This is not a review of the Tesla Model X.
We may have put the electric SUV through its lithium-powered paces around Northern Europe — a trip through Germany, Belgium, France, Luxembourg and The Netherlands — but we’ve got better things to talk about than the car’s futuristic design, or the fact that it completed the drive without so much as a glitch.
No, this is rather a review of the network that made the trip possible.
Four years ago, there were only a handful of Tesla Superchargers dotted across Europe. Today, these fast-charging stations, which allow cars including the Model X to fully charge in just 75 minutes, have been installed at almost 400 locations on the continent, from Barnsley to Barcelona.
The aim of this new network, according to the brand leading the charge in electric car making, was to develop a system that allowed owners to drive their zero-emission machines from the icy Northern Cape of Norway to the sweltering bazaars of Istanbul without the risk of running out of juice along the way. They succeeded — and then some.
In fact, our main reason for taking a Tesla on this 1,500 kilometre route around Europe, with just one long weekend to see six countries, was to determine whether or not Tesla have achieved what many deemed impossible mere years ago. Could an electric car now be a viable, practical option for a road trip?
Thanks to Elon Musk’s pioneering car company, the answer is a definitive yes. Even when we were storming through the forests of Belgium, testing the Model X’s silky off-road skills, or winding through the quaint rural hills of Luxembourg, we didn’t give our charge level a second thought. And that’s because the car was doing the thinking for us.
Built into every Tesla’s sat-nav system — itself displayed on a dashboard touchscreen the size of a small television — is the nifty option to include charging points along your route. This means that the car will literally steer you towards your next top-up point, and never leave you running on empty miles from the nearest power source.
And it doesn’t end there. To extend the network even further, and offering yet another level of credibility to Tesla’s road trip readiness, the brand has also pushed for the installation of ‘Destination Chargers’ at hotels all over Europe.
These take a little longer to ‘refuel’ your car, taking around 9 hours for a full charge. But, refreshingly, it’s not only the luxurious, 5 star establishments that benefit from these considerably more common chargers. For every Domaine de Barive, a stately chateau in Northern France, there are several city-centre Park Inn Luxembourgs, perfectly-serviceable but lower budget options boasting these charging points.
But the best part? As Tesla are yet to monetise either of these chargers — although we can’t see that lasting for long — cars such as the Model X can not only embark on ambitious multi-country road trips, they can also do it for free.
And what a car in which to explore. A near-perfect cruiser, the 7-seater Model X may be built for the school run, but its market-leading range of 351 miles, top speed of 155mph and the highest safety ratings of any SUV ever (no, really) make it an electrifying choice for adventure. It’s also got a Bioweapon Defence Air Filtration Mode which, although a little extreme, did keep the hay fever at bay.
And that is, surely, the true test of a road trip cruiser: How you feel after hours behind the wheel. If your legs have seized and your back stiffened, then it’s just not viable. But the only jolt we felt, after riding the Model X around Europe’s revolutionary Supercharger network, came when we had to give it back.
This article was taken from the Jul/Aug issue of Gentleman’s Journal. To subscribe to the magazine, click here…