Detroit - Long emergency stopping distances, difficult-to-use controls and a harsh ride stopped Tesla's Model 3 electric car from getting a 'recommended buy' rating from esteemed US publication Consumer Reports.
While the magazine said the car impresses with exhilarating acceleration and handling, testers were troubled by its 46 meter average stopping distance from 96km/h in emergency braking tests. That's worse than any modern car that the publication has tested, and is about 2.1 meters longer than the distance taken by the Ford F-150 pick-up, which weighs about twice as much as the Model 3.
The Model 3 is Tesla's first attempt to appeal to mass-market buyers. The car that apparently starts at $35 000 (R439 000) but can run as high as $78 000 (R978 000) has been plagued by production delays.
The magazine also criticized the fact that nearly all of the Model 3's controls are on a large central touchscreen, with no gauges on the dashboard and few buttons inside the car. This forces drivers to take several steps to perform simple tasks and can cause driver distraction.
Furthermore, the Model 3 was said to have a stiff ride and excessive wind noise at highway speeds, unlike competitors.
On the upside, Consumer Reports said it got a record 563km of range per charge with a long-range version of the Model 3.
Tesla claims better braking figures
Tesla said in a statement that its own Model 3 tests found 96km/h-to-zero braking distances averaging 40.5 meters, almost six meters better than CR's figure. It says stopping distances are affected by road surface, weather, tyre temperature, brake conditioning and other factors. It also says it continually performs software updates to improve factors such as stopping distance.
Consumer Reports said it tested the car at its track on pavement monitored for consistent surface friction, using industry standard test procedures. The car was tested with the same 18-inch Michelin tyres that were used in Tesla's test, the magazine said.
On the first Consumer Reports test, the Model 3 stopped in about 39.6m, similar to Tesla's findings, according to the magazine. But testers could not repeat that distance even after letting the brakes cool overnight, it said.
Because of the inconsistency, the testers borrowed a second Model 3 and got results similar to longer distances in testing the first one.
The Tesla's stopping distance was 6.4m longer than the class average for luxury compact sedans, the magazine said.
Jake Fisher, director of vehicle testing for Consumer Reports, said the first test shows him that the Model 3 has the mechanical ability to stop in 40 meters and that a software change may bring consistently shorter stopping distances. If that happens, Consumer Reports would re-evaluate the car, he said.
Consumer Reports also mentioned that Car and Driver magazine experienced inconsistent and sometimes long stopping distances when it tested a Model 3.
Consumer Reports said it took delivery of the Model 3 that it purchased on February 8, and it was the latest model available at the time.
The publication recommends Tesla's Model S, ranking it No. 1 in the ultra-luxury car category. But its other model currently on sale, the Model X SUV, is not recommended due to low reliability.