Consumer Reports now recommends the Tesla Model 3.
As recently as last week, the nonprofit product tester reported that Tesla’s highly regarded mass-market sedan had some very troubling flaws. “Big flaws” to be exact.
In a testament to the sophistication of Tesla’s technology and the rapidly changing nature of car repair, Tesla fixed those flaws with an over-the-air update that improved the Model 3’s “braking distance by almost 20 feet,” according to the publication.
Consumer Reports acknowledged that its auto testers were shocked by the rapid improvement in the car’s functionality, and they updated their review.
“I’ve been at CR for 19 years and tested more than 1,000 cars, and I’ve never seen a car that could improve its track performance with an over-the-air update,” said Jake Fisher, director of auto testing at Consumer Reports.
During its initial review of the Model 3, the consumer ratings publication found that the Model 3’s stopping distance at 60 mph — approximately 152 feet — was “far worse” than any recent model it had tested and “about seven feet longer than the stopping distance of a Ford F-150 full-sized pickup.”
The publication said its results weren’t just bad, they were “21 feet longer than the class average of 131 feet for luxury compact sedans and 25 feet longer than the results for its much larger SUV sibling, the Model X.”
“In retesting after the software update was downloaded, the sedan stopped in 133 feet from 60 mph, an improvement of 19 feet,” Consumer Reports’ updated review said. “The new shorter distance is typical for a compact luxury car and matches the 133 feet that Tesla claims its own testing found, using the same tires as those on our Model 3.”
To perform the test, researchers slam on the vehicle’s brakes when the car is traveling 60 mph and measure the distance the vehicle travels until it comes to a stop. The test is repeated multiple times with multiple cars, the publication says, and the brakes are cooled between tests to ensure they don’t overheat.
The updated brakes, while a large improvement, do not place the Model 3 at the top of its class, the publication said.
In its updated review, Consumer Reports still found flaws in the Model 3, such as wind noise, a stiff ride and an uncomfortable rear seat. Consumer Reports has also been sharply critical of an element of the Model 3’s cabin that has previously received rave reviews: its controls. Those controls are embedded in the vehicle’s touch-screen, which many reviewers have lauded for its sleek design and convenience. Consumer Reports, meanwhile, argued that the screen makes it more difficult for riders to accomplish “simple tasks,” such as adjusting the air conditioning and the car’s mirrors, especially while driving safely.
But Consumer Reports said it appears that Tesla has already begun to make changes to the Model 3’s controls with new over-the-air updates. “Now, when drivers adjust their seat position using the power controls along the edge of the driver’s seat, prompts to adjust the car’s mirrors and steering-wheel position appear on the center touch screen,” Consumer Reports said. “At first glance, these changes seem to be an improvement, but we need to spend more time evaluating them.”