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Consumer Reports declines to recommend Tesla Model 3

Consumer Reports, although finding “plenty to like” about the Tesla Model 3, including record-setting range as well as exhilarating acceleration and handling that could make it a healthy competitor to performance-oriented cars such as BMW’s 3 Series and the Audi A4, declined to recommend the EV.

Consumer Reports said that its testers found big flaws with the vehicle, such as long stopping distances in the emergency braking test and difficult-to-use controls.

CR said that in its testing, the Model 3’s stopping distance of 152 feet from 60 mph was far worse than any contemporary car it had tested and about 7 feet longer than the stopping distance of a Ford F-150 full-sized pickup.

A Tesla spokesperson told CR that the company’s own testing found stopping distances from 60 to 0 mph were an average of 133 feet, with the same tires as the CR Model 3. The automaker noted that stopping-distance results are affected by variables such as road surface, weather conditions, tire temperature, brake conditioning, outside temperature, and past driving behavior that may have affected the brake system.

CR said that its braking test is meant to determine how a vehicle performs in an emergency situation. The test is based on an industry-standard procedure designed by SAE International. The testers take the car up to 60 mph, then slam on the brakes until the car comes to a stop. They repeat this multiple times to ensure consistent results. Between each test, the vehicle is driven approximately a mile to cool the brakes and make sure they don’t overheat.

The test is done at CR’s 327-acre test facility on dedicated braking surfaces that are monitored for consistent surface friction.

Before each test, we make sure the brake pads and tires have been properly conditioned. We’ve conducted it on more than 500 vehicles, and we are always looking for consistent, repeatable results.

—Jake Fisher, director of auto testing at CR

In CR testing of the Model 3, the first stop recorded was significantly shorter (around 130 feet, similar to Tesla’s findings), but that distance was not repeated, even after the brakes cooled overnight. Consumer Reports publishes a distance based on all the stops we record in the test, not just the shortest individual stop.

Because CR saw some inconsistency in the braking performance, it got a second Model 3 (a privately owned vehicle that was loaned to CR) to verify the results. (CR has tested second samples in previous situations to double-check findings.)

The results of testing on the second vehicle were almost identical. The Tesla Model 3’s 152 feet is 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.

CR noted that is experience with the Model 3’s braking is not unique. Car and Driver, in its published test of a Model 3, said it noticed “a bizarre amount of variation” in its test, including one stop from 70 mph that took “an interminable 196 feet.”

CR noted that Tesla responded that the company has the ability to update its vehicles over the air, and that such over-the-air software updates can improve factors such as stopping distance.

Controls. Another major factor that compromised the Model 3’s CR road-test score was its controls. This car places almost all its controls and displays on a center touch screen, with no gauges on the dash, and few buttons inside the car.

CR noted that this layout forces drivers to take multiple steps to accomplish simple tasks. The CR testers found that everything from adjusting the mirrors to changing the direction of the airflow from the air-conditioning vents required using the touch screen.

Such types of complex interactions with a touch screen can cause driver distraction because each act forces drivers to take their eyes off the road and a hand off the steering wheel.

The Model 3’s stiff ride, unsupportive rear seat and excessive wind noise at highway speeds also hurt its road-test score. In the compact luxury sedan class, most competitors deliver a more comfortable ride and rear seat.

The upside. The performance and ergonomic problems were serious downsides to an otherwise impressive performance sedan, CR said. The Model 3 delivered a “blistering” 0-60 time of 5.3 seconds, and its handling was reminiscent of a Porsche 718 Boxster. CR testers found the Model 3 “thrilling” to drive.

In addition, the Model 3 set a range record in CR testing. It managed to go 350 miles (563 km) on a single charge—the longest distance CR has ever recorded in an EV—when set to Tesla’s higher regenerative braking mode (which the company refers to as Standard Regenerative Braking Mode). This mode will aggressively slow the vehicle to charge the battery as soon as the driver removes his or her foot from the accelerator pedal.

When set to the lower regenerative braking mode, which more accurately reflects the driving experience of a conventional vehicle, the EV still managed to go 310 miles (499 km)—in line with what Tesla estimated for the car.




