Consumer Reports About-face Brings ‘Recommended’ Label to Tesla’s Model 3


tesla model 3

The Consumer Reports review that criticized the Tesla Model 3’s stopping distance and all-consuming touchscreen seems to have sparked CEO Elon Musk’s recent spat with the media, but a change of heart at CR might cause Musk to think twice about his proposed rating site for journalists.

After the automaker improved the model’s 60-0 mph stopping distance by nearly 20 feet (a feat accomplished via an over-the-air software update), the publication bestowed the car with a “recommended” rating, despite lingering concerns over certain features. Maybe the torches-and-pitchforks crowd can clear off CR‘s lawn now.

In the earlier review, two Model 3 testers averaged 152 feet to come to a stop from 60 mph. A dismal result, for sure — that’s worse than a Ford F-150. Tesla argued its own testing returned a result of 133 feet and demanded CR try it again, but only after the automaker performed an OTA update. Pundits scratched their heads after hearing this. An automaker promising a significant handling improvement via software update? Even CR admits it was “unheard of.”

Dutifully, CR tested a Model 3 with the download. The braking test returned a distance of 133 feet — acceptable, and a match for Tesla’s results, but not not class-leading.

According to the publication, a Tesla spokeswoman said the automaker “improved the software for the Model 3’s antilock braking system to adapt to variations in how the brakes might be used and to respond to different environmental conditions.”

The update also brought slight improvements to the usability of the touchscreen (“user interface”) for minor adjustments like steering wheel reach and dash vent positioning. CR argued these functions were unnecessary and distracting. “At first glance, these changes seem to be an improvement, but we need to spend more time evaluating them,” the publication reports.

Ride quality issues are being worked out in production models, Musk claims, while all Model 3s receive the braking and UI updates. Apparently, the Model 3’s tires are jam-packed with air, as Musk tweeted that drivers who find the ride too harsh can drop the PSI from 45 to 39. It would be interesting to see the model’s range after the deflation.

Nathan Bomey, a reporter at USA Today, asked CR’s director of auto testing, Jake Fisher, whether Musk’s anti-media tirade impacted the new recommendation. Fisher and Musk spoke for an hour following the review’s publication. No pressure, Fisher claims.

“There are still other flaws with the vehicle,” Fisher told Bomey. “Those have not necessarily been addressed. It’s not the top in its category but it’s certainly a vehicle that scores high enough to recommend.”

In the wake of the new report, Musk seems to have changed his tune on CR. The CEO praised CR‘s “high quality critical feedback” via Twitter, which is quite a climbdown from the “consistently inaccurate and misleading” label he saddled them with last fall.

[Image: Tesla]