Horrible back seats! Almost a deal breaker!

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.


Volker.Berlin | November 14, 2012

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.

Volker.Berlin | November 14, 2012

BTW, what do you think about the front seats?

STEVEZ | November 14, 2012

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.


DouglasR | November 14, 2012

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?

TikiMan | November 14, 2012

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!

DTsea | November 14, 2012

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.'

Carl Barlev | November 14, 2012

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 :)

Alex K | November 14, 2012

@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.

NielsChr | November 14, 2012

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

NielsChr | November 14, 2012

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

dborn | November 14, 2012

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

stephen.kamichik | November 14, 2012

The imiev ev has adjustable rear seats.

Brian H | November 14, 2012

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

HenryT2 | November 14, 2012

@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.

HenryT2 | November 14, 2012

@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.

jbunn | November 14, 2012

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.

HenryT2 | November 14, 2012

@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.

HenryT2 | November 14, 2012

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.

HenryT2 | November 14, 2012

@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.

markapeterman | November 14, 2012

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?).

HenryT2 | November 14, 2012

@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.

drripps | November 14, 2012

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.

Jhall118 | November 14, 2012

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.

markapeterman | November 14, 2012


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).

ddruz | November 14, 2012

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

jinglehyme | November 14, 2012

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.

Brian H | November 14, 2012

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

Volker.Berlin | November 15, 2012

markapeterman, not that I know of.

HenryT2 | November 15, 2012

@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?

Volker.Berlin | November 15, 2012

HenryT2, the latter.

HenryT2 | November 15, 2012

@Volker.Berlin - I vote that Tesla should bump you up the queue or give you some freebies or something.

ddruz | November 15, 2012

@HenryT2 - You might be interested in trying out a Model S with the panoramic roof. There is an extraordinary difference in rear seat headroom, much more than you might expect. As such, your posture in the back seat of the car with the panoramic roof will be different and you might find the rear seats not nearly as uncomfortable, including the angle at which they are pitched.

Until you actually experience it for yourself this may not sound plausible. In my personal experience at the test drives the rear seat in Model S with panoramic roof was tremendously more comfortable than with the hard top because my posture was more natural and relaxed and I did not require slouching to avoid bumping my head.

From the perspective of rear seat passenger head room and comfort Model S is almost a completely different car with and without the panoramic roof.

markapeterman | November 15, 2012


Sorry - The thread was on TMC.´t-make-it-into-production

mrspaghetti | November 15, 2012

And I'd venture to say that Volker knows more about the Model S than many Tesla employees.

mrspaghetti | November 15, 2012


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.

I'm appreciative of the sacrifice my little boy will be making so that I can have the world's coolest car. I may start taking him to the park more frequently so he can start getting used to the bench feel :)

Michael23 | November 15, 2012

I'm 6’8 and road in the back for a couple trips just fine. I don't hit my head with pano unless I lean way back so I wouldn't want to be able to adjust the seat. I have rear seats now that recline and I've only ever changed it to make room for storage. No passenger has ever asked me to change the setting even after I offered. I didn't even know our panorama has this setting either til I read it here so it doesn't seem very useful,

William13 | November 15, 2012

With my panoramic roof, the seat is very comfortable. The store betas were not as good as the final product. YMMV.

Brian H | November 15, 2012

Heh. Who managed to bump you from the front? A friend's test drive? Did you need to use the middle seat for visibility? Torso height seems to vary a lot amongst exceptionally tall men; the "normal" sitting height for men is 70 cm/28" (women 10 cm/4" less), but it varies some with those at either end of the distribution. What's yours?

And now that you mention it, I don't recall ever seeing anyone adjust a rear seat!

PS; I assume you rode there, not "road". Gave me the image of the cars Fred Flintstone used. ;)

HenryT2 | November 17, 2012

I test drove a P85 yesterday. I have to sign my final order and wanted to make sure that I was not missing out.

Unfortunately, my test drive was during rush hour so I did not get much of an opportunity to push the car much. Also, it was dark. The freeway was bumper to bumper, so the few opportunities to floor the accelerator were on a few quiet back roads.

WOW! The P85 is fast! TOO FAST for flooring the accelerator on windy back roads at night with insufficient illumination.

Anyway, the point is, I got to check the back seat again. Apparently, Tesla has modified the position of the overhead lights in the back giving a little more headroom. Also, this was a panoramic. Further, it might have been my imagination, but the seat seemed a little more plush and the angle seemed a little more reclined. All in all, a far more acceptable seat than the one I remember sitting in. Can't put your head back all the way without hitting the ceiling, but except for that "sleeping" position, it was not bad at all.

Of course, I checked the back seat after I took the car out. At this point, it could have been one of those nail beds that swamis laid on and I would have been fine with it.

P.S. As awesome as the P85 is, I've decided I'm going to stick to the 40kWh. Talk about extremes, eh? But I just don't need the extra acceleration or battery life. With the $35K I save, I could almost buy another 40kWh or maybe an X.

Brian H | November 17, 2012

I kinda imagine that once TM gets its "pre-owned" operation up and running, along with its leasing, there will be lots of people swapping up and down in battery size.

Jgdixon | November 17, 2012

I thought I saw something in one of the other threads (or maybe on TMC) about Elon insisting that the rear seats be re-engineered?

jerry3 | November 17, 2012

That was the child seats, not the rear seats.

Jgdixon | November 17, 2012

From TMC thread Tela Store Grand Opening comment from George regarding some of the delays "Also rear seats had to go through a design change because of Elon's high standards and required retesting and such."

Volker.Berlin | November 18, 2012

Apparently, Tesla has modified the position of the overhead lights in the back giving a little more headroom. Also, this was a panoramic. Further, it might have been my imagination, but the seat seemed a little more plush and the angle seemed a little more reclined. All in all, a far more acceptable seat than the one I remember sitting in. Can't put your head back all the way without hitting the ceiling, but except for that "sleeping" position, it was not bad at all. (HenryT2)

Thank you for posting your follow-up. I am very glad to hear about your second impression.

ddruz | November 18, 2012

@HenryT2 - The rear seats likely have not been modified from the car you originally sat in. The panoramic roof makes all the difference. If you order your car without the pano roof you will experience the same difficulties you did originally. I predict you will be extremely sorry with the back seat experience if you do not order the pano roof and just fine with the back seat if you do order the pano roof.

TV | January 22, 2013

Were you sitting in the Child Seats in the third row?

garyrudolph | January 22, 2013

If you think those are bad, you should try the the comfort of the rear facing seats. Not comfortable at all at 5'8" ;)

But, seriously I agree the angle of the rear seats aren't great, but they were acceptable for us.

Brian H | January 22, 2013

Some report the pano roof only makes a difference when sitting upright or leaning forward. Not the usual.

RNB | January 23, 2013

6'6". I recall I fit.

rodrigue.barakat | February 4, 2013

Henry T2 I fully agree with you. The entire inside combining poor quality of the seats. Limited adjustments of the seats in the front and lack of storage space made me pull out my deposit.