19 or 21 inch tires

19 or 21 inch tires

I've got a Signature coming soon and opted to downgrade to the 19" tires. I live in Seattle and am worried about the driving conditions and got the feeling that the 19's would have a smoother drive and give better traction. I just couldn't find any feedback from Tesla or online as to the pros/cons of either option. I also heard the 21's can't take chains (not that I'd be driving it in the snow often.

Did I make a mistake on going with the 19's? Any advice would be appreciated!


Theresa | August 2, 2012

Since I don't live where I have to worry about chains that is not something that I have looked at. But from the reading I have been doing on the forums it appears the outside diameter of the 19 inch tires and the 21 inch are nearly identical. So I would think with either set you would have the same issue with chains.

joepruitt | August 2, 2012

Thanks Longhorn92, I hadn't seen that thread. I'll check it out...

Teoatawki | August 2, 2012

On dry roads, (and yes I get the joke, I live in Bellevue) the 21" tires will have much better traction because of their softer, "stickier" rubber. The difference in ride is probably mostly mitigated by the air suspension, but the taller profile of the 19" inch tires provides more cushion.

I can't find any rain or rain/snow tires in the 21" size, so I'm planning on adding a set of 19" wheels for winter driving.

Brian H | August 2, 2012

The difference in the ride is due just to a 2" deeper air cushion when impacting bumps and holes. The air suspension will smooth those out for either tire, but there's a limit. And the rims of the 21" are obviously more likely to get bent in a severe "hit" on a protruding edge (the far side of a big pothole, e.g.) And a bent rim doesn't hold air all that well!

BYT | August 2, 2012

"the rims of the 21" are obviously more likely to get bent in a severe "hit" on a protruding edge"

That is what I am concerned about since the ride will be so nice, I may not realize the beating the 21's are getting on the road until I look at them and notice they have been squared off... :(

I am getting the 21's anyway, they just look too damn nice!!

joepruitt | August 2, 2012

Teoatawki, did you get a quote on the additional set of 19" rims? I hate giving back the $3500 upgrade. Might be worth buying the additional 19"s and then having the option later.

joepruitt | August 2, 2012

BYT, I feel the same way as you on the 21's - damn nice. I was hoping on getting the aero tires so I could go something not so blah as the 19's but they pulled those off the options. I really like the 21's but my practical side is telling me to stay with the 19's.

gagliardilou | August 2, 2012

Rims are such an important aspect of the car. I feel you just have to get the 21 in rims.

DallasTxModelS | August 2, 2012

21-inch wheels are equipped with low-profile tires that provide less protection against wheel damage from uneven road surfaces, debris, curbs, and other common obstacles. Model S does not come with a spare wheel and tire.

This has always been at the bottom of the options and pricing page.

BYT | August 2, 2012

Hearing the news lately that the Bay Area has the worst roadways in the country as far as potholes and uneven pavement is another concern.

John56 | August 2, 2012

If you live where there are lots of potholes and snow, you really should get the 19" wheels only, or as an option. 21" wheels only is a bad choice (IMHO). The post about overall diameter between the two being nearly equal is true. But there is a lot more to the equation than this. There really is an excellent post in the TMC that explains all this. Bottom line, you will most likely see little to no difference in take off or 0-60 times. The difference will be mostly shown in cornering with low profile tires. You can always get stickier 19" tires if you want better launch grip. As far as the softer ride talked about with the 19" wheels/tires though, when I did my test drive I drove a performance with 21" wheels, and then rode in a standard with 19" wheels. The ride in the perf version with 21" wheels was substantially smoother. I know this seems counterintuitive, but everyone I saw there who did the same thing had the same conclusion. The performance cars with 21" wheels were a MUCH smoother ride. This could be the result of a number of factors, so not good to jump to rash conclusions. it could be that the Perf. cars were just tuned differently. Wouldn't know for sure without riding in a perf. version with the 19" wheels. Could also be a result of differences between the tires. A number of variables here. However, I really think that most people would be very happy with taking the 19" wheels instead of the 21". I think it will largely be a decision for most on which looks best to them.

davecolene0606 | August 2, 2012

I have had multiple TM reps tell me that the range is slightly better on the 19" wheels. It was intimated like 2%.

