Consumer Reports snubs Tesla on Model 3 recommendation

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Tesla and the independent product review publication Consumer Reports have had a hot-and-cold relationship for many years.

The buyer’s guide has been smitten and quick to praise the electric car maker at times. But on Monday, Consumer Reports said it couldn’t recommend the new Model 3 sedan after finally testing the electric vehicle.

The report said “we found plenty to like” about the affordable Model 3 that starts at $35,000, but ultimately, “our testers also found flaws—big flaws—such as long stopping distances in our emergency braking test and difficult-to-use controls.”

The Model 3’s dependence on the touchscreen dashboard to control mirrors, climate, and most other features lost the car points in the final review. With few physical buttons and controls, Consumer Reports decided the touchscreen can actually “cause driver distraction because each act forces drivers to take their eyes off the road and a hand off the steering wheel.”

In terms of performance, a braking test also fell short of Consumer Reports‘ rigorous standards at their test facility with inconsistent results and long stopping distances of 152 feet, about 20 feet longer than the average for this type of vehicle.

Also working against the newest Tesla was “the Model 3’s stiff ride, unsupportive rear seat, and excessive wind noise at highway speeds.”

Because of these issues, the newest model wasn’t recommended, which was expected in the fall when the company was struggling to produce enough of the cars. Tesla fell behind schedule, but with CEO Elon Musk stepping up in recent months the company is on track to reach its target of 2,500 vehicles made each week.

Tesla responded to Consumer Reports‘ critique about the stopping distance, explaining its own testing found shorter average braking distances of 133 feet. A Tesla spokesperson said over-the-air software updates can address “corner cases” and “continually does so to improve factors such as stopping distance.”

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS, last week gave the electric vehicle a “Superior” score on front crash prevention. Other ratings were not yet submitted, except for the headlights category, for which the Model 3 received an “Acceptable” grade.

In 2015, Consumer Reports went from a glowing review to pulling its recommendation of Tesla’s luxury sedan, the Model S, over issues with reliability. It’s since back in the ratings guides’ good graces. Tesla is more than likely trying to do the same after its latest less-than-stellar review.

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