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A slow wait for a fast car


Wilsonville man the first in Oregon to receive a Tesla Model X

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - John Schenk chose the signature red color for his Tesla Model X P90DL Signature Series, one of the first all-electric SUVs.It has been a long, long wait for Wilsonville auto enthusiast John Schenk.

But almost three and a half years after placing an order, his Tesla Model X P90DL Signature Series has finally arrived — the first Model X, he says, to hit Oregon’s streets.

“For me, it’s the all-wheel drive, the high performance,” Schenk says, adding: “Being totally green and not having to pay a lot of gas tax is always very cool.”

It’s hard not to sense that Schenk’s new electric vehicle is unique. While he takes the vehicle to one of Tesla’s “Supercharger” stations in Woodburn, where he demonstrates to me its capacity to pick up a full charge in about an hour and 15 minutes, onlookers stop — in the rain — and stare. One man takes a photo with his cell phone. Another comes close to examine the car, apparently indifferent to the driver’s presence.

Their reaction isn’t unusual. At a weekly “Coffee and Cars” event at the World of Speed Museum in Wilsonville earlier in January, auto enthusiasts surrounded the Tesla like paparazzi with cell phone cameras.

“Everybody barraged it,” Schenk says.

The Model X has been anticipated by car enthusiasts and laypeople alike since it was unveiled in 2012. Like Schenk, many are drawn to its combination of power and efficiency, with the Signature Series offering the most power and features of the three Model X lines available. With its dual motors, Signature Series vehicles deliver a whopping 762 horsepower and a zero-60 mph time of 3.2 seconds. They’re capable of putting in 250 miles when fully charged at an equivalent efficiency of 92 miles per gallon.

The vehicle remains a rare bird after being unveiled by Tesla in early 2012. Schenk, a retired anesthesiologist who inherited his love of automobiles from his father, chose to wait for the Model X rather than to settle for Tesla’s flagship Model S sedan. He put his $40,000 deposit down for the vehicle Aug. 1, 2012, and was told then that the Model X would be in production starting at the beginning of 2013. That wasn’t what happened, however.

“They delayed it for a full year,” Schenk says. “And then they said, ‘Well, in 2015, we’ll begin, finally, in the third quarter.’”

It wasn’t until the end of the third quarter that the company finally delivered five of the vehicles. Schenk’s vehicle wasn’t among the first five delivered, and Tesla refused to give him a firm date when to expect his. But just before Christmas 2015, he received a call informing him that his Model X should arrive by the first day of 2016.

Schenk was excited, he said, after nearly three and a half years of waiting for his Model X. He became something of a Tesla expert in the meantime, researching the cars and their technology.

But he was disappointed when he finally went to pick his own vehicle up Dec. 31.

The right rear door of the vehicle — which is a “falcon wing” design — was inoperable. One of the sensors that ensures the door doesn’t impact nearby objects had shifted, convincing the vehicle that there was an obstruction at all times. The door would need dismantling to fix.

Schenk was preparing with his wife for a three-week trip to South America, so he dropped the vehicle off after several days with it. The setback was frustrating, he says, although it was “easy to be generous when I knew I would be out of town.”

Schenk thinks that the problem belies others Tesla may face, however.

“I think the gull-wing doors are very silly,” he says. “They think it’s a really cool selling point. I think they’re just going to be trouble.”

After returning to Oregon Jan. 24, Schenk picked up the Model X once more, and has enjoyed the vehicle since. He is enthusiastic about the car’s 17-inch touch screen, which controls everything from the thermostat, to music, to the doors — all of which can be opened with the press of a button — and even the way it uses power or the height at which its air suspension system is set.

The vehicle has other exciting features as well: it has a back-up camera and senses the car’s proximity to nearby objects. It is spacious, with enough room to carry seven passengers and with trunks in the front and rear of the vehicle. Repairs and maintenance are seldom required, given the absence of an engine and its regenerative breaking — which slows the vehicle and recharges the battery without the driver applying any pressure to the brake pedal, preventing wear to brake pads.

Schenk says that those aspects help to make up for the car’s price tag of around $147,000.

“Not only is this a fast, fast car, it’s the only high-performance car that when you coast, you put gas back in the tank,” Schenk says.

Contact Jake Bartman at 503-636-1281 ext. 113 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

John Schenk's Tesla Model X at the "Coffee and Cars" event:

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - John Schenk's Tesla Model X features a 17-inch touch screen from which much of the car is controlled.SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - The Tesla Model X features both front and a rear trunks.SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - John Schenk opens the front trunk -- or 'frunk' -- of his Tesla Model X.