All three Tesla models currently available have slightly different door handles so you or your passengers may wonder how to open a Tesla door. This ultimate guide for all models breaks it down.
When the Tesla Model S hit the scene in 2012, many things struck those introduced to it. For many, it was the huge center touch screen. For some, it was the unfamiliar quiet. Still others wondered how the heck you open the door. In the early days of my own ownership, nearby drivers would roll down their windows to ask me. Even today, picking up friends often results in confused looks. The door handle on all three Tesla models is completely flush with the door when not in use. On a Model S, every handle is mechanical. On a Model X, entire doors are mechanical. For the Model 3, motorized doors and handles were skipped but operation is still unique.
Opening doors from the outside
When you approach a Model S from the driver’s side with a fob on your person, the mechanical handle will slide out to greet you. A small light will turn on, illuminating the handle. Once presented, you simply pull on the handle in a similar fashion to other vehicle handles. The door will release and you can pull to open. Model S offers a setting within the car that allows you to specify which handles present upon unlocking: just the driver’s door or all four doors. You may turn off “passive entry,” which is what makes the car unlock upon simply walking up with a fob. There is also an option to turn off auto-present. To open a door with handles retracted, simply press the door handle.
To open the front doors of a Model X, simply press the handle. Not only will you be able to open the door but the door will actually open itself when equipped with the premium upgrade package. Like the Model S, there are optional settings. To open the rear falcon wing doors, press the handle or double click the fob. A single click of the fob stops the movement. Subsequent double clicks reverse the movement.
A Model 3 unlocks when you approach with an authenticated phone, optional fob, or tap the key card to the pillar. To open the door, simply press the wider part of the non-mechanical door handle with your thumb. Use rest of your hand to grab the thin part of the handle as it pivots open and pull or simply pull open the door from its edge.
Opening doors from the inside
To open a Model S door from the inside, you’ll see a familiar lever. The operation isn’t unlike most other cars, which simply requires pulling the silver handle. The Model X front doors open a similar way. The falcon wing rear doors, however, require a button press. This can be done on the center screen or the physical button on the door pillar. Much like opening from the outside, the Model 3 is perhaps the lease intuitive to open from the inside. When gripping the interior door handle, a small button is present where your thumb rests. Pressing this button, which is electronic, opens the door. I’ve found that every passenger I’ve had looks for a lever, not a button, to open.
Drivers can unlock doors for passengers from inside the car by by clicking the lock symbol on the screen or pressing the park button twice. All three vehicles offer an option to have the doors unlock when in park.
How to open doors without power
You may wonder how to open a Tesla door should you find yourself inside a Tesla without power. On a Model S, operate the front doors as usual. Per the owner’s manual: To open the rear doors, fold back the edge of the carpet below the rear seats to expose the mechanical release cable. Pull the mechanical release cable toward the center of the vehicle.
Inside a Model X, operate the front doors as usual. Per that owner’s manual: To open the rear doors, carefully remove the speaker grille from the door and pull the mechanical release cable down and towards the front of the vehicle. After the latch is released, manually lift up the door.
If in a Model 3, the front doors contain a lever, hidden slightly below the handle’s buttons. This level can be used to open the doors in the absence of power. These levers exist because though it is unlikely to find yourself inside without power, power is in fact required for the primary door opening button. Note: rear doors are not equipped with a manual release lever and thus can’t be opened from the inside in the absence of power. Because the exterior handles are not powered, they are expected to operate as usual.
In many ways, driving a Tesla is just like driving any other car. You jump in the seat, fasten your safety belt, put the vehicle in drive and press the go pedal. In other ways, it’s nothing like other cars. There is no on or off button, no transmission or gears, and certainly no gas. To open a Tesla door is a bit of an exception. Each model has at least one major difference in its door handles or operation than most other cars on the road. Be prepared for flush door handles to grow in popularity however. The Range Rover Velar, released five years after the Model S, not only has them but highlights them for the elegant simplicity.