Why “Falcon Wing Doors” is a bad idea

20 Jan

Tesla’s new SUV, the Model X, has a very special back door design. They open like “falcon wings”, thus are called “Falcon Wing Doors”.


Although looking futuristic and may help with tight parking spaces, this design has several potential problems.

Delayed escape during accident

If an accident happens and there is a fire, how quickly can you escape? You will get quite trapped in a Model X. When the car loses power, according to Model X’s Emergency Response Guidethere is a very complicated procedure to follow before you can open the Falcon Wing Doors.falcon-wing-door-powerless

First of all, notice that without power, there is no way that the door can be opened from the outside. This means that the firefighters can’t help you much! If you are lucky enough–you are not injured, you are not scared, you successfully get out of the trap of the airbags, you have to do the following three complicated movements:

  1. Remove the speaker grill from the door.
  2. Pull the mechanical release cable.
  3. Manually lift up the doors.


How do you remove the speaker grill? Doh.. Honestly, having hammer and screw driver ready in a Model X may be a good idea ;-)

Reduced utility

  1. You can’t install a roof rack and carry a kayak. This makes this SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) less useful than other brands.
  2. There can’t be bottle/utility holders on the back doors, because they will fall off when the doors open. As a consequence, back passengers can’t put their water, snacks or cell phones on the doors.

Vulnerability in weather


  1. When the doors open, the back of the car is almost complete exposed, on the sides and top. A good chance for rain and snow to get into the car in large amounts.
  2. When the doors open, dirt and snow that gathered on the roof can fall into the car.
  3. If the car is covered in heavy snow or ice, the doors won’t open. You have to clear the roof very carefully before the back doors can be opened.
  4. The long seams of these doors are more prone to leak problems. As the seals weather out, water could drip down from the roof.
  5. If dirt, snow, tree leaves or twigs gets trapped into the top seals, you may have trouble sealing the doors, and water will drip in.
  6. It will be tricky open/close the doors in strong wind. Wind may cause the doors to malfunction.
  7. Because the doors increased the car’s center of gravity, the car may shake quite a bit when the doors are open against strong wind.
  8. You can’t get in/out easily with half-open doors, but fully open doors will cause a big heat loss in a cold windy day.


Although the doors may help with parking in horizontally tight spaces, they are troublesome in vertically tight spaces. They may hit the roof in some garages, like this one. Even if the sensors prevented the doors to hit the roof, the back passengers may have trouble getting out through the half-open doors.

Indeed they are easier to open in horizontally tight parking spaces. But, how often do you park in such tight spaces? If that happens, can’t you just drop off the back passengers before pulling in? Can’t sliding doors provide the same benefits?

Mazda5, 2011

Manufacturing and maintenance

falcon-wing-door-machineryThe machinery of these doors is overly complicated. They are difficult and expensive to manufacture, prone to mechanical problems, and difficult to repair. Take a look at the news, and see how a legitimate supplier of hydraulic lifters to other famous brands (such as Cadillac) failed to meet the Falcon Doors’ ridiculous requirements.



Because the Falcon Wing Doors’ complexity, it increases the center of gravity of the car. This decreases the stability of the car and cornering abilities. Also when parking on uneven ground, the high profile of the doors make the car unstable.

Not beautiful or fancy

With this novel door design, the Model X doesn’t really look beautiful, friendly, or fancy. It looks like a Prius. It’s nowhere close to Ferrari, Lamborghini or McLaren. Notice that the “scissor doors” of the hyper cars don’t really have some of the problems of Model X’s Falcon Wing Doors.


The Model X (with the doors open) looks like a falcon, ready for an aggressive move. Not feeling friendly.

With these in mind, and the fact that Space X’s rockets are named “Falcon”, the Falcon Wing Doors feels more like an gimmick and over-engineering than a useful/beautiful design. There really is no need to make car doors looking like falcon wings.

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Posted by on January 20, 2016 in car, design


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