A small but well done area of the Model S is the cruise control system. It consists of the manual controls plus the display pieces.

Controlling your Cruising

Left Wheel

For manual controls there’s a dedicated “stalk” on the upper left of the steering wheel. Press in to turn cruise control on/off. When on a light lights up on the stalk but nothing clutters the dash which I appreciate. Another nice touch is that it remembers the on/off setting across sleep/wake/charge cycles. If you use cruise a lot you’ll appreciate not having to turn it on every day — thats a pet peeve of mine and Tesla did it right.

The on/off setting is remembered across sleep/wake/charge cycles

Once cruise is enabled, if the cruise speed wasn’t enabled before, press up or down on the cruise stalk to set your cruise speed. You have to be going 17 MPH or higher. The 17 number is odd and I tried and tested it several ways and the number seems solid. I’ve seen other vendors not have this requirement so I don’t think there’s a legal requirement and i’d prefer for there to be no restriction on the minimum to resume cruise (i.e. after a stop light), but its not a big deal.

Once cruising along, nudge the stalk up to increase cruise speed by 1 MPH, nudge it down to decrease by the same amount. Press up to increase by 5 MPH, press down to decrease by that amount. This is also a great interface and allows you to fine tune your cruise speed or adjust for changing speed limits without touching the pedals.

After a stop or slowdown to resume cruising pull back on the stalk and you’ll quickly accelerate back to the set speed. Note that you can’t resume unless you’re going 15 MPH or above. This is oddly different than the minimum set number. I’ve experimented with how much acceleration the Model S will use to get back up to speed and it seems to limit itself to around 80kW maximum acceleration (i.e fast, but not crazy which would make sense). Accelerating from from 20 to 70 with a cruise resume is a very smooth and safe feeling process.

When you want to cancel cruise (but not turn it off), push forward on the stalk. On the Model S canceling cruise can be quite jarring for your passengers. When regenerative braking is in the normal/default setting the car will rapidly slow down. Thats unlikely to be what you wanted to do. In the Model S you rarely use your brakes — you quickly get used to regeneration doing the work for you while its charging up your battery.

On the Model S canceling cruise can be quite jarring for your passengers.

When you’re getting off the highway and don’t want to hit the brakes to cancel cruise but need to start slowing down the only other option is to cancel the cruise which immediately looks like your foot is off the accelerator pedal to the Model S and it starts aggressive regenerative breaking. The trick here is to put your foot on the accelerator pedal and apply some pressure before canceling cruise and then ease yourself into that regenerative breaking mode. This takes time to master but is worth the effort.

The trick here is to put your foot on the accelerator pedal and apply some pressure before canceling cruise.

I’d love to see Tesla apply some kind of smart software that more gradually eases you into regenerative braking if you’re heading there after canceling cruise. Once you get used to the trick above its not that big a deal.

Some people have complained about the location of the cruise stalk and confusing it for the turn/high beam stalk but these sorts of things sort themselves out after any reasonable period of driving and are not a real issue.

Cruise Display

Cruise DisplayWhen cruise is set there’s an indication right over your speed indicating the car is controlling your speed. You can, of course, step on the accelerator pedal to temporarily accelerate and then take your foot off to resume the set cruise speed. Cancel cruise by hitting the brake or pressing forward on the control stalk and cruise stops and the indicator goes away.

A really nice touch is the set cruise speed is indicated by a white indicator on the left of your current speed in the “analog” section of your indicated speed. That white indicator sort of looks like a Tesla logo which is cool but it’s also a nice pointer to what your have cruise set to. This doesn’t remain across putting the car in park but otherwise remains in place. Slow down for a light or something and you’ll see the white mark indicating where you will speed back to up on a resume. Thats a nice touch and really hard to pull off in other cars with older technology.

 Set cruise speed is indicated by a white indicator on the left of the speed cluster.


In theory cruise control improves your energy efficiency by maintaining a set speed and controlling acceleration and deceleration. People tend to press on the accelerator pedal, see they’re going too fast, back off, etc. Regenerative breaking does reclaim some wasted energy but its only about 70% efficient so avoiding the whole accelerate/decelerate cycle definitely helps. A computer controlled version of that can be much more efficient. One example is how precisely the Model S maintains the set speed versus how other cars fare in the same test — its uncanny!


I drive a lot and use cruise control a lot of the time. Tesla did the cruise controls and display very well and it’s the best system i’ve ever used for that. It can take time to get used to the location of the manual controls and how things behave when you cancel cruise, but its well worth the time investment and its wonderfully done (plus it will help you avoid speeding tickets if you set it appropriately).  The largest gap and something I really wished Tesla had offered when I ordered my Model S is adaptive cruise control. Someday maybe (perhaps seven by a software update!)

Happy cruising!

This post first appeared on Teslarati.