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Installing the Hidden Trailer Hitch - 2016 Tesla Model X Long-Term Road Test

Edmunds.comEdmunds.com Posts: 10,046
edited June 2016 in Tesla
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Installing the Hidden Trailer Hitch - 2016 Tesla Model X Long-Term Road Test

Our Tesla Model X has a trailer hitch, something the Tesla Model S never had. And, like everything else Tesla does, it's fairly unique.

Read the full story here


Comments

  • legacygtlegacygt Posts: 599
    I know this post isn't about the doors but this hitch reminds me of the doors in that it's a pretty complicated solution to a problem that has already been solved. I guess the rear bumper has a cleaner look than cars that have an exposed hitch receiver or a removable cover that hides one. When the hitch is in place it ends up looking like an aftermarket hitch. I guess that doesn't matter and maybe it's a fair price to pay for the clean lines of the rear bumper but I think SUV/CUV owners have come to accept the appearance of hitch receivers in and around their bumpers.
  • s197gts197gt Posts: 485
    i think it is great that they actually include it with the vehicle and have thought it out, if in a bit overly-complicated way.

    other manufacturers (jeep) clearly don't want you towing with their vehicles. they make it optional/expensive and heaven-forbid you want to retrofit one of their vehicles with the OEM receiver for a cleaner look. did that once with a 2005 grand cherokee... never again.

  • Hmmm...pretty sure towing will reduce range by quite a bit, and that a hitch-mounted bike rack will mess up the airflow enough to reduce range somewhat. Interested to see how the weight of a trailer acts upon brake regen.
  • kirkhilles1kirkhilles1 Posts: 859
    Thanks for the update. I have not seen this information before, so it's far more useful information rather than the endless door debate.
  • daryleasondaryleason TexasPosts: 501
    The Model X only being able to tow 5000 lbs strikes me as being less than what you'd think it would be. Electric motors are normally great at that sort of thing. I'd bet that the low tow rating has more to do with the hitch mount than the capability of the vehicle itself. In that, if the design was more conventional, such as a body on frame design, where the hitch didn't connect by a 90 degree angle (that's called a "lever" for the slow-physics class), it could pull more.It gives more meaning to the line "The balls cannot be released" by Mr. Edmunds.

    On a side note, if Dan Edmunds doesn't/hasn't used the shared name of the company he works for and his last name to pick up eligible single females, I'm disappointed in him. Unless he's married. I'll give him a pass for fidelity.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    edited June 2016
    Not as much capacity as, say, a Range Rover (7,700ish) but the same as an Explorer and way more than something like a CR-V (1,500).
  • actualsizeactualsize Santa Ana, CaliforniaPosts: 451
    The fact that an electric vehicle is certified to tow anything at all is pretty remarkable, wouldn't you say? This is the first one, ever. To me, 5,000 pounds seems mind-blowingly optimistic when it comes to matters of range, which is central to the idea of getting away from it all with a boat or camper.

    Twitter: @Edmunds_Test

  • daryleasondaryleason TexasPosts: 501
    @actualsize : To me, it's not remarkable at all. For instance, look at a diesel locomotive. The diesel aspect of the engine on a locomotive isn't used to directly power the wheels (or "trucks") of the locomotive. It's used as a generator to power the electric drive motors & (I think) the hydraulics that actually power the wheels. They've found that those electric motors can move more than a direct-powered diesel engine can. Plus, all of the torque is there, instantly.

    As for the range impact on the Tesla Model X, that is a valid point. But, on that same note, due to the nature of the energy draw on the vehicle, they could easily give you a range estimation of different weights being towed under a controlled condition. For example, they could say "with 5,000 lbs, your range would be approximately 150 miles, 10,000 lbs your range would be 90 miles, etc." That's not what they're doing here.

    I still think it's not so much an issue of range regarding battery life (so much) but the force applied to the vehicle's unibody with the downward facing 90 degree angle of the Hitch. The trailer's tongue is going to be pushing DOWN, causing the 90 degree elbow to push outward from the top. Now, this is no different than a normal hitch, except that it's typically going into at least a 2x2 or 3x3 square tube. Going down the road though, your hitch is being pulled straight, whereas with this one, the trailer will be pulling on that 90 degree angle, making the top want to tilt forward, towards the front of the vehicle.
  • actualsizeactualsize Santa Ana, CaliforniaPosts: 451
    edited June 2016
    Valid points, but I think there are many other limiting factors. Unlike Europe, we in North America specify that at least 10 percent of the trailer's weight be tongue weight. The fact the tow rating is 5,000 pounds with 20-inch tires and 3,500 pounds with 22-inch tires says to me that tire load capacity is on the ragged edge when between 350 and 500 pounds of tongue weight is pressing down, especially when the hitch ball is so far behind the rear axle centerline. These tires are fat low-profile touring tires, not SUV tires.

    And what about the air suspension? How much tongue weight can it support and sustain? I wonder if 500 pounds of tongue weight so far behind the axle is an upper limit there.

