Air suspension

Air suspension


I realize that this has been discussed previously, but I am now at the time to finalize my order. I would appreciate any current thoughts on whether or not to add this option.

My concern is primarily reliability , particularly in the southwest heat where I live. Any input would be appreciated. I especially interest in current owners of the car.

nickjhowe | 16 augustus 2012

The air suspension in my Range Rover (in Florida) started to have problems at 8 years, 90,000 miles. I've had leaks in the suspension itself, and a failure of the air compressor. The auto shop that I take it to said this is typical for Range Rovers in his experience.

But - when it works it is amazing.

YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).


suj17 | 16 augustus 2012

Thanks. I have looked through those threads. I can't find out though in which other cars these continental air suspension parts have been used and its reliability. These parts are not in the roadster either.

Also, a negative of not getting them would be the additional wait time :(

Michael23 | 16 augustus 2012

I would get it for sure. Must have IMO.

webpicasso | 16 augustus 2012

The ride that the active air suspension gives you is absolutely worth the risk of (possible) additional maintenance down the road IMO.

I intend to keep my Model S for many years and accept that fact that I will eventually have to spend money for maintenance. Having said that, I am absolutely sure that it will be significantly less than maintenance on an ICE car.

David M. | 16 augustus 2012

Just do it. The air suspension ride is heavenly.
Before my test drive the Air Suspension was on the bottom of my upgrade list.
After my test drive, it's #1.

ddruz | 16 augustus 2012

How do we know the ride without air suspension isn't also heavenly? No one has ridden in a Model S without air suspension.

Michael23 | 16 augustus 2012

True, but you can compare it to other cars and it's totally different.

BYT | 16 augustus 2012

Like my pop's used to say, "BOY! Stick with what you know!"

jerry3 | 16 augustus 2012

The DS-21's semi-air suspension worked just fine. You did have to replace the spheres about every 150,000 miles but they were very easy to do as they just screwed on. I don't expect any particular problems with the Continental air suspension.

suj17 | 16 augustus 2012

Thanks for the input. I have decided to add the option. Now the waiting begins! P3189, given dec/jan delivery timeframe.

purrpleh | 17 augustus 2012

I test drove the car last month in Dania Beach Florida which had air suspension. I thought it handled the bumpy industrial area roads suprisingly well considering the low profile tires and 21" rims. Obviously in FL we dont have to worry about snow, but I doubt anyone will get to test drive a car without the air shocks. So we will have to hear from the owners. I intend to add that option due to the ride I experienced and other benefits.

suj17 | 17 augustus 2012

I spoke to the rep and they do not have cars without the air suspension. Their current focus was to make the "best car". I think it will be 2013 when customers will get a chance to drive a car without the air suspension.

Vexar | 21 augustus 2012

I can't believe I did this, but I forgot to ask what the clearance addition was with the adjustable suspension. Does anyone know? We fiddled with it at a stop sign during my test drive, and it went up slowly, but it was definitely multiple inches, and just a little surreal. Not exactly the height differential of the Hannibal 8, but it would still win on a race from New York to Paris. I don't know what "breaks" suspension, but where I live, suspension does break. I think even weight distribution of the vehicle (versus an ICE) will improve longevity on suspension, instead of reduce it. Since they drove it on (or near) a frozen lake in Minnesota, I'm confident the suspension will hold up!

Volker.Berlin | 22 augustus 2012

From an email by Walter Franck (Tesla Motors?) to brianman, via:

Dynamics on how the active air suspense will handle when corning is to be announced, but I can expand upon the height levels. Manual Adjustments are as follows:

Normal height = 6”
High Level 1 = 0.90” taller; When the vehicle accelerates above 19 mph, the clearance adjusts back to Normal height.
High level 2 = 1.3” above Standard and can be used for ascending a steep driveway or fording deep snow. Clearance reverts to High Level 1 above 10 mph.
Low Level = 0.79” under Standard; Active Air Suspension will automatically lower the vehicle for highway driving to improve aerodynamics. Low Level is also accessible from the touchscreen for loading/unloading of passengers. When the vehicle begins driving the clearance adjusts back to Normal height.
The suspension will also self-level the car. For example if you load a lot of weight in the trunk the vehicle will remain level.

Brian H | 22 augustus 2012

"The suspension will also self-level the car. For example if you load a lot of weight in the trunk the vehicle will remain level." Or when doing clockwise 0.86 g skidpad circles with a 400-lb passenger seated behind the driver.

brianman | 23 augustus 2012

@Volker.Berlin - Yes, Walter is from Tesla.

