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Consumer Reports reverses course and now recommends the Tesla Model 3

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After an over-the-air software update from Tesla improved the braking distance

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Consumer Reports has reversed its position and now recommends the Tesla Model 3, after the car company shipped an over-the-air update this week that improved the vehicle’s braking distance by nearly 20 feet. The outlet had previously said the Model 3’s braking “was far worse than any contemporary car we’ve tested” in a review that was published on May 22nd.

While the publication still takes issue with some aspects of the Model 3, like the car’s ride comfort and its reliance on a touchscreen interface, CR said the better braking distance was enough to warrant the recommendation. “There are still other flaws with the vehicle,” Jake Fisher, CR’s director of automotive testing, told USA Today. “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.”

Fisher said today that he is impressed with the fact that Tesla was able to quickly correct the issue with an over-the-air software update. “I’ve been at CR for 19 years and tested more than 1,000 cars,” said Fisher, “and I’ve never seen a car that could improve its track performance with an over-the-air update.”

“Really appreciate the high quality critical feedback from @ConsumerReports,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter. He added that “road noise & ride comfort [were] already addressed” in newer versions of the Model 3 than what CR tested, and that improvements to the Model 3’s touchscreen user interface are coming “later this month” (though it’s unclear if he meant May or June).

CR had tested two Model 3s before the update that was issued and found that it took them an average of 152 feet to stop from a speed of 60 miles per hour. That’s seven feet more than it takes a Ford F-150 to come to a stop from the same speed, according to CR, and 25 feet more than the Tesla Model X.

Ultimately, the software update that Tesla pushed to the Model 3s on the road reduced that stopping distance by 19 feet to a total of 133 feet, which CR says is “typical for a compact luxury car.” Tesla apparently achieved the better braking distance by tweaking the software that controls the Model 3’s antilock braking system, according to CR.

The history between Tesla and CR is as long as it is checkered. The publication has often praised the car company’s innovation, but has also not shied away from criticizing its shortcomings, with each decision generating headlines. CR pulled its recommendation of the Model S in 2015 over reliability concerns, even after it had “broken” its own ratings system to give the all-electric sedan a score of 103 out of 100. CR later returned to recommending the Model S, but it has also been critical of the Model X SUV for similar reliability concerns.

Tesla, meanwhile, has employees working around the clock to ship as many Model 3s out the door as possible, according to a recent email that Musk sent out to staff. The company is trying to increase output of the car to around 5–6,000 per week by the middle of this year. Until that happens, Tesla says it’s losing money on every Model 3 it delivers.