The chickens are starting to come home to roost for this ill managed company and its star struck fans.

Musk imagined that he knew more than those in the industry, skipped proper testing and installed automation equipment they have had to rip out again.

They ran the CPO program to support trade in prices, contributing to their vast losses, and have now had to effectively discontinue it, and instead of bringing the cars into a good state of repair now only go through the cars and guarantee that they have defects!

Of course the only place you can get them fixed is in Tesla centres, at whatever price they fancy charging.

That and the increasing number of cars coming off lease guarantees that trade in prices will plummet.

And of course the only way they managed to turn out figures purporting to show that the batteries degraded slowly was by having a large reserve, which they did not account for, so battery degradation is likely to start hitting home.

Musk has now tweeted that actually building the car for the $35k which they took deposits for would kill the company unless they have hit the 5k a week run rate, which for some unspecified reason is supposed to reduce costs enough to make them practical.

And of course there have been 18 traction battery fires in the Tesla cars, some of them fatal, when Nissan, Renault and GM have had none at all on the road when they crash.

That is aside from the AP's remarkable propensity to drive into concrete barriers and any handy fire engine without the AEB engaging.

I do not blame car enthusiasts for not necessarily being familiar with the financial filings of companies, but they could at least realise that a 'production system' which is reliant on trying to grab another 400 people a week from the street with no experience in the car assembly industry at all in the hope of flinging them at the line to somehow cobble together Model 3 cars is a sure recipe for disastrously bad build.

And the executives responsible for supervising it are leaving in droves.


One of the solution may be to transfer production of the model III to a more efficient Asian country like Japan, So-Korea or China.

It shouldn't be so difficult to improve braking with better/large braking mechanisms and better/improved e-brakes? Change a few batteries for a few super-caps if needed.

Brian P

Tesla is paying for their failure to do proper validation testing. A good first-time stop followed by inability to repeat it is indicative of overheated "glazed" brake pad surfaces - which may be sub-optimal brake pad material choice, or undersized brake calipers/pads/rotors.

Regenerative braking won't fix this. No EV uses the regenerative brakes (appreciably) in panic stops. Perhaps Tesla is counting on regular drivers not using the friction brakes much, and thus not encountering brake pad glazing in normal driving ... but that's not the right way to address this. It means if they need to do a panic stop, and it's the first one those brake pads ever did, it will work, but if it's the second (or subsequent) ... maybe not so well.

The rear-drive configuration of the Tesla is not advantageous for regenerative braking. (Of course, the upcoming and $$$$ all-wheel-drive model fixes that.)

Improving braking performance through an over-the-air recalibration is a joke. If the brake pads use the wrong material, you have to open the toolbox and take the wheels off and change the brake pads to a different material.

Just wait until it becomes apparent that Tesla's "hardware for full self-driving capability" isn't actually sufficient for doing that (which many people already suspect) ... Will they offer refunds for those who bought that expensive option, or offer to buy back cars because they can't live up to that promise? Ouch ...

I really want to like the car, but until (A) they shut up about self-driving, (B) repair parts are available through the aftermarket, (C) repair procedures are available on AllData just like they are for any other car so that you are not locked into having repairs done only at a Tesla service center, I'm not buying one. The ones that you can actually get, are out of my league anyhow ...

The location of the manufacturing plant is the least of Tesla's worries. I'd rather have its assembly support North American jobs. Relocating the assembly plant won't fix flaws that are baked into the design of the vehicle - like undersized brake pads.

What Tesla probably should have done was contract detailed design and manufacturing of the entire bodyshell and undercarriage and all of the associated mfg and assembly tooling to someone who already does this (e.g. Magna) ... but that's water under the bridge at this point ...


Many (most) vehicle manufacturers in Asia know how to build and install effective wheel brake parts. Furthermore, the same Asian countries (Japan, So-Korea and China) know how to build affordable improved batteries, e-power trains etc.


They should be able to fix any software problems very quickly.
They should be able to fix hardware items over the next year or so, hopefully with few recalls.
Nonetheless, it might be better for Tesla to partner with some existing car manufacturer who knows how to make £35K cars, which is not an easy task for beginners.
They partner with Panasonic for batteries, why not Toyota or Honda for the Model 3?

