Tesla Model X Buyers Guide

The Model X was the second mass produced car from Tesla and has been in production since 2016. There have been few large changes to the car since it started production until 2021, but we cover the smaller details together with issues to provide a buyers guide.

Why the Model X?

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You're probably here because you're interested in the Model X, in which case only the Model Y is probably a consideration. A model S shares the same platform and has plenty of room for 5 adults, but its still not a big inside. There's just something about the Model X.

Model X naming convention

Tesla have adopted two basic naming conventions over the years for the model variants. The older system used a combination of letters and numbers:

The later convention is to simply quote range e.g. Standard Range (equivalent to the 75D), Long Range (100D) or Performance (P100D), although more typically they use "Dual Motor" for the long range and "Dual Motor" for the performance (note the underline). All Model X under this naming convention are all wheel drive.

Significant changes

There have been few significant changes to the Model X since its launch. Tesla do make many smaller changes all the time with the the changes to the Model X documented here.

All cars come with autopilot hardware with all but the very earliest cars using the Tesla system. More details on Autopilot are below.

The only significant change was the Raven model with new suspension and different motors. This happened in 2019. Tesla have also made tweaks to battery and motors and the Long Range became the Long Range+ but essentially it was the same car with just some performance tweaks.

In 2021 Tesla performed a significant interior update with other changes such as tri-motors with the introduction of the Plaid model. There has been no announcement on a Plaid+ MX and it may be that Tesla opt to put the newer battery from the MS Plaid+ into a Long Range+ version MX with significantly more range but without the increased performance.

There have been other changes such as the version of Tesla AP hardware and the change to the MCU, but these can be upgraded if cars with the older versions are purchased.

New or used?

This question is asked less frequently on the Model X because the entry price for used Model X is still around the price of the performance Model Y. Until production of the 2021 Model X starts there are some inventory cars available but these are disappearing fast although they are often discounted quite significantly. We'd suggest avoiding the earliest Model X cars especially with the smallest batteries as the range is quite limited and chose a Model Y in comparison, unless you need the 6 or 7 adult seat configuration.

The 2021 updated Model S is a different proposition. When these are available we will be able to comment further. The last of the new Model S built prior to the update are now available for sizeable discounts and should not be dismissed, however if you are looking at new prices it seems prudent to us to wait for more news on the updated model.

Battery size and range

After determining the model of car, the battery capacity and therefore range is the next main consideration (accepting exterior and interior colour is personal choice). Tesla have offered a 60, 75 and 90 battery and later a 75 and 100 kwh battery, before finally dropping the 75 battery altogether. The 75 battery has a relatively short range especially in winter so in cold climates or for anybody who expects to travel more than 150 miles in a day, we would recommend looking at the 100/long range battery. We would definitely avoid the 60kwh battery.

The actual range is subject to a lot of factors including temperature and the type of roads you are driving on. Faster driving, especially in the Model X reduces range quickly and the larger cabin can require more energy to heat in colder weather. You are also unlikely to want to start from 100% and end on 0% and therefore the working range is approximately 80% of the theoretical full range. Taking these factors into consideration, and adjusting for real world experiences, we have worked out the approximate summer range (temperatures above 15 deg C) and winter range (temperatures below 3 deg C but about -5 deg C) for the most common models to be:

Model
Summer
Summer 80%
Winter
Winter 80%
Standard range/75D on 20"
230 miles
185 miles
190 miles
150 miles
Long Range/100D on 20"
290 miles
230 miles
220 miles
175 miles
Performance/P100D on 22"
245 miles
200 miles
195 miles
155 miles

Autopilot

Except for very early Model X cars, all cars come with the Tesla system.

The level of autopilot features (assuming using Tesla hardware) is linked more to the software option chosen and less the hardware.

When looking at used cars, if you want Full Self driving capability it may be better value to find a car with that level of option already purchased as used prices do not reflect the purchase price of the option. However, if you find an otherwise perfect car at the right price it may be an option to pay for the upgrade after purchase.

There is a simple visual way to tell if the car has the Tesla Autopilot system or not and that is looking at the side repeaters on the front wing. If they have a camera built in they use the Tesla system, if they just show a Tesla logo, they are the older system.

If you have access to the car, or the seller has provided suitable screenshots then you can also refer to our guide to what options and hardware a Tesla has fitted..

Options

From when the model S was launched up until around 2018 there many options available on the Model S. Some of these options became standard fit over time, others were dropped all together. We highlight the main ones:

Alloy wheels

Simply put, where there is a choice, the larger 22" wheels do look good, but are more prone to accident damage and they reduce range.

Premium pack

Originally an option this offered more leather and comfort but also features such as the hepa filter and the automatically opening and closing doors. Over time this had the hifi and cold weather pack added before become standard fit.

HiFi and cold weather

The hifi upgrade was an option on the initial cars before it became standard fit. The sound was a marked improvement over the standard fit version.

The cold weather pack added heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel in most cases, and a heating element under the windscreen wipers. We provide a guide above to find out what is fitted to a specific car.

5 Seat Option

Tesla folding seats
Until July 2017, the rear bench was a monopod design (similar to the 6 seat base) which allows a wide range of adjustment but prevents the seats from folding flat. From July 2017 onwards the seats changed to a sliding and fold flat design similar to the 7 seat model. The picture clearly shows the folding join on the seat back. If the bottom of the seat looks like the 6 seat monopod design below, and doesn't have an obvious pivot/join on the side, they are not folding. The 5 seat design us generally the least popular and cheaper model

6 Seat Option

Tesla not folding middle row
The 6 seat option includes an electrically adjustable second and a third row of seating with individual seats and seen as the most comfortable option. There is also a HVAC system for the 3 row providing heating and cooling. Some cars have a central console which was a further option. The second/middle row of seats do not fold flat, whereas the 3rd row does. This is a popular option and commands a premium over the 5 seat model.

