Hit and Miss Door Handles - 2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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


  • Newer models off the line have updated handles which work a bit more traditionally. They have about 1cm of give before the door opens. They are probably still switch activated, but feels more normal.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    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.

  • mfennell mfennell Posts:

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

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    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.

  • igve2shtz igve2shtz Posts:

    Coming from someone who likes the Tesla, I have to wonder if these are "buttons" for electrical actuators, how will these fair in an accident, and how will first responders react to them? Seems like at some point in time, we may see a convertible Model S.

  • mercedesfan mercedesfan Posts:

    @fordson1, That couldn't be further from the truth in my experience. I know a number of Tesla owners who are critical of their cars, but they still love them. I'm no Tesla fan boy (you can look back at my posts and see that there are MANY things I would c

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Fair enough. So how do you think it's going to do outside of the warm weather/Supercharger/EV fanbase/carpool lane advantage corridor? I think I read that like 33% of these cars are registered in CA.

  • mercedesfan mercedesfan Posts:

    @fordson1, I think Tesla is going to have a tough time getting people to consider the car in the first place outside of the West cost and North East. Once people give it a chance I think a surprising number will actually go for a Model S. It's power deliv

  • evjuice evjuice Posts:

    New door handles are being delivered. They are said to have an actual pull of about a 1/2" so they are more to your description. Tesla listens.

  • evjuice evjuice Posts:

    Once the electric all wheel drive version comes out, the cold parts of the planet will get hooked.

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