Brian P

HarveyD, why do you want to take away North American jobs??

Mainstream vehicle manufacturers the world over know how to select brake system components. Sometimes the bean counters compromise the engineering choices but they all know how to do it. My experience has been that European vehicles in general have the best brakes (because they have to cope with the German autobahn), but there are many American-designed and -built vehicles with excellent brakes, too.

This problem could have very easily been found and fixed had proper pre-production testing be done. Problems like this, are what pre-production validation testing is for!

It's too late in the game for Tesla to subcontract-out the design and manufacturing of this vehicle. It's also rather likely that Elon Musk's personality wasn't compatible with contracting-out. He displayed his original attitude towards traditional auto manufacturing quite a while ago. Now, he's finding out the hard way that maybe the traditional auto manufacturers and suppliers know a thing or two about building cars.


My, My!, such strong attacks and in force assaults against a company leading you to a cleaner and less polluted future; I could understand the rants if you were a shorty on the stock; but, what other agenda would drive you to so much misinformation?

The problem turns out to be a software bug that will be fixed at the next update.

Brian P

No misinformation on my part. I call situations as I see them. I understand how cars work. Tesla is building cars that the normal everyday person is going to be driving, and they owe the same duty of care in doing so that anyone else does. If they fail to do so ... they do not get a free pass just because they don't have a tailpipe.

As for the claimed "software bug" ...

Panic stops exceed (by a lot) the amount of power that can be dealt with by regenerative braking on all current EVs. Therefore, this issue, whatever it may be, has to pertain to the standard braking system, which uses hydraulic brake calipers and disks just like any other car does. I will use the conventional terminology for this system, the "service brakes" (as opposed to the regenerative brakes or the emergency brakes). So, this hypothetical "software bug" IF that were to be the case, would relate to failure of the vehicle to apply the service brakes in a consistent manner. Why would a "bug" cause the service brakes to be fully applied the first time they are used in anger, but fail to fully apply them afterward? That makes absolutely no sense. The more plausible argument ... is that they either selected the wrong brake pad compound (too easily glazed) or undersized the brake pads (too much heat = glazed pad material) or did some other equivalent booboo related to thermal management of the brakes which ends up cooking something the first time they are used hard. Glazed brake pads will behave EXACTLY as Consumer Reports, and other road testers, have reported - the first stop works OK, subsequent stops not so well and they essentially never recover. If it isn't the pads but rather is some other part of the brake system that gets cooked the first time the brakes are used in anger, that's just as bad a fail ... perhaps even worse, since that probably won't get fixed by changing the brake pads.

But setting all that aside, let's suppose there is a "software bug". This is in the braking system, which has to be the most FMEA'ed and validation-tested system in the whole car. How would they miss a fault in the braking system that only allows the braking system to perform optimally once and seemingly never again? Oh yeah, someone didn't think they needed to do that validation testing ...

Bear in mind that a Tesla weighs ~ 1000 lbs more than an otherwise-comparable normal car, because of its batteries. (So, by the way, does a Chevrolet Bolt.) Means it needs beefier brakes.


I'm more concerned about all the F150's you see weaving in and out of traffic at high speeds if their stopping distance is no better than a model 3.


Brian P may have identified the main reasons for fading brakes on the TESLA 3.

Much lighter batteries may help but may not be around for another 5 to 8 years?

AWD units could help with more e-braking but would weight even more???

Better/larger brake components may be the quicker/easier fix?


The current issue of The SAE Automotive Technology magazine has an interesting take on the Model 3 based on inspecting a total tear down of the car. They said it was 2 different cars. The electronics were state of the art but the chassis design was relatively dated compared with most modern cars.

Anyway, I hope that they make it but they are struggling to produce 100 K cars a year in a factory that made 400 K cars a year when it was run by Toyota and GM. Also, there was a interesting comment in an article in the NY Times comparing the apparent success of Space X with Tesla. They said that building modern cars was not rocket science, it was really much more difficult.

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