Horrible back seats! Almost a deal breaker!

I used to live overseas and had drivers, so I pay more attention to the back seats than most people do. Living back here in the US, I DON'T have a driver, but I've got kids now. Just babies, but my wife and I take turns sitting in back with them (for now, one's just one and we've got another bun in the oven).

The back seats of the Model S are HORRIBLE. There is, of course, the well known problem of the sloping roof which has me, at all of 5'8" tall, bouncing my head on the ceiling. But beyond that, the seats are angled wrong, and just not comfortable. At the very least, Tesla should have made the seats adjustable a bit for recline as there is nothing behind them. I suspect that Elon's demands for the children's seats in the back might have made that difficult. I suspect the child seats won't be a popular option, so they might consider dropping them if they interfere with the recline of the back seats.

My wife and I went and looked at the new Lexus Hybrid ES this week to make sure before we pulled the trigger and finalized our order. I have to say, the fit and finish of the ES is far superior to the S. And the back seat is FAR, FAR better.

Thank god cooler heads prevailed after I groveled until my wife relented.

So I'm still getting a Model S, but only just.


I don't know the ES in person, but from its size I'd assume that the rear bench in the Model S should be significantly wider, plus it does not have a hump in the center. I agree that this does not help much with the seating angle and headroom, but it's a trade-off either way.

BTW, what do you think about the front seats?

I agree that the back seats are not 'limousine class', but for a sedan I find them pretty agreeable. I'm 6'2", and with the pano roof have no issues with back seat headroom. The seat in front of you has to be raised a bit to create acceptable toe room, however.


I took a friend on my test drive. He is well over 6 feet, and sat in the rear along with his adult son and my wife. I expressly asked all of them about the comfort of the back seat, and all said it was fine. Maybe it was so bad for you because you are accustomed to limousine service?

Yes, I noticed that as well (I am 6'1"). My head touches the headliner sitting in the rear seats. It's not a deal-breaker for me, as I rarely drive more than one passenger at a time anyway. However, it makes a great case for buying a the Model X!

I've never seen a sedan with adjustable back seat angle... only in minivans and SUVs. Since the seat bottom and seat back are separate parts seems like that would complicate things. If you get the pano roof you recover quite a bit of headroom in the back. My kids found it comfortable but not 'squishy.'

I'm 6'3" and I've noticed a lack of head-room in the back rows of some other electric cars I test-drove earlier this year. So this is certainly an issue I have been thinking about also, with respect to the Model S we're waiting for...

But so long as there's enough head room up in front, then this won't be a deal-breaker for me. My wife's drivers licence isn't valid in Norway, so most often it will be me behind the wheel :)

@DTsea | NOVEMBER 14, 2012: I've never seen a sedan with adjustable back seat angle...

On my Porsche Panamera S Hybrid, the rear seats are adjustable as to angle and bolster size. I would assume other German cars have these kind of features too. The Tesla Model S seats are an exercise in minimalism, which unfortunately does not work when there are a variety of body shapes sizes out there.

It seams to me that you should be looking more into Model X. This will have far better backseats.
I guess it will be common availble for you in aprox 1½ year.
even though Model S is the best you can get know, you should already plan for the model X
If your current car can hold the time you might be better off waiting - sorry to say, but I guess most wouild agree that this should be the vise decission

or maybe a gen II model S may have adjusteble backseat angle - one could hope :) - TESLA read the message :)

The Lexus LS range also has adjustable rear seats...

The imiev ev has adjustable rear seats.

While the "hump" is gone, the floor is actually a bit higher to accommodate the 4" battery, I think. TANSTAAFL

@Volker: Yes, the backseat on the ES is smaller, but not as bad as you'd think. Certainly narrower. However, the angle and general comfort are in a different class altogether. As far as the front seat, I've only sat in the pre-production model in the showroom a few times and the test drive vehicle once so I'm certainly not an expert, but they seemed fine. Not memorably good or bad.

@NielsChr: I've briefly considered the Model X, but 2 things keep me from ordering it. First, it'll take too long. I want my Tesla YESTERDAY. Second, it's not nearly as pretty as the Model S.

