Dramatic difference in feeling between 21" and 19" tires

Dramatic difference in feeling between 21" and 19" tires

I've had my P85 for about 6,500 miles with 21" tires. Thanks to Tesla service, I was able to use a brand new P85 loaner equipped with 19" tires for the last two days. I know this topic has come up before, but I just had to write about what a difference it made.

The 21" tires give the car a light, silky, liquid feeling. The grip and sure-footedness at speed and in cornering is quite noticable, but if you're driving your Tesla as you would an ordinary car you'd never miss it.

I find the 19" tires make the car feel heavier and more solid. Not a bad heavy. More of a heightened feeling of solidity without the extra grip on launch or in corners. I don't plan on driving in the snow in my P85 (ever), but if I did, I'd choose the 19".

lolachampcar | July 5, 2013

and I think it is worth noting that there is a significant difference in feel between the Contis and Pilots. The latter has stiffer construction providing more grip and better feedback (for the exact same tire/rim size).

mumanoff | July 5, 2013

brijam did ytou notice any sound level difference?

gasnomo | July 5, 2013

I have both, i find the the 19" make the car quieter and smoother to drive, the 21's make the car have more grip and slightly better handling and in my sole opinion look better.

carlk | July 5, 2013

That's why all performance cars specify sticky low profile tires. Matter of fact Porsche has specified Pilot Sports II, the same as used in P+, as base tire for years and specifies even stickier tires for upgrade models. Sure you have to live with the short comings, cost and wear, but there is no subsitute for a good set of tires if you're looking for the best handling. I did not mention ride because that can be fixed with proper tuning.

@wormhole Yes after a while you will get used to the handling but the look is always there.

TomasT | July 5, 2013

brijam Great post.

I have the 21" wheels and although I haven't driven the 19"s I have to imagine they provide better insulation against bumps than the 21"s. The 21"s feel pretty stiff on bumps and road irregularities.
The guys at Consumer Reports mentioned the same thing and they preferred the 19"s for the more solid ride and bump insulation.

I suppose if you like the Mercedes Benz S-class ride (to me is one of the best family sedan rides) I would recommend going with the 19's. If you prefer the stiff AMG Mercedes type ride... the 21's are for you.

LEvans | July 5, 2013

Unless you are into racing, you'd likely not be doing any favors by getting the 21" tires. I got rid of low profile tires in my E550 after multiple tires failures. I'll never take delivery of another vehicle with low profile tires. For every-day driving, especially in the DC area roads, there are no benefits to having low profile tires. You are just going to make the ride more uncomfortable and increase the likelihood that you will be stranded with a tire failure due to a moderate pothole. I generally rather have more rather than less air and rubber between me and the road to increase comfort and survive road irregularities.

RDot | July 5, 2013

Anybody wanna trade there 21" wheels for some custom painted 22" asanti wheels! Email me

Xerogas | July 5, 2013

Just picked up a loaner with 21", and compared to my normal 19" the 21 definitely felt bumpier on slightly rough surfaces. Very grippy and nice cornering, though! Personally I prefer the 19" smoother ride, and I expect the tires to last a lot longer, too.

mrspaghetti | July 5, 2013

I can appreciate the difference - I just put some tires marketed as being uber-quiet (Bridgestone Turanza Serenity Plus) on my wife's car and the difference in road noise is very surprising. I will definitely get those on my Model S whenever I get the car.

ThomasK | July 5, 2013

Anyone drive 21"s in snow? I have 19"s and there's not a whole lot of room between the fire and the front of the wheel well/fender. I wonder if buildup of gunk/slush is ever a factor.

S4WRXTTCS | July 5, 2013

With the price bump to the 21's it seems like it makes a lot more sense to have the default 19's for the Winter, and 21's for the Summer when you can actually take advantage of the extra stickiness. It's also generally not recommended to be using high performance tires during a cold winter.

Why pay $4500 for 21's when you could get both the 19's and the 21's for $5200?

$700 seems pretty cheap to me to save thousands on unnecessary tire wear, and increased chances of curbing a wheel (more likely to occur during time you can't see).

Brian H | July 5, 2013

Seriously? Using soft perf tires with narrow treads etc. in the snow is asking for it. There's a reason there are no winter tires available for those wheels.

brijam | July 6, 2013

@mumanoff - I didn't notice any difference in sound, but since it was a different car it wouldn't really be a fair test.