Having said that, it was a conversations with product specialists not an engineer.

Teoatawki | August 2, 2012

Dave, there should be a very minor range increase with the 19s. The "stickiness" of the softer rubber on the 21s which helps it hold corners better also increases rolling resistance slightly.

gary.greene | August 2, 2012

Can you get the 19"tires with the performance wheels?

walla2 | August 2, 2012

I asked to get a set of 19" rims only and 21" tires and rims and was told that that the option to get additional rims would not be available at the time of delivery. I'm thinking they might be pressed for rims given the ramp up. I will ask again later but that was the initial response. Getting the 21" rims because the ride was so smooth during my test drive with them on a performance S even on fairly rough road. I paid for the 21" upgrade in my price which is separate issue. 19" will be for the dead of winter only.

gary.greene | August 2, 2012

Ignore my previous post. I realize it doesn't make sense. I too love the look of those 21" wheels but will probably go with the 19" (not sure I want to give up an extre $3500).

kevjo | August 2, 2012

You might want to check out the life span and the cost of the 21" tires. From what I gather the softer rubber wears much faster and you could be looking at replacing tires every 12k miles or so. As I understand the 21s are also much more expensive than the 19s.

Michael23 | August 2, 2012

I live in sf but dark wheels are a must for me on a white car so performance it is!

petero | August 2, 2012

I agree the 19” wheel and tires are better suited to your location but why not get something for the difference. If I were in your position I would speak to your local Tesla dealer’s manager and ask if they could help you trade your 21” wheels and tires to an “early P” for their 19” and $1,000 -$1,500 cash.

Personally, I would give you $1K and my 19" wheels/tires in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, my "P" is approximately 3,900. However, if you are easy on your wheels and you get no takers let me know and I will work it out with you.

roseland67 | August 3, 2012

Math tells me the 21" wheels will give you an additional 1" of ground clearance, compared to the 19"???
Also slightly larger diameter tire should give you slightly
more road contact, (square of the dia ratio)???
Why not get the 21"???

stephen.kamichik | August 3, 2012

The diameters of both rims with tires are virtually identical.

Teoatawki | August 3, 2012

The tires for the 19" rims have taller sidewalls than the tires for the 21" rims to keep the outer diameter the same. If they weren't, you'd need to have the speedometer recalibrated when you switched them.

Brian H | August 4, 2012

Teoatawki | August 3, 2012
The tires for the 19" rims have taller sidewalls than the tires for the 21" rims to keep the outer diameter the same. If they weren't, you'd need to have the speedometer recalibrated when you switched them.

Indeed, exactly 1" taller, to match the reduced radius. It gives the 19" that much more flex and bounce range, of course.

tezco | August 4, 2012

I ordered the 21" tires and was told that a separate set of the 19" rims & tires would be orderable "later"'. You might be able to get some aftermarket rims for winter driving, but the look of the 21" 'ers is so good I went with those since they might be hard to match aftermarket.


Michael23 | August 4, 2012

Yeah the 21 rims look so good to me that I couldn't bare the thought of being without them.

jkirkebo | August 4, 2012

+1 to that. I need the carbon grey 21" wheels to go with my blue S :)

But the silver 21" wheels I actually think looks a little "too big", like the Karma wheels. The cabon grey ones have a more muted and "mean" look and doesn't look so "big and shiny".

Michael23 | August 4, 2012

Yes dark all the way!

Brian H | August 5, 2012

Would 'bare' ones be just rims, no hubs? I couldn't bear that, either.

Michael23 | August 5, 2012

Lol I need Brian H as my iPad Auto correct dictionary.