Volker.Berlin | 23 augustus 2012

brianman, sorry, right, we clarified that long time ago. I simply copy-pasted my own post from this thread. Obviously, I should have edited that part before posting it here.

brianman | 23 augustus 2012

No worries. :)

mkh1437 | 15 september 2012

I had a question about the air suspension. If I have a steep driveway, I know I can use the touchscreen to control the suspension and raise the car. But I would love if you could program the car to recognize certain locations (via GPS), and tell it to always move to the high setting when you approach. This would be oh so cool. I expect I will not remember to raise the car every time I approach, and the thought of scraping the nose on my driveway makes me cringe!

murraypetera | 15 september 2012

I was thinking this would be a nice app to build if they ever release the API.

Volker.Berlin | 15 september 2012

Tesla said that the charge mode can be automatically chosen based on GPS. Therefore is does not seem far-fetched to have something like that for the air suspension, too.

Tomas | 15 september 2012

Hey TM folks: if you read these forums, I had the same idea and would love an auto adjust feature so that when I pull into my office, the car will rise up some and won't drag the front spoiler on those stupid parking lot bumpers. ... Plus, it would be sooooo cool... And after all, is that what the model is all about. Cool!

jjaeger | 15 september 2012


Both at work and at home (steep driveway w/ a high bump) - are 90% of the pull-in locations that i need to navigate. If the car would adapt and go max height for both locations, my front lower bumper shroud will be very appreciative...

MB3 | 16 september 2012

Well, it has been said that the air suspension lowers at speed. Does anyone know whether it rises back up at lower speeds? That wouldn't require a GPS location to activate, but would achieve about the same thing (not quite as cool though)

olanmills | 16 september 2012

Yes, it does raise the car back up at lower speeds, but it returns the car to the "normal" height. Going higher than the normal height can only be done if chosen manually, at least for now.

Koz | 17 september 2012

Would be nice to have a voice command for max height for all of those non-regularly used parking places. "Sparky, set suspension to max."

esb | 17 september 2012

Does the air suspension only affect the vehicle height / clearance or does it also control the stiffness / softness / dampening as well? If it only affects the height (even dynamically based on speed / cornering), then I'm probably not interested. If it allows me to control the feel from 'soft floaty cloud' to 'let me feel everything about the road', then that's much more interesting.

skystream3.7 | 17 september 2012

this will also add 5% to mileage the car lowers at hwy speed

Michael23 | 17 september 2012

Looking forward to voice command option to use four times a day!

Rod and Barbara | 18 september 2012

@ esb - The air suspension likely affects the feeling of the suspension compared to non-air suspension. However, the controls provided in the current Model S software only allow for raising or lowering of the car with air suspension installed. There is no option to change feel of the suspension. We do not know enough about the air suspension system to say whether such an option could be added with software only changes in the future.

nickjhowe | 18 september 2012

@R&B - who am i to doubt one of the few folks who've actually got a Model S, but during the GetAmped events there were three settings on the controls (Sport, Normal, ...?) that I ** thought ** adjusted a couple of things (steering?) as well as suspension stiffness/response rate.

Has that setting disappeared, or does it not affect suspension?

Rod and Barbara | 18 september 2012

The settings on the Controls -> Driving screen are:
Suspension: Very High, High, Standard, Low, Jack
Steering: Confort, Standard, Sport
Regenerative Braking: Standard, Low
Traction Control: Off, On

There is no adjustment for suspension stiffness that I am aware of.

archibaldcrane | 18 september 2012

I would love for a GPS-engaged high-suspension automatically. As it is now I'd have to raise the suspension (I have a very sharp, short driveway) and roll down my window, grab the driver's side mirror, fold it in (I have a narrow garage) just to park at home.

I wish the folding mirrors were powered, and I could program one button for "garage mode" that folds them in and raises the suspension, and then press it again to return to normal.

Brian H | 19 september 2012

I think he was implying that the steering modes incorporated suspension differences, too. Seems possible.

Vawlkus | 19 september 2012

I dunno that I'd trust GPS to be accurate enough for that activity.

Volker.Berlin | 19 september 2012

I dunno that I'd trust GPS to be accurate enough for that activity. (Vawlkus)

Well, speed limits for the different height levels would/should still apply, obviously. Assuming that they do (and assuming that you slow down before entering your steep driveway), a slightly imprecise GPS trigger wouldn't hurt. For details on those limits, see my post from August 22 on page 1 of this thread.

Vawlkus | 19 september 2012

I read it Volker. Maybe I'm just thinking of the older GPS that were only accurate +-30 meters. Bit of a gap there ;)

Volker.Berlin | 19 september 2012

Vawlkus, while the GPS is much more precise now under ideal conditions, it may still be considerably off if the view to the satellites is less than ideal (e.g., trees, bad weather) or when there is a massive disturbing signal (e.g., cable car).

