Tesla Model S third-row seats are suitable only for kids

    Consumer Reports News: May 14, 2013 11:08 AM

    Beyond the fact that it's an all-electric luxury car, one of the surprising things about the Tesla Model S, is that it can seat seven.

    To clarify: That's not exactly seven adult-scale seats like a full-sized SUV. More akin to the large station wagons of the 1960s through the 1980s, the Model S can provide extra space for smaller passengers in a pinch. The optional third-row seat costs an additional $1,500 and faces backwards under the car's giant hatchback.

    To learn more about the Tesla Model S, see our road test review.

    Times have changed, as have safety regulations. Most states now require kids aged seven years and under to ride in some type of child safety seat. With its five-point harness, Tesla's seat is constructed to built-in child seat standards, says Tesla spokeswoman Shanna Hendricks. The seat is only suitable for children greater than 37 inches tall, weighing between 35 and 77 pounds—that is a narrow size range. It's too big for smaller kids, and larger ones won't fit under the sloping glass window.

    In addition, the seat is installed behind the rear axle of the car. And as with any third-row seat, this poses a safety risk in rear-end collisions that parents need to be aware of. Severe rear impacts, however, are relatively rare.

    We originally ordered the third-row seat in our Model S, but it wasn't yet in production when we took delivery. Once it became available a few months later, our car was picked up by Tesla and transported to its New York service center for the installation.

    Now that we have it, we've found the seat is cumbersome and awkward to stow in three sections under the cargo floor. And you have to lift out the cargo cover and leave it home, if you plan to put the seat up. We consider it more like a jump seat: It's useful for occasional extra passengers when your kids bring friends along. But they're not really designed for regular use. Despite the hassles and restrictions, though, we've also found our kids love riding around in it! It is novel.

    Check out our video below to see the third-row seat in action.

    Read our complete road test for more details, and check the Ratings to see how it compares to other luxury cars.

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    Eric Evarts

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