The New Tesla Model X Comes With a Bioweapon Defense Mode

Elon Musk revealed the car's new features at a customer delivery ceremony. 
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Elon Musk revealed the car's new features at a customer delivery ceremony. 
Production Tesla Model X

Telsa Motors CEO Elon Musk might not have Steve Jobs' trademarked "one more thing," phrase, but he nevertheless enlivened the delivery ceremony for the first five customer Model X SUVs on Tuesday by describing the car's extreme air filtration function.

While the HEPA air filter is primarily meant to protect the health of Model X occupants driving in polluted big cites, as with Tesla's "Ludicrous" and "Insane" electric driving modes, the filter system offers a "but wait, there's more" level: Bioweapons Defense Mode. 

"This is a real button!" Musk assured. While the need for clean air is a real issue for drivers in Beijing, bioweapons are less of an everyday problem for most drivers, but "We try to be the leader in apocalyptic defense scenarios," Musk explained.

We already know that the base Model X will start at $76,200 when it becomes available next year, and that these first-edition models cost $144,950.

Musk also demonstrated the car's signature top-hinged "Falcon" rear doors, showing that the doors can open even with only inches of space alongside the car and with a low ceiling too. That's thanks to ultrasonic sensors that detect the available space and open the doors accordingly.

The doors are able to adjust automatically because the Falcon doors have a hinge in the middle, letting the car spread its wings less rigidly than old-fashioned gullwing doors, which only hinge at the top.  "Our goal was to create an aperture that is more functional than a minivan door and I think we've succeeded," he said. Practicality is only one benefit of the design, Musk acknowledged, saying, "And it also looks cool."

Also cool is the view from the driver's seat, thanks to a panoramic windshield that stretches back over the front seats. Musk described the Model X driver's view as like that from a helicopter cockpit. "It is a transformative driving experience," he promised.

The  Model X is available in either six- or seven-seat configuration, and in either the standard 90D or high-performance P90D trims levels. The 90D has a 257-mile driving range and front and rear electric motors of 259 horsepower each that accelerate the car to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds.

The P90D has the same front electric motor and a 503-horsepower rear motor, which can accelerate the car to 60 mph injust 3.2 seconds when it is set to Ludicrous Mode. The more powerful rear motor only drops the driving range to 250 miles, because it also has more powerful regeneration of electricity under deceleration.

The Model X's less glamorous attributes include automatic emergency braking and steering as standard equipment to help drivers avoid crashes. If a crash is unavoidable, then the Model X's safety structure reduces the likelihood of serious injury in a high-speed crash to "about 6.5 percent" Musk reported. That compares to a 10 percent likelihood needed to achieve five stars on the government's crash test.

Musk handed over cars to the first five customers live on stage, then rolled out his own black Model X, serial number 1.

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