagen e-Golf can be set to disengage the drivetrain and coast on long downhills, so we thought that rolling in neutral might work best here. But to keep it at reasonable speeds we had to occasionally add brakes. After a while we found that by setting cruise control at whatever the speed limit was, the Model X was far better at modulating throttle and regenerative braking than we were. We actually got back about 10 miles of range from all that downhill driving. We would have gotten more if it had all been straight downhill but the road was a mix of up and down, so letting the Tesla drive proved most efficient.”
The parts I highlighted had more to do with Tesla’s Autopilot tech than with the Model X itself I guess — but then, the company is really more of a tech company than an auto company in some ways.
The descriptions of Autopilot functionality in the article match most of those that I’ve heard and read elsewhere, the feature seems to drive much better than people in many situations, even though it obviously isn’t a human and wouldn’t yet react in the same way that a skilled driver would in certain challenging circumstances.
The tech does seem to be improving fairly fast, though. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Tesla actually achieved its fully autonomous driving timeline, despite the company’s reputation (to date) for not meeting self-imposed deadlines. (Arguably, the company’s performance isn’t the issue in that regard, but rather the aggressively optimistic deadlines imposed by CEO Elon Musk, which may actually be a good thing. If the team is pushed to achieve super insane goals, it may end up “just” achieving insane ones … but before any other companies.)