As of late, the automotive press has nothing but good things to say about the Tesla Model X. Shown for the first time in the flesh at the Detroit Auto Show, it’s already a hit, with $40 million in pre-orders thus far (though to put that figure into perspective, Tesla posted a $200 million loss last quarter).
We’re trying so hard to get the Model X, to rally behind the electric car that’s challenged the stubborn suits in Detroit, to fist pump a world that’s less reliant on fossil fuels. But all we see is an uninspired yuppie-mobile (do they still make yuppies?), a pornographic attempt at erotica. The DDD silicone bust line is the 17-inch touch-screen control panel. The “falcon-wing” doors are a pair of legs that stretch behind a neck. “Why is this necessary?” you ask. “Why not?” Tesla answers quickly, hoping you’ll be so smitten by the high beams that you won’t look too closely at the backend, which is the cross between a Prius and a Pontiac Aztek.
The gull-wing doors are of particular note. On a spec sheet, you’ll hear how easily they accommodate rear seating for five. But in practice, you have to wonder, is it really worth having gull-wing doors just to accommodate two extra people crammed into the equivalent of jumpseats? Would a family of seven really look to this car as their comfortable familymobile?
Looking back at car history, the gull-wing door–for however extravagant it looked–was actually a practical solution to a common problem. Sports cars rode close to the ground, so opening a door often meant a jewel of a car would scrape against uneven pavement. But the Model X is an SUV (or crossover, if you prefer that invented word). It already has more than ample ground clearance, and from what we understand, the Model X doesn’t actually fly, so gull-wing doors are inherently ridiculous.
Then why are the doors even there? Well the Model X is a generic-looking car. Not a single statement within the design is confident enough to say “I’m a Tesla, dammit.” Instead, designers attached these doors to do the shouting instead. Maybe that cheat would be fine if gull-wing doors weren’t such an expensive upgrade in a vehicle, and if their maintenance weren’t legendarily finicky. Instead, every Model X driver is really a donor subsidizing the curbside marketing budget of Tesla’s only, sadly extravagant brand identifier, just so fellow shoppers know that their particular generic SUV is actually really fast, fairly green, and costs a whole lot of money.
Honestly, we shouldn’t care this much, and we wouldn’t, were Tesla just another premium car brand that didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. But someone needs to come around and make an electric car that’s aimed for the masses yet embodies everything great about “cars” rather than “electricity.” Chevy didn’t get there with the Volt. Tesla once looked like they may be close, at least for the premium market, but their results thus far have been wholly uninspiring.