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Where the Model S Fails

I took my test drive of a Model S today in Portland, Oregon. As a long-time BMW owner, I was very pleased that the ride and handling (with steering in Sport mode), was very similar to a 5-series. Additionally, these are beautiful cars in person and will turn lots of heads. Unless you get the no-touch entry with the Tech Package, however, you will be forever looking at smudgy door handles as the chrome practically shows your fingerprint every time you touch it to reveal the handle. The Tesla guys were constantly cleaning them today - please make the no-touch reveal standard!

Unfortunately the Tesla design team dropped the ball on the dash and console, as in person it looks cheap and unrefined. The dash stitching just looks out of place, and there's too much brushed chrome trim, some of which intersects other pieces by one piece being on top of the other (never seen that in a car). Those of you who are used to real wood like on a BMW or Mercedes will be disappointed, as none of the "wood" looks real in any way. The Piano Black is the only trim that doesn't look cheap to me (my opinion). The huge rectangular touchscreen and it's straight edges conflict with the mish-mash of dashboard curves, which is the opposite of the exterior, which is a smooth blend of graceful curves.

I'm still buying a Model S, however, as there's so much to like about this car, and it's truely revolutionary. I just wish the Tesla design team had copied the interior of a 5-series or X5, which are stylish, functional, and cohesive, with great attention to detail. In person, the exterior styling exemplifies the breakthrough product that is the Model S, the interior simply does not.

As a European buyer this is my biggest concern, but will wait to see it 'in person' whenever that is...

+1 Vouteb
My concern as well...

As another European buyer, I keep telling myself two things:

First, the German brands are known to "soften" their suspension and steering for the American market. German cars that are adjusted to accommodate American expectations are said to be still relatively "stiff" when compared to American brands, but less so than the same cars when tuned for the German market. I'm not sure to which extent this is actually true, but it seems plausible to me.

Along the same lines, I expect Tesla to recalibrate suspension, steering and possibly even regen for the cars sold over here, to accommodate German expectations. As Europeans, we will only really see how it all works out when test-driving cars that are fully homologated and fine-tuned for our respective markets.

Second, since it is not unlikely that we will have to wait almost another year to take delivery of our cars, and since particularly German buyers may be even more critical than Americans in their comparison of the Model S to competitively priced German cars (you know, we don't give so much for "buying American" over here...), we may actually get something like a Model S 1.5 or 2.0. Think interior finish, power-folding mirrors, proximity sensors, maybe even adaptive cruise control...

(Full disclosure: This is entirely speculative on my part. I am long TSLA. I'm prefer BMW whenever I have a choice at the car rental.)

Volker, I agree with what you are saying.

If you look at the American cars that are imported into Europe, they are all "adjusted" to the european legislation. But this is all regarding to lights, blinkers, suspension etc.
I am sure that Tesla will have to do the same thing, as long as they didn't already thought about it and made a car suitable for the entire world...

The one thing that keeps bugging me is the interieur finish. I don't really care about compartments etc. The one thing I do care about is the quality of the interieur. Like mentioned before, this could be a show stopper for me.

But then again, I am sure that at the time we are able to order the car, there will be some changes made to it. The pain of waiting will return in a gain of a better car.

We will see it when they get here and make dicisions at that time...

@ Volker Berlin and @ stephan.maes
I fully agree the Model S is very nice but the point
interior design ist a very critcal point here in Europe
I looked the other day to Jaguar xf and the Mercedes GLS
the interior design is remarkable fine tuned
if you look at the pictures of the Model S
after the test drives how the seats looklook like -- terrible and outworn
if this happens to me here as a customer of Mercedes or Jaguar it is matter of returning the car and ask for exchange of the seats
I was in Geneva in spring and the first thing I said to them
please do something to the interior design it looks very cheap

Norbert.Vienna, you described my fear... I don't want to return the car to exchange the seats. I will buy another car instead ...
I will see in October/November (then the S should be homologated in Europe I've been told).

@Volker Berlin: So far you have been right, lets hope your record continues.

PS: Why don t we see any thread from regular new owners experiences?

Make new thread: New owners experiences?