7 Seat Option

Tesla folding middle row
The 7 seat option includes a second and third row of seating. In mid 2017 they changed the middle seat to a folding design, before then it had a monopod design that did not fold. There is also a HVAC system for the 3 row providing heating and cooling. Cars with the second/middle row of seats that fold flat are the most versatile although some comment that the manual and not electric movement of the seats makes them harder to use. The folding seats do however make the car the most versatile being able to carry both 7 people and have fully fold flat seating, only losing out to the 6 seat version over some middle row comfort.

Tow hook/bar

Early Model X had a detachable tow hook as an option before becoming standard fit. While the towing capacity of the Model X is very good, range can suffer significantly and can half the available range, and when using public chargers you will typically need to unhitch the trailer to gain access to the charge point.

What features does the car have?

To find out autopilot hardware, premium audio, cold weather pack etc, you need access to the car and follow this guide to find out what hardware versions a Tesla has. Many dealers are now including the required pictures in their adverts and those that do, clearly understand the cars.

Free Supercharging

The Model X came with free unlimited supercharging for the life of the car until the mid April 2017 where it only the first owners had free supercharging and eventually the benefit being dropped altogether.

Matters changed again in July 2019 where cars which previously had supercharging for the life of the car have had the free supercharging benefit revoked when passing through Tesla's hands, ie taken in as part exchange, or returned at the end of a finance agreement, even if Tesla then sell the car into the trade. You now need to check the car regardless as the car may have been sold by Tesla as a used car in the past and had this happen to it.

Key issues

Below is what appears to be a lot of potential issues with the cars. Owners of cars, especially as they get older or reach higher miles should expect the need to perform routine maintenance or have to fix some common failures. Tesla parts can be expensive, but increasingly third part solutions are cropping up to solve the problem more cost effectively.

MCU Memory failures

The large central screen on is called the media control unit or MCU for short. The US NHTSA have made Tesla recall them and while some cars may still be prefix, any issues whould be covered by Tesla. The fix is to replace the memory board in the MCU with a larger capacity board and with better quality memory. Owners can also purchase a MCU upgrade to a much more powerful system.

Yellow banding on the edge of the MCU

The MCU memory issue is not the only issue with the MCU. A very common problem is the appearance of a yellow band around the edge of the screen. It's caused by the glue behind the screen failing and while the screen will require replacing, it still generally functions ok. Tesla originally replaced the screens but found these developed the fault again. They now have a technique with a UV light which manages to change the colour back with reasonable which seems to be generally working well.

Heating element failures

Quite a few owners report the heating matrix failing. They hear a loud pop in the cabin and the heating then stops working. It's become a relatively common problem on the Model X often with a surge in the early Autumn as temperatures drop and the car starts using the heating matrix more than the cooling side. Tesla are not accepting this is a design defect and if the failure occurs out of warranty they will charge you for the fix. Prices are over $1000/£1000

Suspension issues

Tesla cars are heavy and the suspension can take some punishment. Failures can occur when under full lock reversing, failure after hitting hit a moderate pothole, and even under hard braking. Issues are not that common but routine inspection of the suspension is adviseable.

Water in the lights

This is a common issue with led lights. Moisture gets in, accumulates and then fails especially is the drainage holes become blocked. Mild condensation is to be expected due to environmental factors but if water is visible beyond a quarter of the height, then its clearly not draining and is an issue.

Sticking steering rack

The steering has a universal joint that can seize up making the steering feel very strange/stiff in places and reduces the self centring nature of the steering. Out of warranty or as routine maintenance, simply get the universal joint cleaned and lubricated by a mechanic.

Judder under hard acceleration

The front drive shafts have been problematic and Tesla have a new shim design but some owners still report issues. It's not almost seen as a characteristic of the car, especially the performance models.

Rear door sensors

The Model X uses an innovative proximity sensor in the rear door that sees through the metal skin of the door. Unfortunately this sometimes fails or becomes detached resulting in a number of varied issues from not sensing an obstacle and hitting it, or failing to open altogether.

Rear door seals

You can't help but know the Model X rear doors open vertically and any water on the roof panel will run towards the centre of the car. There have been production issues where the seals have been installed back to front so rather than guide the water away, it guides water into the cabin. There is also a problem that they eventually fail and water leaks.

Warranty

Model X cars come with 2 manufacturer warranties.

One covers the battery and motor and was originally for 8 years and unlimited miles, changing at the beginning of 2020 to be a mileage limited warranty. The original warranty had no performance guarantee as was effectively a failure warranty, whereas the replacement warranty for cars from 2020 offered a maximum degradation threshold.

The second warranty is the general car warranty for everything else. This lasts for 4 years or 50k miles, which comes sooner.

Tesla also offered a used car warranty of 4 years, 50k miles warranty or 2 years up to 100k miles in total depending on whether the car was under or over 50k miles. Some used cars may still have the some of this warranty remaining. For more recent purchases Tesla have changed the their used car warranty top one extra year after the current warranty expires.

What would we buy used?

We feel the pick of the range is the 100D or later Long Range and with either the 6 or 7 seat configuration. The 90D appears to only be 10% smaller capacity but in practice is 15% smaller, and as you are unlikely to work the battery below 10% or above 90%, the extra capacity translates to a benefit of 20-25% more working range.

While the P models have extra performance, in such a large car and given the capabilities of the non performance version, coupled with the drive shaft issues, it doesn't seem worth while.

You check the whole market and compare prices between models on our Inventory listings.

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