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Tesla Model X revealed, but is it cool enough to fend off the new Rav4 EV?

Tesla Model X FrontTesla teased us with a mysterious shot of its Model X crossover at the beginning of the month, and now a prototype of the vehicle has been unveiled at its design studio in California. Hot on the heels of the Model S, the Model X is based on the same, but slightly lengthened, platform as the sedan.

Externally, the Model X has more than a whiff of the bulbous BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo about it, particularly at the rear, while the front end recalls the Model S. Inside the space has been put to good use, with seating for seven in total. Despite this, there’s still plenty of luggage space, as the engine compartment can also be utilized for storage along with the trunk.

Falcon doors

The Model X uses so-called “falcon” doors at the rear, which lift up like gullwing doors, but hinge in the center to make them easier to open in tight spaces. Are they really any better than regular doors? Possibly for the passengers in the very back, but as the front doors look to be conventional — and massive –any parking space will still have to be pretty sizable.

Tesla Model X InteriorInterior shots of the car reveal a similar look to the Model S, and while the styling on the outside may be acceptable, the inside is less successful. Leaving aside the unfortunate use of wooden trim, the center console is dominated by a huge 17-inch touchscreen display, which appears to have been stuck there as an after-thought.

There’s still time for this to be improved before the car goes into production though.

Performance

But nobody is really going to buy the Model X because of its looks, as it’s all about the electric motor. Right now, it looks like Tesla will offer two battery pack options — 60 or 85 kilowatt-hours — but owners should expect a 10-percent drop in range over the Model S due to the vehicle’s weight.

Performance sounds good, with Tesla CEO Elon Musk saying it’ll do 0.60mph is 4.4-seconds. Both a rear-wheel drive and an all-wheel drive model will be made, with the latter using another set of motors for the front wheels, and a computer to split the power between all four wheels depending on the road conditions. It’s reminiscent of the system Acura plans for the new NSX.

Is it cool?

In a recent interview, Mr. Musk said the Model X was going to be “cooler than any SUV or minivan on the market.” so now we’ve seen it, do you think his team has succeeded? To some, those falcon doors may be cool, but to others they lost their sheen after being featured on countless other cars, all of which are considerably better looking.

As 95% of SUVs are inherently not cool, the Model X may have to rely on its exclusivity and electric power to be desirable. But will this be enough to fend of its biggest challenger, the electric Toyota Rav4? After all, it’s going to be built using the same power plant, looks good and could be more competitively priced too. That’s before we take into account Toyota’s well-established reputation for producing decent electric hybrid cars too.

Tesla plans to start production of Model X in 2013, with the first vehicles going on sale the year after. Pricing will start at $49,000 and could rise to as much as $90,000 depending on the options selected.

Tesla Model X Doors Tesla Model X Rear