Yet, I don't see the problem: Just specify a circle of, say, 100 meters around your house. When you are approaching at speed, the air condition wouldn't raise the height, or would lower it when leaving and accelerating. But while you are maneuvering slowly within that magic circle, the car would be raised. Did I miss something?

Volker.Berlin | 19 september 2012

Edit: air condition -> air suspension ;-)

Rod and Barbara | 19 september 2012

@ Brian H - Yes, I agree that is seems possible for the steering modes to incorporate suspension differences. What I trying to say is that the Guide of Owners and the touch screen control selections both describe only steering differences for the Steering selection.

Michael23 | 19 september 2012

Instead of GPS they could use wifi network recognition. My phone does this to detect I'm home and so does my ipad. It could sense your wifi at home and raise the suspension unless you had a super long driveway

Brian H | 19 september 2012

Note that normal slowing won't raise the suspension to the max. That's a manual/special option only, IIRC.

gimp_dad | 19 september 2012

I also agree that the control for steering *could* also control suspension but I am pretty sure it doesn't right now. I have played around with it and certainly don't notice any qualitative difference in the suspension as the steering modes are changed.

As someone who has owned exotic performance cars and luxury sedans I am still very pleasantly surprised at the quality of both performance and ride comfort in their design. I was a bit worried about what ride quality would be like with the 21" rims and performance tires and find it to be more comfortable than my 2012 Audi A8 which has the non-performance rims (which I specifically chose because there *was* a significant comfort difference between the performance setup and the normal setup even though it also has air suspension).

Timo | 19 september 2012

@Volker.Berlin, "massive disturbing signal".

My friend has some jogging gizmo that uses GPS to calculate how long he has been running. Problem with that was that in that area there was some odd disturbance that put the GPS off by couple of km for few seconds every now and then. So without even leaving the house he had been running a marathon with average speed of mach two. Pretty impressive, right?

That kind of disturbance in Model S with automatic air suspension doing raising and lowering based on location would be bad. Air suspension would bounce you like frog in crack.

Superliner | 19 september 2012

Having spent my entire career in the automotive industry I can tell you that "height adjustment not withstanding" the main advantage of air suspension is consistent ride frequency under varying loads, that is the holy grail of suspension systems.

In order to change the way the suspension "feels", stiffer, softer etc. requires adjusting the shock absorber valving controlling damping of the jounce and rebound travel of the suspension.

As far as reliability, most "full" air suspension systems where the air bags support the entire vehicle weight (not those that use metallic springs with air assist shock absorbers to control height) will usually experience maintenance issues + or - 10 years out of the gate. Problems range from electronic control issues in the more complex systems to just plain old compressor or solenoid valve failures or air leaks in the air bags themselves due to wear, weathering, aging, etc.

All that said, I configured "with" active air suspension knowing it's potential pitfalls (one being the vehicle may become un-drivable if one "or more" air bags develop an air leak) however the consistent ride quality regardless of vehicle loading and it's inherent nature (shock valving not withstanding) to provide a cushy "if you will" ride.

It should also be noted that I have yet to reserve. I've been patiently saving $$ in a dedicated account to make reservation payment / purchase. along with some financing??? options. I'm just a working stiff that's fed up with who I have to thank for the Oil I'm using. The Model S will be more $$ than I have EVER spent for ANY vehicle I've ever owned and will require considerable belt tightening to pull it off. It's on the bleeding edge of my budget but I am a believer in the technology and the need for us as a Nation to rethink what is possible in transportation and the automotive industry.

I'm trying to put my money where my mouth is.

jhuang | 19 december 2012

Well said, Superliner!

I don't know about others, but I am still undecided on the air suspension option. It's the only option that is preventing me from finalizing my order for a Feb delivery, else I'll have to wait for April, which I don't really mind. Problem is, we don't have a non-air suspension to compare it to. No doubt the S without air-suspension won't ride as smooth going over uneven road and bumps, but it may be good enough and more reliable.

The fact that the car becomes "undriveable" if one or more suspension component fails due to air leak and the possible high cost of maintenance after waranty (as much as a few thousand per suspension), is making me lean toward non-air suspension.

rainman50 | 27 maart 2014

@jhuang Did you purchase the air suspension? I'm on the fence now and can't decide.

Brian H | 27 maart 2014

consistent ride frequency


Load levelling is something else you can't get with coils.

FranknWC | 27 maart 2014

I like my air suspension. I miss the auto lowering at 60MPH. But the ride is great. I do use it in parking lots with sleeping policeman (traffic bumps). I like to raise it to get in and out of the car. I think it is worth it. I didn't get leather or the pano roof but I did get the tech package.

Hope this helped. Welcome to the Tesla owners club. Enjoy. Try not to drive our wife crazy while you wait.