I noticed the same issue, and was hoping for a more reclined seat. I prefer to sit semi-reclined, even when driving.

I think the problem though might not be entirley related to the kid seats in back. I'm guessing that the tops of the rear strut towers might be behind the seat backs, which would provide a limit to the angle of the rear seat backs.

Might not have been much the designers could have done to address this issue.

@SteveZ, @DouglasR: The cars I was riding in overseas were mostly not "Limousine class". In many third world countries, cars are expensive and labor is cheap. You'll often have something like a Camry with a driver. The problem with the Tesla's back seat is the combination of straight upright backseat with low headroom. I'm not sure, but it seems there's less "padding" in the seats compared to other high end cars.

My last car overseas was the LS with the limousine seat option. GREAT back seats. Probably the first car I've owned where the back was as comfortable as the front. However, the recline + massage, etc. cut into the trunk. I actually could not fit 2 full size suitcases in the trunk. I'd have to make other arrangement when going to the airport.

Now when I'm shopping for new cars, I pay special attention to the back seat AND the trunk. Probably one of the reasons I'm so crazy about the Model S. I'm telling people "...and the trunk is HUGE! And there's one in the front too!..." And they're looking at me like I'm nuts.

@SteveZ, @DTSea: The version I test drove didn't have the panoramic option. It's good to hear that it helps with the headroom. I've ordered that option.

I am 6'1 and have sat in the back of a model S a couple of times. I find that even with the pano roof, if you try to lean your head back against the headrest, you feel your head hit the liner right where the glass roof ends. I think reclining the seat would magnify this issue given the slope of the hatchback. I find that sitting forward a bit is actually more comfortable.

I am also planning to get the rear facing kids seats and would be less apt to get a model S without them, so I don't think Elon is the only one who appreciates this feature (there is a thread on this somewhere...VB?).

@markapeterman - I mentioned reclining because not only is the roof low, but the seats are uncomfortable for long drives because the seat is so upright. It almost feels as if you're hunched forward.

I mentioned getting rid of the kid's seats because they reduce the flexibility of the rear seat. Not only a reclining option, but also the ability to move them forward or back. The kid's seats seem to be a mediocre compromise. I'd think if you wanted that type of option, the Model X would be a much better fit. I briefly considered switching my order to the X, but I just don't like the X as much. Not as pretty, and another year or so on the waiting list.

As it is, unless more often than not, there are five or more people in the car, why would you want the kids seats? And then, seems like the X would be a MUCH better fit.

We recently took the Model S for a ride to see my parents. My 16 year old starting saying "my butt hurts" after about an hour in the back seat. The kids didn't think the back seat was as comfortable as I would have expected.

I am 6' 5". My friend is 6' 7". With the panoramic roof, he can be in he driver seat and I can comfortable sit in the back with my legs spread out.

I have never been in a roomier back seat in a Sedan before, but my experience varies.


I have 5 kids under 10 - so I don't really need the headroom in the back - just extra seats. Everyone's needs are different, but the current configuration is great for me. Especially since most of the time I will be driving alone and prefer the S over the X as a personal car. I may get an X for my wife later (she drives a suburban now).

@HenryT2 - Just out of curiosity, did the car you sat in have a panoramic roof or a hard top?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the first order to make the S a driver"s car? The Lexus is a floaty, bloated land yacht. Bland in every way. The new GS Hybird might make a better comparo, and it gets better than 20mpg.

Both a driver's car and a family sedan. Definitely not a 'land yacht' tho'!

markapeterman, not that I know of.

@ddruz - it had a hard top. However, as I mentioned earlier, it's not just the headroom but the angle of the seat, and the seat itself that are uncomfortable.

I agree with others that the seats are unusually roomy and there is plenty of leg room. You could say the same for a park bench. But that's not the comfort that you'd like to see in the back of a "luxury" automobile. For those of you saying that the back seats are NOT HORRENDOUS, I'm almost certain you don't have much experience sitting in the back seat of cars in general, and not much about the Model S in particular.

P.S. @Volker.Berlin and @BrianH are ALL OVER the forums. You guys work for Tesla or just EXTREMELY ENTHUSIASTIC Tesla fans?

HenryT2, the latter.

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