2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: Hit and Miss Door Handles

June 10, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

The door handles on the 2013 Tesla Model S are one step away from being great. Allow me to explain.

For one, they're well designed. When they're retracted, they blend nicely into the contour of the door. When they're deployed, they have a simple, functional shape that easily fits the biggest hands.

Then there's the feel. They're solid as can be when you grab them, like giant hunks of raw metal. You don't expect that given the car's aluminum bodywork and general preference for keeping things lightweight.

And now the downside. They're really just big beautiful buttons. When you grab them they don't unhook a sturdy latch, they merely fire a small motor that pops the door open similar to the touch pads on a Corvette. The handles themselves don't move at all, except to retract into the door.

I'm sure there are plenty of good reasons why they function the way they do, but I would love it if they worked more like traditional door latches. Not many cars today have a solid feel when you grab the door. Even the most expensive luxury cars often have small plastic handles that convey little in the way of heft. The Model S could have scored a few points in this category over its traditional rivals, but oh well.

Ed Hellwig, Executive Editor @ 4,452 miles

Most Recommended Comments

By fordson1
on 06/10/13
1:59 PM PST

I assume all that engineering time was booked before Tesla had its epiphany about feature set being unimportant, right? mfennell, Tesla's only experience so far has been selling cars to those people who would not change one single thing about them. They're enthusiasts. Eventually they are going to have to sell cars to people who are going to compare them objectively to, you know, other cars in that price range.

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By fordson1
on 06/10/13
10:10 AM PST

OK, right now I am waiting for all the people who (A)said the S has only-8-way power seats in order to keep down the power draw, and those who (B)said it was to keep down costs to compensate for the expensive technology in the powertrain, to tell me why Tesla included this feature, which (A) uses power needlessly and which (B) adds complexity and expense, instead of regular door latches.

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By mfennell
on 06/10/13
10:44 AM PST

This may be the only time I ever agree with fordson1. Untold engineering hours were wasted on those handles.

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