CAdreamin | July 6, 2013

If anyone is interested in seeing pics of 20 wheel designs in 19 and 20 inch diameters that fit MS, email me at

richard_lawson | July 6, 2013

I started with the 21s until I had a blow out on a medium sized pot hole. I went to the expense of getting the 19s and have been much happier. I prefer the softer ride and will prefer the longer tread life. I am not a performance driver. So, my opinion is colored by that fact.

mikefa | July 7, 2013

Hate to tell all of you who have 21" wheels... but the Model S with the 19" wheels ride noticeably firmer and smoother around the corners because it has slightly lower center of gravity!

Bighorn | July 7, 2013

Are you suggesting that the radius of the 19" wheel is significantly different than the 21" wheel after accounting for the tire sidewall? Are you also accounting for the fact that air suspension will have a much greater effect on center of gravity?

lolachampcar | July 7, 2013

First post contains rolling diameter of several different tires including stock 21s and 19s (very similar).

Bighorn | July 7, 2013

So the 21" wheel has a radius/axle height that is 35 thousandths of an inch greater than the 19". I stand corrected--I would definitely be able to tell the difference in a firmer and smoother ride! Suckas with your fancy rims!

cfOH | July 7, 2013

@Lola: Wow, that's a great group-buy price on those wheels. My plan is to use the stock 21s for at least the rest of this warm-weather driving season before switching over to some 19" cold-weather setup (TBD...advice appreciated). Then, next year, if there's any consensus in the community that a better aftermarket setup for summer is available, I'll consider that. But, given the potholes and such around here, 22" just isn't likely to be a feasible option for me.

lolachampcar | July 7, 2013

One other consideration brought up by a friend with a Porsche shop...
Aftermarket rims are a whim type item. Their design is changed often to keep the product line fresh which means what you buy today may not be available three years from now when you whack a wheel. I'd not considered that and will buy a spare if I go that route.

I do find it entertaining that you can almost buy a complete set for $2K! That makes them a relatively affordable thing to simply try while keeping the stock Tesla wheels in the garage. If it does not work out, I'm sure a good portion of the purchase price can be recouped on resale.

JaneW | July 7, 2013

The tires are very different -- not just in size. The 21s are high performance summer tires, very sticky, great handling and traction, good in wet, dangerous in snow.

The 19s are all-season tires. Not very sticky, mediocre handling, good in wet, fair in snow.
Where I live (Colorado mountains), we call them no-season tires. :)

High performance tires for summer, actual snow tires for winter. More fun for both.
Autocross in the summer. Ice gymkhana in the winter. Yaay!

mikefa | July 7, 2013

@Bighorn, @lolachampcar, @Bighorn: if you go to a tire shop and compare a 19" rim tire with a 21" rim tire, the 21" tire will be about 3/4"-1" taller... the drive experience due to the height difference in the center of gravity will not be noticeable for most average drivers, but 3/8"-1/2" differential in center of gravity comparison can be considered to be significant for some test drivers.

cfOH | July 7, 2013

@mikefa You're ignoring the sidewall aspect ratio, which can change tire to tire and makes your statement untrue nearly all the time.

For example, a P245/40R19 would have a sidewall ratio of 40% of the section width (in this case, 245 mm). So, the overall diameter of the mounted tire would be 19" + 2x(.40x245)/25.4 = 26.7"

If you wanted to keep the same overall outside diameter (for fitment or speedo/odo accuracy), a good 21" choice would be a P245/30R21 where the overall diameter is 21" + 2x(.3x245)/25.4 = 26.8", almost exactly the same diameter as the 19" tire.

cfOH | July 7, 2013

@JaneW Good points. Another limitation to summer perf. tires is that their compounds are generally unsuitable for driving in freezing temps. They get very hard, unpliable, and lose LOTS of grip, even on dry tarmac. IMO, winter performance tires (e.g., Pirelli Winter Sottozero Serie II are terrific) or studless snow tires (e.g., Bridgestone Blizzak LM-60) really should be permanently mounted on a second set of rims for winter use if you live anywhere that gets snow every year. Just swap them over when it gets cold and then put the summer tires back on when Spring has returned.

Bighorn | July 7, 2013

So you're denying the data shared by lola in favor of eyeballing things at the Dubs store? Bless your heart.