Consumer Reports reverses course and now recommends the Tesla Model 3

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.

Comments

It’s not the top in its category, but it’s certainly a vehicle that scores high enough to recommend.

What is the top of it’s category? C-Class? M3?
I think they should add the smell and hygiene of the charging station to their tests.

The CR number for the A4 is almost 10 feet longer than what MotorTrend got for an A4 with Quattro. I wonder if that’s for the fwd model or quattro. Same with the 3 series(at least for 320, 330 and 340 can do even better than the 320) I personally never really liked CR in terms of performance data as they have always been slower than other publications.

Probably the tires. The 0-60 number for the 3 series means it has to be a 320i, Motortrend got a 106 feet 60-0 from their 320i with a sports package. CR might have ordered one with a base poverty package with the 17" wheels and the base runflats that have been derided over at C&D as well for lack of grip and stopping distance.

I believe that consumer reports is more thorough. They also put 2000 miles on the cars before they even run them through the tests which could explain some of the differences in results.

It’s also worth mentioning that CR buys the cars they test. Motor Trend and Car and Driver are given them from the manufacturers.

So is the A4 their top rated Luxury compact? I don’t have a sub.

Very impressive that braking distance can be improved OTA and a bit scary.

It scares me that an OTA update can make such critical changes.. if an attacker were able to modify the software, could you imagine the harm if cars suddenly went back to the old breaking distance or worse?

Reminds me of those Jeeps that could be remotely controlled and disabled. Some things don’t need to be wireless, or at the very least not always-on wireless.

I’d assume brake feel would be much different before someone got on to the open road.

We’re also back to the question of motive and chances of happening versus simpler means of creating a slow leak in a brake line at a strategic time.

one could argue that cars have always been vulnerable to such tampering…cut brake lines, etc. It’s just not really a thing. The only way the situation you’re describing would be really worrisome is if it could be done in mass scale

But with OTA updates, doesn’t that make it being done on a mass scale possible when it wasn’t before?

You do understand the difference between an electronic attack on a car and physically accessing a car right?

I can’t speak for the OP, but I do. I also know it is significantly easier for a much larger percentage of the population to cause serious safety concerns to a vehicle via physical means (such as the cutting brake lines example), than it is via an electronic attack. Are both concerns valid? Absolutely. But not to the extent that a disproportional amount of fear of the electronic attack would invalidate the massive other safety features that car might have over others.

My point was an electronic attack is more likely to happen than someone maliciously cutting your brake lines. It is invalid to dismiss electronic attacks when there have been reports of car electronic systems not being secure at all.

Having no security is certainly a concern, but I would argue that at this point in time having an electronic attack is not more likely to happen than someone cutting brake lines. Rather, that the problems with "old school" cars just don’t get the media coverage since "smart cars" are all the new rage and are under much more media scrutiny. Case in point: the Uber car that killed that woman in AZ got SO MANY national media articles vs the zero national media articles on thousands of other crashes/vandalism/etc that happen to "normal" cars every day.

but I would argue that at this point in time having an electronic attack is not more likely to happen than someone cutting brake lines.

This is not my point whatsoever, my point was that we can’t dismiss electronic attacks and that someone physically going to cut your brake lines is way less likely than someone attacking the electronic system in your car. An electronic attack is a growing concern because car security is shit to put it plainly.

that someone physically going to cut your brake lines is way less likely than someone attacking the electronic system in your car

I absolutely disagree with this. What you’re stating is simply opinion based on no evidence.

And if you’re going to bring up the Jeep/Chrysler issue, please also bring up a competing number for how many vehicles have been physically vandalized.

I absolutely disagree with this. What you’re stating is simply opinion based on no evidence.

The evidence is the future, we know for a fact more cars are having electronic braking systems, we know for a fact car electronic systems are super insecure, put two+two together and you get concern of whether people can hack your braking system and have you killed.

You honestly think an electronic attack is less likely than some malicious attacker cutting your brake line? Firstly, it is a terrible way to get someone killed, secondly if someone is going out of their way to cut your brake line there is way more to the story. Honestly knowing how often shit is hacked how can we be so doubtful it can’t happen to a car?

The evidence is the future

That’s not evidence.

we know for a fact car electronic systems are super insecure

Fiat/Chrysler systems are super insecure. Quite frankly, Fiat cars are unreliable machines anyways, with absolutely no QC happening at the factory. Don’t assume every manufacturer will be the same.

You honestly think an electronic attack is less likely than some malicious attacker cutting your brake line?

It’s not about being less/more likely.

If someone is specifically targeting you, both are dangerous and possible. Which is more dangerous, depends on who you are.

If you’re an ordinary guy, it’s far more likely that people holding a grudge against you would be able to physically cut your brake lines than hack your car manufacturers system. I’m thinking a disgruntled neighbour, perhaps.

If you’re a world leader/CEO with powerful people out to get you, then they may have the capability to hack the cars system. However, the people who would be able to do so are few, and far between.

You’re delusional if you think any average-Joe will be able to hack the car systems. World class hackers, yes. Your angry neighbor, no. He’ll just cut your brake lines.

1 single car, yes.
Thousands of cars with a single OTA attack, no.

This is scaring like hell. There are reasons for having these system locked down at other manufacturers

I would hope that in the future, tech will be so reliable, that assassination via the state hacking your car to crash it will simply look suspicious because the car companies’ business models will depend on crashes almost never, ever, ever happening.

It’s probably just like any new technology – we will socially adjust to it, like electricity with its fire risk and running water with its flooding hazard.

The great thing is, at least with Tesla, once that vulnerability is discovered it should be able to be fixed pretty quickly OTA. For instance, the Jeep issue you have to go to the Dealership (or, more recently, with the Dodge Journey and other Chrysler cars affected by the cruise control issue) they have to go to the Dealer. Whereas with tesla, they will push it to you, OTA, for free.

It’s already happening and not to Tesla.
Hackers Remotely Kill a Jeep on a Highway

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