Getting Amped Again | August 5, 2012

I'd like the style of the 21" wheels with the 19" tires, and would even be willing to pay an extra $1000 for that. Anyone else think that would be a good move by TMC? It would be a profit-maker for them as the cost to produce the 19" version would be just marginally more than the stock 19" wheel (because there is more aluminum used - guessing), and I expect many people would select this option.
It would be a good solution for those of us who don't want the potential problems of low profile tires but like the cooler looking wheel design. Who's with me?

Brian H | August 5, 2012

Does bring up the "hub cap theft" issue. Is that possible?

Getting Amped Again | August 5, 2012

I wasn't really clear in my post. I'd like a 19" wheel that has the "turbine vane" styling of the 21" wheel, and would be willing to pay extra for it. I'd pay $1000 to have that wheel design.

bsimoes | August 5, 2012

Personally, I'm not too keen on paying the 1000 dollar extra. I'd like it if we could just choose between the two styles! Then, of course I'd choose the 21" style wheels! Why do people keep offering to pay more money??

gary.greene | August 5, 2012

I too would love to have the option to order the fan wheels with 19" tires. Tesla, are you listening?

Volker.Berlin | August 6, 2012

Here is another interesting thread on 21" performance tires vs. 19" all season tires:

joepruitt | August 6, 2012

Ok, I just switched back to the 21" wheels. The practical side in me lost in this battle...

HaroldS | August 6, 2012

Got an email today from Tesla listing new tire and wheel packages for purchase. Here's a quote:

Tesla Motors has released new information on wheel/tire pricing. If you have not seen it already, here it is:

19” Winter Wheel/Tire Package with Pirelli Winter Tires
o $2400

19” Winter Studded Wheel/Tire Package with Nokian studded winter tires
o $2800

19” Wheel Package -- set of 4 19” wheels
o $1000

19 “ Wheel (single)
o $275

21” Wheel/Tire Package -- set of 4 21” Silver Wheels with Performance Tires
o $5,200

21” Wheel (single)
o $950

End quote.

The items which do not say "tires" are for rims only. Sorry about the awkward formatting, but that is pretty much the way it came.

Brian H | August 6, 2012

Yowza! Now you can even mix and match -- 19" fronts and 21" rears, etc. ;p

joepruitt | August 6, 2012

Thanks HaroldS! Glad I switched back to the 21's. I can buy a second set of 19's for $1k while it would have costed me $4k to go back to the 21 inchers later on. Thanks for the info!

keith.mueller | August 6, 2012

I had the same quandary, and opted for the 19" wheels on my Signature Peformance S. I really like the looks of the 21" wheels, but the practical side of me wouldn't let me do it. My 20-something kids disagree with my choice of course, but they're not TM's target market for the S.

It's unfortunate that the TM engineers didn't decide on 20" turbine wheels instead of the 21". There are so many more tire choices (Ultra performance summer, ultra performance all-season, etc) available for the 20" wheel size, and they would have the same outside circumference as the 21" tires selected. The looks of the car would have been almost identical, we all could have had the choice of tires we wanted based upon our typical road conditions, and there would have been 1" extra padding around those expensive wheels to protect from potholes. Seems like it would have been the best of all worlds, plus all of the negative customer impact of providing a "free downgrade" while charging $3,500 for the "upgrade" on the base model could have been eliminated.

jkirkebo | August 7, 2012

20" would only have half an inch of extra padding, not one. You do not care about the padding on the top of the wheel, just the one on the bottom ;)

Michael23 | August 7, 2012

Nothing but dark 21s! They are unique like the car. I Already have 20s ;).

danielcolbert | August 7, 2012

Ideally they will offer an option to buy dark 19s. I'm getting the dark 21s and will put the 19s on for the winter. It would really be nice if the 19s were offered in the same dark finish, otherwise I'll have to get them painted to match. Probably $75-$100 per wheel to paint them.