While I think you are all right that the standard of the interior is not on par with the rest of the car, I am not too concerned with it. I am pretty sure Elon et al. are not visually impaired and will make this a point they will work on as soon as they have the car part right first, which is forward motion, steering and braking.
Tesla may have promised the best car in the world and that was a bit (?) ambitious, but to accept that as a fact for the first car Tesla makes is a little naive. I know I will get an imperfect car that will be better in the 2.0 version. I need to accept that or wait for the 2.0 version. Like hell I won´t!!

I agree, I'm following through on my purchase also. It just looks like Tesla spent all their industrial design budget on the exterior, and viewed the interior as an afterthought, with the primary goal being "let's see how big a touchscreen we can shoehorn in there."

I hope the design decisions aren't being made by engineers and financial guys/gals - it needs a talented automotive industrial designer's touch in the worst way. My post is just a plea for that.

The conversation about the Model S interior and its many failings has been going on for almost a year on this forum and at TMC. Tesla has had ample time to digest hundreds of comments about fit, finish, materials, design flow, the center channel area, door storage, cup holders -- you name it.

I think those who believe that TM will make substantial mods to the interior before release of production vehicles are sadly mistaken -- maybe a few tweaks, but overall, what we now see is what we're getting. Version 2.0 will be different, I suspect, because the current interior will cause some buyers to walk away.

IMO, Model S V1.0 will have a minimalist interior in many ways -- design, materials, storage. I'm doing what I can to suggest alternatives, but it's really TM that should be responding to this issue with concrete options -- and soon.

BTW, it looks like TM removed the thread I started on the CCI. I wonder why?

The interior is minimalist, I think it works well with the car. I agree it could be more refined like a BMW or the likes, but I loved driving this car and the touch screen will be upgradable with new features as it goes. I doubt the upgrade to the OS will includes fees other than standard maintenance. (I could be wrong I guess) When I sat in the car it felt very comfortable. How much do you really need wood? I do concede that I will be jealous of the 2.0 buyers, but I won't wait either.

PS: Why don t we see any thread from regular new owners experiences? Make new thread: New owners experiences? (vouteb)

The only reason I can think of is that nobody on this forum as taken delivery yet. I'm still thinking there might be something to the rumor that slow ramp-up is even slower than planned -- for whatever reason. We'll learn on Wednesday, I guess.

I don't think that opening a new thread makes any difference... If anybody who knows about these forums takes delivery, I bet they will post more or less immediately.

I think those who believe that TM will make substantial mods to the interior before release of production vehicles are sadly mistaken -- maybe a few tweaks, but overall, what we now see is what we're getting. (Soflauthor)

I completely agree with this assessment, for US deliveries. It may just be wishful thinking on my part, but given that European delivery starts several months later, and Tesla do not have the "buying American" bonus over here but are rather competing with the German premium brands in their own home market, I believe they have to do something about the interior finish (not necessarily center console, let alone the rest of the design; just materials and build quality).

Tesla only HAS to do something about the interior when they get thru the orders they have. They will worry about the Germany car manufacturers when the Germans figure out how to make an electric car go over 100 miles per charge at Tesla's price point. They will sell out next years reserve before the end of the year at the rate things are going..... and I think that will include the cancellations because the car is missing 15 cup holders.

Everyone wants this perfect car right out the door. I admit it would be great but they are competing in the Electric car industry not the ICE. While I will admit it would be great to have some refinements, I am buying the car because it is a BEV with real range. I would never buy a BMW or any other German car because, in my opinion, they are not worth the money. To me a car is a machine that takes me from point A to B. My cheap Saturn has done that wonderfully for 12 years and I would have bought a BEV back then if it was available. Heck I would have bought a cheaper Saturn back then but I was buying in a rush and bought what was on the lot.

Don't get me wrong. I would turn down door pockets and cup holders along with center storage and a whole plethora of interior options but in no way is it a deal breaker. It's not even a deal slow down for me. There is NO other BEV that has the range of the Tesla so it is the only car I can buy. Supply and Demand.

For those who are buying the S 1.0 for any other reason besides it is a BEV?.... I have no clue why they would be spending the BEV premium price. I hate saying it but go buy the German car of luxury. Version 2.0 will be much better and they can get an S then.

Feel free to bring up the lack of interior features so Elon has a good idea of what the average public requires. I am just explaining why it was not a priority for Tesla to make the interior the Kings Thrown, in my opinion. I am betting about 30K or more customers will over look the interior which gives Tesla a few years.

I would NOT turn down.....

wish we had an edit feature.

