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Tesla Model X: Era of the all-electric SUV is arriving (+video)

Tesla Model X marks an expansion of all-electric offerings beyond coupes and sedans. Tesla Motors says the AWD version of the Tesla Model X has more zip than many sports cars.

2013 Tesla Model X Crossover
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The new car from Tesla Motors isn't just a car. It looks kind of like a car, but offers space and design elements that cross over toward categories like minivan or sport-utility vehicle.

Oh, and its design blows the doors off, in a manner of speaking, by having occupants enter through a "falcon wing" opening that lifts upward.

It's not a surprise to see carmakers expanding the roster of all-electric offerings beyond coupes and sedans. That's to be expected as the market for green vehicles continues to mature.

But the move by Tesla and others into SUV or "crossover" territory is winning accolades from many consumers who are glad to have new choices on the green horizon. 

Tesla founder Elon Musk, unveiling the Model X at an event Thursday, said it is offering "more functionality than a minivan, more style than an SUV and more performance than a sports car." 

Hyperbole? Perhaps. But Tesla has a reputation for delivering on comfort and performance, which has moved it into a top-10 slot in a new car-brand "perception" survey sponsored by Consumer Reports

The Palo Alto, Calif., company says an all-wheel-drive version of the Model X will accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in fewer than 5 seconds, outperforming many sports cars.

The absence of a traditional engine and transmission allows Tesla to configure the space in nontraditional ways, to make the most out of a package that looks modest in size from the outside. A "frunk" puts ample storage space in an up-front trunk. The company boasts that passengers will step, not climb, into the Model X. And that "adults find the third-row seats as accessible as the passenger seat."

The electric drive train and luxury features like a "Tesla Touchscreen" on the dashboard come at a price, of course.

Depending on features, the Model X is expected to cost in the range of $55,000 to $75,000, similar to the company's Model S sedan. And even if you order today, you won't be behind the wheel before some time in 2014. (Tesla says deliveries will begin early that year.)

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