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Experience Going from Compact Car to Model S

How has your driving experience been with Model S if you went from a compact car to Model S? What have you had to do differently with Model S due to its larger size in normal driving, changing lanes, parking, etc.?
New MS driver here, but I'll chime in with my fresh observations so far. my old car was hardly what you'd call compact but still the Model S is about 18" wider and 19" longer than the old car. Normal driving - no particular adjustment other than to say I find rearward visibility to be relatively poor with the MS. Good thing you can view the rear camera on the big touchscreen anytime while driving. OTOH, I'm not yet used to the MS size when parking - sizing up suitable spaces, or judging exactly how close I am to the curb when parallel parking. I'm sure I will get used to it, but in meantime I think autopark will be great for that - I was impressed how well autopark worked during my test drives.


Model S: P 8061
Oct 29, 2010
Almost 3 years ago, I replaced a Mazda Miata (MX-5) with a Model S. Wow, the Model S was huge by comparison. ;-) It still feels big to me, but I've mostly adapted.

Parking was a pain at first, but the auto-tilt mirrors help a lot with that.

The car is a lot wider, which is just something you have to get used to. Pay more attention to where you are in the lane; you have less wiggle room.

Really, I feel like turning radius is the biggest thing that there's no way to "adapt" for - I have to take turns slower and wider. I mean even slow ones in parking lots or parking garages, to say nothing of, say, a left turn onto a divided road. Be very careful until you get more used to having such a big car. ;-) Early on (and maybe not that long ago, blush), I took turns too sharply and grazed or went over curbs. I'm mostly over that, though, honest! LOL.

Also, bottoming out when I would never do so in the Miata. I learned to take certain steeper things at a slight angle or a lot more slowly. Although, again, the car has a feature that helps -if you got the air suspension, raising the car via that! This has helped for even a situation where going as slow as molasses didn't help - I love the air suspension.

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How has your driving experience been with Model S if you went from a compact car to Model S? What have you had to do differently with Model S due to its larger size in normal driving, changing lanes, parking, etc.?

P.S. you didn't mention what your old car was. :) What was it???

Jason S

Model S Sig Perf (P85)
Apr 20, 2012
Rocklin, CA
Drives small, parks big. When moving around, acceleration, etc., it doesn't seem so big. But parking is different and width/length was something I needed to plan for.

It is now routine, but was a bit worried at first. The rear camera and the huge side mirrors with auto-tilt help tremendously.
I went from an Audi RS4 (considered sub-compact) to MS, almost named my car Big Blue cuz that's what it feels like.
After a month I am just now weaning myself off of constantly checking the lane sensor markings to see if I am hanging over, in my Audi it always felt like I had an extra 1/2 lane to spare. The curb warnings scare me sometimes too. And he barely fits into my single car garage - thank goodness for the sensors when pulling in & the mirror tilt when pulling out. I'm not looking forward to the 1st icy day when the back starts sliding once it hits the pavement outside...

But inside it's paradise! :cool:
We go from compact (8 feet long) car to large car every day.

My wife takes my Smart Electric Drive in the morning to do the school run with our youngest. He prefers it, because he can "sit in the front", the Smart ED has only two seats. ;-)
I then take my Smart ED to work (50 km round trip).
She does the school run in the Tesla in the afternoon.
Weekends and evenings, we don't have a preference, and take either out depending on the number of passengers and distance.

We basically switch between these two cars every day.

The Tesla is absolutely easy to drive in the city, but mostly take the major routes.
For me, the Smart ED is perfect for the back streets I take (to avoid the major street traffic).

Agree with others, the Tesla is easy to drive, comfortable and reasonable in parking lots (I usually back in as the rear view camera is excellent).


Moderator, Supercharger Hunter
Global Moderator
Mar 17, 2015
Lafayette, CA, USA
Coming from a 2005 Prius (not quite a compact car). Driving isn't noticeably harder (although the turning radius is somewhat wider than I'm used to). Parking is my only real challenge, the Model S is a wide car with not great rearward visibility. The backup camera is great, and the auto tilting mirrors help too, once I got used to them.
The largest car I'd ever owned previous to the MS was a Mazda6. Prior cars include various 2 door Hondas, and Integra Type R, and a couple of Toyota MR2s. You could say that (aside from the Mazda), I've never owned anything larger than a compact coupe. In any regard, I don't really find driving or parking the MS a challenge. Now, out of paranoia and the potential of damaging a 6 figure vehicle that's nowhere near being paid off, I park like an old woman on a Sunday drive to the local Dennys... but that's not really due to any extra degree of difficulty IMO.
My other car is a smart so there's 'quite a bit' of difference in size. Its compounded by having a narrow lane access to our apartment car park and quite narrow single lane ramps in the carpark. As others have mentioned width is the real area of adaption when changing from one to the other. The rear camera os very helpful but the inability to see the front corners of the car are the major concern.
My wife has a hard time parking; she can't make out the car's landmarks for some reason. Even after a month of driving it, she still pulls in crooked. With the exception of parallel parking, of course. Her previous vehicle was a Honda Odyssey.

She made me drive it into an underground parking lot. After that experience, I totally agree with the aircraft carrier analogy.

But driving the car down a highway is amazing!
Heck my other car is a Jeep Grand Cherokee. That is easier to park than the MS. Taller tires, and smaller outside dimensions make it less of a challenge. I love the MS as it drives. But with 21s and the big outside dimensions, it takes some getting used to. I do now trust valets in NorCal. I didn't at first. The tilt mirrors, rim guards, sensors and camera all make parallel parking easier. Parking lots are now end spots at the far reaches of the lot. But I got used to it. And it is all worth it!

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