Sudre_, I understand what you're saying and I have to agree. I admit that I have a reservation for the Model S because there is just no alternative on the market right now, and I'll buy it regardless of interior (I have said that before, just in case someone thinks I'm schizophrenic here in the light of my above post).

But that doesn't change the fact that I hope that the interior gets on par with ICE sedans in the same price range at some point (the sooner the better). Part of the Model S is its range, but another and I think equally important part is that its an electric car that you can be proud of regardless who you peer group is. As long as the interior has anything embarrassing about it, the Model S does not have completed its mission.'s an electric car...

wish we had an edit feature.

By real wood, I assume you mean some kind of burl with a deep gloss. It's a great look, but IMO would look out of place with the lines of the model S. Given a choice between a burl and the current offerings, my order of preference would be lacewood, obeche matte, CF, obeche gloss, burl, and lastly the piano black. Different strokes I guess, but to me it would be like putting an ornately carved gold leaf frame on a Mondrian.

Sudre_ | July 23, 2012
I would NOT turn down.....
wish we had an edit feature.

Not to mention "King's Thrown Throne".

ThomasN - I totally agree that burl wood would look totally out of place in the Model S. I think the interior wood choices are well-suited to the spirit and styling of this car.

I am curious as to what Norbert.Vienna is saying "if you look at the pictures of the Model S
after the test drives how the seats looklook like -- terrible and outworn"

Really? I did not experience that at all. I have 2 BMWs and my impression of the leather quality in the Model S was that it was actually superior to my BMWs (a 2002 and 2008 3-series). And I certainly did notice any 'outworn' qualities to it. Fit and finish is not as good as Audi, but neither is BMW.

I think people should actually SIT in this car before making qualitative judgements based only on 'pictures'.

That being said, the interior will continue to evolve and improve with each iteration of Model S. But TM will never be able to please every customer, nor should they aspire to. For the early adopters, TM is building a revolutionary vehicle and they are creating their own brand quality based off of performance and practicality first, with luxury a close second. Yes, the luxury component will get better and better, but that is certainly not, and never will be, the primary reason to buy this car.

As Sudre said, if a luxury interior is vouteb's "biggest concern" (which is hard to believe), don't buy the Model S v1.0. Buy it because it will be the transformative vehicle of our era, the most practical car for your lifestyle, the most digitally advanced car in existence. That is what sets it apart.

Agg. Started me off on a wee homonym stumble rumble:

The King and the Witch

"A witch?", said the King. "Which witch? I can never tell which witch is which!"

Before he could think, he had thrown his crown at the crone, and tumbled from his throne. He saw the crone had grown fair and began to groan, knowing he wouldn't fare well.




Sudre_ If you think I am talking about additional cup holders then we are on different ends of the automotive buying spectrum.

I think people have gotten too focused on keeping food and drink, as well as too much junk in their cars. Tesla did not want this car to be your den; I have come to realize this car wants to have only one purpose in life- get you there like no other ICE could ever hope. Time to let a car be a car!

Brian H - The grammar police police will throw you in the "too-much-policing" jail.

"Not to mention" cancelled out by mentioning it...

In my opinion, the wood does not need to be there at all, but unfortunately the piano black is glossy and asking for fingerprints, so not a real option. With that exception, both the car I drove, and the static model we had were fine with regards to fit and finish - (Red non-sig with pano roof, and brown non sig without pano roof in NY this past weekend).

I am a pretty strong minimalist, my 2001 Audi TT had nearly the perfect interior if it weren't for the uncomfortable seats, and terrible cupholders. I actually do genuinely like the stark interior, and will not miss any of the creature features most are asking for (with the exception of better cupholders!). If I could have brushed aluminum where the wood is, I'd be satisfied with that.

I think most people here that are upset about the interior are a bit more like the "old luxury" crowd referred to in the Audi ads (fur coats etc.). This is genuinely a matter of taste, and Elon has very minimalist modern taste, so I am fairly certain you will not convince him that you "need" lots of buttons and crapholders.

I'm pretty sure you'd have a similar challenge convincing Steve Jobs that you need a keyboard on your phone.


I am already locked in contract for my signature but felt this link was appropriate to share here:

Some of these 7 are actually incorrect, as I understand things.

Further, if these are the 7 top complaints then Tesla really has created a near perfect vehicle.

This is a very public publication and felt it was important to share with all of you.

Definitely, BYT. Thanks for sharing.

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