Tesla has recently made the Smart Air Suspension feature a standard offering on the Model X crossover SUV. The feature designed to dynamically adjust the vehicle’s height based on speed for better handling and efficiency also provides drivers with the ability to raise and lower a vehicle depending on their specific needs. For example, those looking to take their Model X off-roading can raise the air suspension to a ‘Very High’ setting, while others seeking improved handling and arguably a more aggressive look can set it to ‘Very Low’. However, setting the Smart Air Suspension to ‘Very Low’ may be trading tear life for improved performance.
The folks from YouTube channel Now You Know set out to see the impact on Model X tire wear as the vehicle’s air suspension is placed on its lowest setting. With a GoPro camera mounted 3-inches off the ground towards the rear of the Model X, they were able to visualize the impact on camber – the angle made by the vertical axis of the wheel in relation to the ground – at different suspension height settings. As the suspension was placed into the ‘Very Low’ setting, the wheel and tire began to tilt further inwards thereby increasing negative camber. While negative camber is commonly used for better handling and improves tire grip when cornering, it adds additional pressure to the inner section of the tire when driven in a straight line. The end result is premature tire wear.
What about the aerodynamic benefits of driving in a ‘Very Low’ setting? Will it improve range? Yes and no. According to a test conducted on a Model S by renown Tesla YouTube personality Bjørn Nyland, there was a negligible impact on energy consumption and range when driving at 62mph (100 kph) on a ‘Low’ suspension setting (Model S does not have ‘Very Low’). However, when Bjørn increased speed to 80 mph (130 kph), he recorded a reduction of energy consumption by 1.6%. It’s unknown how this test of energy consumption on a Model S will translate to the taller and less aerodynamic Model X, but it at least provides a sense impact suspension setting may have on range at varying levels of speed.
So the next time you set your Tesla Model X air suspension to ‘Very Low’, consider the impact it has on your tire wear first. Improving cornering performance while adding a negligible improvement to range could end up costing your rear tires precious tread life.