Tesla's Model X: A First Look

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Building on the popularity of the Model S, Telsa Motors ( TSLA) plans to push the best features of its electric-car design further with its upcoming SUV, the Model X.

The Model X is getting the majority of Tesla's attention, CEO Elon Musk noted on Tesla's second-quarter earnings call. "From a product standpoint, the Model X is our primary focus, obviously at this point," Musk said on the call. "For the most part, our researchers are spending a lot of time personally on the Model X and trying to get the details right. I think there are some things we can do to improve the Model X over the early demonstration prototype that people have seen. I think there is room to make it better."

There's a high likelihood that the Model X could prove extremely popular, Jefferies analyst Elaine Kwei noted earlier this year. "Based on early customer indications, TSLA believes the Model X could be as popular as the Model S (the SUV derivative of a sedan typically sells approximately half the volume)," Kwei wrote in a research note earlier this year. "The current production line could be doubled to 80k-100k units."

Tesla unveiled the prototype design for the upcoming Model X on Feb. 9, 2012.

Though Musk noted that the company is trying to make it better than what's already been seen, the early prototype is impressive nonetheless.

In a research report earlier this year while upgrading Tesla shares to "buy," Deutsche Bank analyst Dan Galves said there could be exceptionally strong demand for the Model X. "If US demand can be maintained in the 15k-20k range, we see the potential for the Model S to do 40k-50k units per year fairly easily," Galves wrote in the July research report. "Model X could add another 30k."

Here are some images that Tesla's posted, showing off the Model X, which is slated to be released sometime next year. On the call, Musk sad he expects there to be a limited volume of Model X units delivered in 2014, with the far majority of them delivered in 2015.

Performance

In a September research note, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said the Model X has the potential to be better than the Model S. "They've set a high bar with the Model S that must be maintained with the Model X (which we think has the potential to be an even better vehicle), a compact sports sedan, crossover, pickup-truck and other derivatives," Jonas wrote.

The Model X is different than most SUVs, not only in that it's an electric vehicle, but it's incredibly fast as well. Given that there is no internal combustion engine, this allows torque in the Model X, as well as other electric cars, to be significantly higher than similar gasoline-powered cars.

According to Tesla's Web site, the Model X will come with two motors, and be offered with an optional All-Wheel Drive, which will it allow it to accelerate from 0 to 60 in less than 5 seconds.

Lazard Capital Markets analyst Aditya Satghare notes that the Model X "needs to be priced attractively and deliver car-like performance." The aforementioned specs suggest that the Model X will deliver more than "car-like" performance, as it competes with luxury SUVs such as the Porsche Cayenne, Range Rover and offerings from BMW and Mercedes. Satghare is expecting Tesla to maintain on track with a 2014 delivery, and then refresh the SUV in 2017.

That's comparable to the Model S, which goes from 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds using the P85 battery. TheStreet recently test drove the Model S, calling it an incredible experience, as Tesla "has been able to redefine what luxury driving should be."

The Model X will come in a 60 kWh and 85 kWh battery models, and will feature three drivetrain options: Model X with Rear Wheel Drive, Model X with Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive, and Model X Performance with Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive.

Falcon Wings

Most SUVs have traditional horizontally swinging doors to get in them, but the Model X looks almost like a Lamborghini Diablo, in that the doors open up, instead of out like traditional doors. "You easily step, not climb, into Model X," the company notes on its website.

Seating

The Model X will offer a third row of seats, and the second row slides forward, making access to the third row easier. By having Falcon Wings, it allows you to stand up as you get in and out, meaning no more bending over when entering and exiting the vehicle.

As with the Model S, the Model X will have what Tesla calls "a stylish combination of premium interior surfaces and panoramic glass."

The Tesla Touchscreen will also be available in the Model X, as it is in the Model S. The touchscreen, which looks like an enormous iPad, offers a wide range of entertainment and information options.

From the dash, you can change the general climate in the car, both for the driver and passenger side. There's also a slew of other features, including opening and closing the optional panoramic sunroof, opening the front trunk as well as offerings of Internet radio (labeled "Media" on the dash), Navigation (featuring Google Maps), surfing the Internet, the rear-view camera and connecting your phone via Bluetooth.

-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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