Electric Cars

Updated Tesla Model 3 receives Consumer Reports recommendation

A software upgrade shortened the electric car's braking distance by 19 feet.

Tesla Model 3 Long Range

No dealer visit required: Tesla sent a revised braking calibration to the Model 3 remotely.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

Consumer Reports is now ready to award its coveted recommendation to the Tesla Model 3 after an over-the-air software update brought big improvements to the electric car's braking performance. CR said that with the fix, the car braked from 60 miles per hour to rest in 19 fewer feet than before – putting it on par with Tesla's own estimation of a 133-foot stopping distance, a distance that CR said is "typical for a compact luxury car."

Consumer Reports had flagged inconsistent and disappointing braking performance when it tested a Model 3. In testing, the Model 3 needed as much as 152 feet to stop, which the publication said, "was far worse than any contemporary car we've tested" – and 9 feet longer than it took to stop a Ford F-150 pickup truck. That, coupled with concerns over wind noise, ride quality and the infotainment system, led CR to withhold its recommendation.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk promptly took to Twitter to respond to the criticism, saying that the fault was likely due to an issue with the car's ABS calibration and that a software update would fix it. "Tesla won't stop until Model 3 has better braking than any remotely comparable car," he said. CR's results seem to indicate that the update worked, though the publication noted that it doesn't quite live up to Musk's promise because, "the braking performance is not class-leading."

Even so, the speed and relative ease with which Tesla was able to apply the brake fix to Model 3s in the wild is impressive. "I've never seen a car that could improve its track performance with an over-the-air update," CR Director of Auto Testing Jake Fisher said in a statement.

In addition to the braking issues, CR had critiqued the difficulty in accessing some of the Model 3's secondary controls through the car's large central touchscreen. The publication says the newest software update also seems to have made some operations, such as adjusting the mirrors, simpler. As to CR's complaints over wind and road noise, Musk apparently told CR that fixes for those concerns have already been made on the Model 3 production line.