DimensionsThe Model S is a great car with industry leading ratings, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you need to get used to with the Model S. The Model S is a wide and long car, and deceptively so in both dimensions. When you’re driving the car, thanks to the incredible acceleration and smoothness, it doesn’t feel like a big car.

I came from a big gas-guzzling SUV, the Acura MDX. The current 2014 model is 193.6″ long and 77.2″ wide. The Tesla Model S is 196″ long and 77.3″ wide. So the Model S is both longer and wider than a large 7-seater SUV.

The Model S is both longer and wider than a large 7-seater SUV

Tesla has some features to help you park this incredible, but large, car.

Parking Sensors

Dash Parking SensorsOne option when you order your Model S is if you want the optional parking sensors, a $500 option. For me this represented 0.5% of the total cost of the Tesla.

These sensors provide front and rear proximity sensors with both audible (mutable) and visual indications on how close you are to objects. The sensors are smart and only activate at low speeds so driving through things like a sand storm won’t set them off.

The visual indicators appear both on the left side of the dash when they activate and on the 17″ screen. While also appearing on the 17″ screen may appear like overkill, that display is incredibly helpful when combined with the rear view camera that automatically activates when backing up.

One really cool feature of the parking sensors is that it shows the distance to objects in the display (in the US in inches) and there are four zones (front left, front right, back right, back rear) and you can easily see which you’re closer to etc.

I’ve found the sensors to be incredibly accurate on the distance and placement. I have, however, found that the parking sensors can be slow to activate. So when approaching something, do it slowly so they can engage and give you good advice.

The parking sensors can be slow to activate

For $500 I think this option is a no-brainer. There are also interesting rumors that Tesla will do more with these sensors in the future, hopefully with adaptive cruise control, but I don’t know if the hardware they have is capable of that or just wishful thinking. Either way they’re a great addition.

 Rear View Camera

Backup ViewIncluded on every Tesla is a high definition backup camera with a really wide viewing angle. This camera can be used at any time and will take up 1/2 of your 17″ display (top or bottom, your choice). The quality is amazing and, while there are some benefits to using it while driving or sitting in traffic (like watching the person behind you shave), the main purpose of the camera is for backing up. When you put the Tesla in reverse the camera (and if equipped, parking sensors), automatically engage and show you your position. Thanks to the wide angle and the chimes you are well protected (if you go slowly) from backing into any obstacles like curbs, people, trees, etc. With the combination of the rear view camera and parking sensors I can’t see any reason for an owner to damage the rear of the Model S while parking.

I can’t see any reason for an owner to damage the rear of the Model S while parking.

The front is a different story though. There, unfortunately, is not a front view camera for parking. The parking sensors can take time to activate and sometimes don’t activate depending on curb height. The Tesla front is long and fairly low and its pretty easy to crunch the front or scrape the underside on curb stops etc. My first day of driving the Model S I scraped the underside of the front bumper on a curb stop because the parking sensors took time to come on and I thought I was a long way away.

It’s pretty easy to crunch the front or scrape the underside on curb stops etc.

The net result for me is I end up parking pretty far from obstacles in the front, and when combined with the length of the Model S that means my back-end sticks out quite a bit when I park. So far that hasn’t been an issue but it is something i’ve been worried about. I’d love to see Tesla offer a front camera on the Model S. There are people hacking one into the Model S, but i’d like to see an official offering.

Side Mirrors

Mirror SettingsThe side mirrors have two things that help with parking and both are included with the technology package which includes many other additional features as well.

First, you can enable/disable both of these features independently. You do that from the settings page.

The first option is auto-tilt when you put the Model S in reverse. Setting your mirror angles for reverse is really easy in the Model S. Put your foot on the brake, put the car in reverse, set your mirrors how you want them to be and the Model S will prompt you to save it to your profile. Save Mirror SettingsFrom then on it will automatically adjust the mirrors when you go into reverse.

Setting your mirror angles for reverse is really easy in the Model S

The second option is to fold your mirrors when you’re going into a tight space. There’s a button in the middle of the mirror adjustment controls that will fold or unfold your mirrors whenever you want. I question the sense of this for parking purposes as getting in and out of doors afterwards will be difficult and will lead to dents. But for garage parking they can be very helpful. If your garage is narrow or you’re a bit too much off-center that day, you can fold the mirrors as you pull or back into the garage. The doorway is a choke-point and usually you have plenty of room outside the garage and once you get into the garage. This is really the only use i’ve found for the powered folding mirrors.

You can have the mirrors auto-fold when you walk away from the car, but that’s more of a gimmick than a feature as the mirrors don’t stick out that much from the car and its really unlikely someone will smash your mirrors off while not damaging the rest of the car. I had this feature enabled for the first week then I decided I liked the look of the car parked with the mirrors in the normal position better and I was getting no real protection by folding them in.


The Model S is a wide and long car but it has some features to make parking it easier. The parking sensors are a great and inexpensive option and the rear view camera comes in very useful. The only thing missing that would be very helpful is a front view parking camera. With all this technology at your disposal hopefully you can enjoy your Model S dent and ding free for many years.