The Model 3 sedan is meant to be the huge push into mass-market car manufacturing for Tesla, so it’s natural that the automotive world has its eyes firmly glued on whether the car actually delivers what it promises. There might be a hitch in Elon Musk‘s grand plan for affordable electric vehicles: much-respected review outlet Consumer Reports has said they “cannot recommend” the Model 3 because of a series of “big flaws”.
Though Consumer Reports were effusive in their praise of the vehicle’s great range and amazing acceleration, they pointed to a fairly troubling tendency to brake inconsistently. In fact, by their testing of two different Model 3s they found the stopping distance to be quite bad indeed:
The Tesla’s stopping distance of 152 feet from 60 mph was far worse than any contemporary car we’ve tested and about 7 feet longer than the stopping distance of a Ford F-150 full-sized pickup.
As slow to stop as a full-sized pickup truck? Ooft.
This unusual stopping issue is backed up by a review last month in Car and Driver, who said that in one of their emergency brake tests they found it took “an interminable 196 feet” to fully stop at 110km/h. Other tests were better, but inconsistent across the board.
Consumer Reports also called out the fact that basically all of the car’s controls are relegated to the central touchscreen, which they claim its unwieldy and ofter requires several presses to activate simple functions like changing the the direction of the air from the air conditioner.
Tesla volleyed back in response to the Consumer Reports review, arguing that stopping distance can be affected by a number of factors, and reiterating that they’re uniquely suited to deliver software updates over the air to fine-tune car performance:
Tesla’s own testing has found braking distances with an average of 133 feet when conducting the 60-0 mph stops using the 18” Michelin all season tire and as low as 126 feet with all tires currently available. Stopping distance results are affected by variables such as road surface, weather conditions, tire temperature, brake conditioning, outside temperature, and past driving behaviour that may have affected the brake system. 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.
Why is all this important? Well, Consumer Reports is held in a very high regard when it comes to reviews of this nature, and when they refuse to issue a recommendation to a product, the company feels it. And Tesla needs good press and buzz. Elon Musk has been gently walking back his promises of a $35,00 consumer electric vehicle straight out of the gate amid press that his company is undergoing severe cost-cutting and fundraising to keep the company churning along.
He was remarkably frank about the fine balance required to make that possible in a tweet the other day:
With production, 1st you need achieve target rate & then smooth out flow to achieve target cost. Shipping min cost Model 3 right away wd cause Tesla to lose money & die. Need 3 to 6 months after 5k/wk to ship $35k Tesla & live.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 21, 2018
This car is absolutely key to the future of Tesla as a company, obviously. Let’s stay tuned.Image: Getty Images