2016 Tesla Model X: 14 Drawbacks to Those Doors
by Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor on May 31, 2016
Okay, real talk. The articulating doors on our long-term 2016 Tesla Model X make my blood boil.
First, I'll acknowledge that these doors offer one functional advantage over swinging or sliding doors — they facilitate loading a child safety seat. The articulating door takes a portion of the roof up with it, leaving a nice open space in which to stand fully upright when loading a child seat.
In every other way I can think of, the articulating doors (what Elon Musk cringingly dubbed "Falcon Wing" doors) are a big compromise. Let's tick off the ways:
1. Because part of the roof is now the door, you can't mount a roof rack or roof-mounted cargo box atop the Model X
2. No door pockets or cupholders allowed. Unless you want those things dumped on the ground
3. They're slower to operate than any manual door
4. You have to stand away from the door after pressing the release button on the door, else the sensors detect your presence and only open partially
5. The doors are incompatible with garages with low roofs. This includes operating the doors inside many/most home garages when the garage door is open
6. Close parking quarters can result in a partial door opening. Perhaps not any worse than a swinging door in this regard. Plus, our Model X has the "summon" function, which helps. A minivan's sliding door, however, will open fully in virtually any gap into which even a slim person can physically squeeze
7. With their electric motors, sensors, additional hinge points, et al,, they're almost certainly much heavier than other doors
8. Speaking of weight: because part of the roof is now the door, the chassis is structurally inefficient and thus heavier than it would otherwise be
9. The operating mechanism is located at the highest point of the car, raising its center of gravity
10. When it rains, it had better be falling straight down, otherwise it's going to blow in through the huge opening and soak the leather and/or your butt
11. Snow on the roof will be snow on your seat
12. Presence of doors in roof leaves no space for a proper sliding sunshade between the "receding hairline" windshield and the door openings. Instead we get a cheesy K-mart-grade fixed sunshade
13. The corner of the articulating door sometimes rests right at forehead height of exiting front passengers
14. The articulating doors are over the rear passengers, not the driver. The rich dude that buys one of these wants to own his Lambo flashbacks for himself, not his whiny kids. They need a sliding door
I could further speculate: potential reliability issues (ours has been fine so far; other owners have not been so lucky), sealing challenges, complicated extraction following a rollover event... not to mention that everyone feels a moral imperative to photograph their X with the doors open. All. The. Time. Would you take pictures of your Miata with the doors open wide? No, you wouldn't.
Don't believe anyone that tells you the Model X's articulating doors were chosen for their superiority over other doors. After living with them it's clear they exist simply for the initial wow factor; to win over people that are too insecure to accept that the lowly minivan's power sliding doors are a superior solution.
The only reason these doors are famous is because they have previously appeared on rare and valuable cars that are rare and valuable because gullwing door production was cut short because those manufacturers realized it was a dumb idea. If Tesla wised up and dumped the articulating doors in subsequent generations, it would make first-gen Model Xs become valuable to future collectors for the same reason.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 2,137 miles