Thursday, November 14, 2019

Seven-Feet Longer Stopping Distance Than a Ford F-150 Pickup

Consumer Reports, the consumer product testing magazine, won’t recommend Tesla’s compact Model 3 because of the electric car’s long stopping distances and difficult-to-use controls.

When the publication’s engineers tested the car at its test track, they found that it took longer on average to stop from 60 mph in an emergency than any contemporary car, even seven feet longer than a Ford F-150 pickup truck.

Tesla Model 3

Consumer Reports liked the Tesla Model 3, except the brakes and some interior features

The magazine said that the car stopped shorter the first time (131 feet), similar to other small luxury cars such as the BMW 3-Series. The braking test is based on an industry-standard procedure designed by SAE International. Engineers got the car up to 60 mph, then slammed on the brakes until the car stopped. The process was repeated multiple times for consistent results and, between each test, the car was driven approximately a mile to cool the brakes.

Consumer Reports even let the car’s brakes cool overnight and repeated the test. In addition, they borrowed a second Model 3 from a private owner to ensure it wasn’t just a problem with their car. The results were “almost identical,” said the magazine.

This isn’t the first report of problems with the Model 3’s brakes. Earlier, Car and Driver magazine found a lot of variation in the car’s emergency stopping ability from 70 mph. One stop, Car and Driver’s editors noted, took “an interminable 196 feet.”

Tesla’s Response

First, a Tesla spokesperson told Consumer Reports that its own tests averaged a stopping distance of 133 feet and that results vary based on weather, tire temperature, brake conditioning, outside temperature and past driving behavior that could have affected the brake system.

Then, on late Monday, CEO Elon Musk admitted there was a braking issue with the Model 3 sedan, pointed out by the magazine, and said it can be fixed with a firmware update that the electric car maker will roll out in a few days.

“With further refinement, we can improve braking distance beyond initial specs. Tesla won’t stop until Model 3 has better braking than any remotely comparable car,’ Musk wrote in a tweet.

Musk said Consumer Reports had an early production car and would ask the magazine to test a newer model.

Other Observations

The other major Consumer Reports complaint centered around the dashboard’s touchscreen, which the magazine says “forces drivers to take multiple steps to accomplish simple tasks,” such as adjusting the mirrors and changing the direction of air flow from the climate control system. Taking multiple steps for simple, frequently used controls can cause drivers to keep their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road for longer than they would otherwise.

Tesla Model 3

The Model 3’s all-controlling screen was not a hit

The magazine’s editors also criticized the Model 3’s stiff ride, unsupportive rear seat, excessive wind noise at highway speeds and door handles that were “awkward and unnatural” to use.

However, things weren’t all negative. Editors praised the Model 3’s “exhilarating acceleration” and impressive tested range of 350 miles on a charge with regenerative braking set on high.

The publication’s auto test director, Jake Fisher, said that while the touchscreen and the rough ride were annoyances, the car could have been recommended if it weren’t for the problem in the emergency braking tests.

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Larry E. Hall is Managing Editor & Editor-at-Large at Smarticd. His interest and passion for automobiles began at age 7, cleaning engine parts for his father, a fleet manager for a regional bakery. He has written about cars and the automobile industry for more than 25 years and has focused his attention on “green” cars and advanced technology vehicles. Larry’s articles have been published by Microsoft’s and MSN Autos as their alternative vehicles correspondent and Senior Editor at He is the founding president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association and a member of the Motor Press Guild.

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