    Finally, there's aerodynamic drag. Trailers get tall, boxy and flat-fronted over 5,000 pounds. That's the sort of thing that REALLY puts a hurt on consumption and, in this case, range, range, range. I'm dubious.

    To circle back to your points about hitch leverage and moments, if Tesla thought the X could tow more than 5,000 pounds for these other reasons, they probably would have nixed the tricky hitch idea and gone straight out the back through a notched bumper like other SUVs.

    Twitter: @Edmunds_Test

  • daryleasondaryleason TexasPosts: 501
    @actualsize : I think we're actually agreeing, we're just looking at it from different viewpoints. I guess it's a good thing that the Tesla's are all-electric, because they're definitely polarizing for most people. I'm not one of the people that have "bought in" on electric vehicles, at least not yet. One of the first comments I made about the Tesla is that since it's technically marketed as an AWD SUV, they need to treat it like any of the others they've had. Go get an RTI done on it. See what it's like off the pavement. Granted, its not being marketed as a true "off-roader" but if it's an SUV, then it should be capable of at least "soft road" use. Given the specified ride height, I doubt it seriously. I have a feeling the first time a fool takes that thing even down a non-paved county road, they're going to see a lot of short-comings.
  • 5vzfe5vzfe Posts: 161
    I'm glad we have tesla around to reimagine how trailer hitches look and operate. I'll concede that maybe it had to be this way due to the construction of the frame, and this was how they compensated. So at least the option is there, which is nice.
    Do you have to lie down on the ground to do all of this though? The model x has speed, but not much ground clearance, which has been effectively reduced even more by the hitch. I mean, I personally would have my driver do this task, and since the garage floor is lined with diamond quilted cashmere he won't dirty his suit, but what about the average six-figure car owner? Must they lie on the ground like a savage, just to hook up a trailer or bike rack?
  • daryleasondaryleason TexasPosts: 501
    @5vzfe : You poor common man. No, when you buy the Tesla Model X, you must do it properly. First, you have your personal assistant pick you up in your Model 3 you bought for them to drive around on errands, at your front door. They drive you to your garage that you've spent a lot of money on to make it look like the bat cave. You then get in your Model S and have it drive itself (sort of) to the local Tesla Store where you order TWO Model Xs. One will be sans-trailer hitch. The other will be with the hitch installed by the Certified Technician. Of course, the one with the hitch will only be used when you want to transport your bicycle to the local park and coffee shop.

    On a side note...anyone else realize that the tow rating is less than the specified vehicle weight? It'll tow 5,000 lbs, but a Model X weighs in at 5300 lbs (a little more actually). What this means is...when their BFF with the matching Model X gets high-centered at the local Starbucks on a speedbump, they can't use the other Tesla to pull it over.
  • Tesla has changed the game so much I expected a cool power deployed receiver to present itself.
  • Tesla model X trailer lights will not work with factory 7pin connector:
    I have the hitch installed, and it readily tows a 1,900 lb A-liner hard shell pop up camper. I had brake controller installed stalled in dash, BUT the wiring diagram in on-line manual lacked colors and it is strange. Also no info from telsa on what fuse is affected. Brake controller install failed, and blew fuse and also blew an expensive electronic controller. Which Tesla repaired at their expense, acknowledging lack of documentation. Great service team!

    But... Now we find that the trailer lights won't work. Nor will connector on another tesla X. Both vehicles work with a flat bed trailer at the tesla store, but both fail to work with my trailer.
    We (tesla mechanic) suspect that there is an electronic controller that recognizes a set level,of resistance before activating power to the 7pin connector... And my all-led trailer draws too little.
    Waiting on Telsa engineering to weigh in.

    Although getting ready to try adding an incandescent light to the trailer as a test. Or hacking together a connector with a few added resistors.

    Ideas welcome.

    Btw, needed to add two d-rings to trailer mount, as the small loops provided were-are too small to connect emergency chains to, and also needed to get a few more inches of length as the under-carriage connectors are further from trailer than traditional chain loops on my current Toyota Sienna after-market hitch. I love $5.00 fixes that work well.

    PPS. Connector warning... The connector is well hidden under bumper, (vs after market hitches that protrude. Be prepared to crawl underneath to connect power and chains. Use Campsite welcome mat to keep pants clean!
    Or as was suggested above, get your personal valet in his model 3 to do it... :)
  • p_rogerp_roger Posts: 1
    It's not a Tesla innovation, I think Land Rover first used it. This is the same setup as the Range Rover Sport and LR-3,4. It works great, has a 7000lb capacity. When not in use, the rear bumper has a higher ground clearance for rock climbing and driving out of ditches. The Rover also has the wiring for the electric brakes, but you need to add controller under the dash. I wonder if Tesla controls the trailer brakes itself.
  • Following up... @leib_lurie -- did you ever get your trailer lights working? Me? I'm interested in using the trailer hitch for a ham radio antenna if possible. Here is one idea: http://www.tarheelantennas.com/model_200a_hp or maybe their Model 400? No personal valet so I have to do it myself! :)
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