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Tesla unveils Model X all-electric SUV; courts American auto tastes

Tesla unveils Model X all-electric SUV; courts American auto tastes

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Startup automaker Tesla Motors unveils its new Model X, an all-electric SUV that moves swiftly but carries a hefty price tag.

Electric automaker Tesla Motors unveiled its third model last night in San Francisco, a long-awaited sport-utility vehicle that marks the company's latest step toward mainstream America.

Using the same electric powertrain as the Model S full-size sedan introduced last year, the Model X is most definitely more "sport" than "utility," with low ground clearance, a rakish profile, gullwing doors (Tesla calls them "falcon wings") and a 0 to 60 m.p.h. time of less than five seconds.

Eat your heart out, Porsche Cayenne.

But it's that electric powertrain that's responsible for its most qualities: with the all-at-once-torque capabilities that electric motors offer, the vehicle may perform surprisingly well in inclement weather. (It comes with dual motor all wheel drive.)

Sixty and 85 KwH battery options will be offered.

My CNET colleague Martin LaMonica elaborates:

The key to Tesla's cool design is the powertrain, built around a flat battery pack that extends from the front to rear wheels under the car. This provides a low center of gravity for good handling, but also allows for substantially more interior space than a vehicle with a transmission running under it.

Our camera crew was there to see the SUV close-up:

[video=6344063]

Will the Model X win the hearts of American consumers who want to keep their outsized lifestyles but reduce the price at the pump? We'll find out in 2014 when the $60,000 to $80,000 vehicle finally ships.

Until then, all we can do is wonder how chief executive Elon Musk plans to keep his startup company financially afloat -- much less find the return-on-investment light at the end of the tunnel.

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure