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Tesla Model 3 misses Consumer Reports recommendation

Brakes and that do-it-all center screen are apparently to blame.

Tesla Model 3 Long Range
Tim Stevens/Roadshow

You can't please all the people all of the time.

The Tesla Model 3 fell short of a recommendation from Consumer Reports, the outlet said today. CR pointed out plenty of positive things, like its range, acceleration and handling. But, in the end, "big flaws" prevented the most affordable Tesla to date from earning the company's official recommendation.

The biggest issue

First, there was the matter of the brakes. CR tests the brakes over multiple stops from 60 mph, and the first attempt yielded a 130-foot stop, in line with Tesla's estimates. However, subsequent brake tests returned results as long as 152 feet, which CR said "was far worse than any contemporary car we've tested."

Consumer Reports even went as far as to borrow a second, privately owned vehicle (CR purchases all the vehicles it tests), which provided the same results -- a solid first stop, followed by a precipitous increase in stopping distance, even after letting the brakes cool overnight. The stops were about 21 feet beyond the class average overall.

Tesla Model 3 Long Range
Enlarge Image
Tesla Model 3 Long Range

If you plan on driving your Model 3 aggressively (ideally on the track), it might behoove you to investigate a brake pad upgrade.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

"Tesla's own testing has found braking distances with an average of 133 feet when conducting the 60-0-mph stops using the 18-inch Michelin all season tire and as low as 126 feet with all tires currently available," said a Tesla spokesperson in a statement. "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."

The statement also mentioned that over-the-air updates are capable of changing certain vehicle parameters. "Unlike other vehicles, Tesla is uniquely positioned to address more corner cases over time through over-the-air software updates, and it continually does so to improve factors such as stopping distance." It's unclear how a software update would improve what appears to be simple mechanical brake fade, but it could pertain to another related system.

Lesser, but still important factors

Consumer Reports also dinged the Model 3 for its center screen, which for the sake of physical simplicity has taken on a lot of responsibility. Moving the air vents? Head to the screen. Screwing with the wipers? To the screen. Adjusting the mirrors? Screen. CR said these types of interactions were complex and added to overall distraction.

It was also hit with the red pen over its "stiff ride, unsupportive rear seat and excessive wind noise at highway speeds." That last one is a tricky point for EVs, where the lack of noise from an internal combustion engine means every other sound is more prominent.

But it appears that the brakes were the only major factor preventing the Model 3 from earning's Consumer Reports' recommendation. "If the Model 3 had braking distances that were typical to its class, the score would be high enough for a recommendation despite the other shortcomings," said Jake Fisher, CR's director of vehicle testing.

Tesla's Model 3 simplifies the EV

See all photos

Tesla Model 3: Looking for a full review of the Model 3 with its long-range battery? Look no further.

Tesla Model X: If your tastes lie larger, check out our review of Tesla's SUV.

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Andrew Krok Reviews Editor / Cars
Cars are Andrew's jam, as is strawberry. After spending years as a regular ol' car fanatic, he started working his way through the echelons of the automotive industry, starting out as social-media director of a small European-focused garage outside of Chicago. From there, he moved to the editorial side, penning several written features in Total 911 Magazine before becoming a full-time auto writer, first for a local Chicago outlet and then for CNET Cars.
Andrew Krok
Cars are Andrew's jam, as is strawberry. After spending years as a regular ol' car fanatic, he started working his way through the echelons of the automotive industry, starting out as social-media director of a small European-focused garage outside of Chicago. From there, he moved to the editorial side, penning several written features in Total 911 Magazine before becoming a full-time auto writer, first for a local Chicago outlet and then for CNET Cars.

Updated May 21, 2018 12:45 p.m. PT

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Written by  Andrew Krok
CNET staff -- not advertisers, partners or business interests -- determine how we review the products and services we cover. If you buy through our links, we may get paid. Reviews ethics statement
andrewkrok.jpg
Andrew Krok Reviews Editor / Cars
Cars are Andrew's jam, as is strawberry. After spending years as a regular ol' car fanatic, he started working his way through the echelons of the automotive industry, starting out as social-media director of a small European-focused garage outside of Chicago. From there, he moved to the editorial side, penning several written features in Total 911 Magazine before becoming a full-time auto writer, first for a local Chicago outlet and then for CNET Cars.
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