In a recent episode of Consumer Reports’ Talking Cars, Auto Test Director Jake Fisher recounted a conversation he had with Tesla CEO Elon Musk following the release of CR’s test results for the Model 3.
While the magazine stated that there was “plenty to like” about the electric car, such as its excellent range and handling, there were several aspects of the vehicle that left much to be desired. The most prominent of the Model 3’s shortcomings were the car’s brakes, which had an average stopping distance of 152 feet from 60-0 mph — longer than any vehicle in its class. Due to its shortcomings, Consumer Reports opted not to give the Model 3 a “Recommended” rating.
Musk promptly responded to the magazine’s findings on Twitter, stating that Tesla would address the Model 3’s braking issues in an over-the-air firmware update. Musk also pledged to continuously improve the Model 3’s brakes, saying that “Tesla won’t stop until Model 3 has better braking than any remotely comparable car.”
As revealed in Consumer Reports’ recent Talking Cars episode, Musk also reached out to Auto Test Director Jake Fisher after the magazine’s test results were published. During their conversation, Musk and Fisher discussed the Model 3 and possible improvements to the vehicle.
“He was remarkably candid about things. Honestly, he actually thanked us for bringing these things to attention, and said that we’re helping him make the car better,” Fisher said.
Fisher noted that he and Musk talked about several of the Model 3’s deficiencies, such as its controls, brakes, wind noise, rear seats, and its suspension. According to the CR Auto Test Director, Musk stated that Tesla has implemented improvements to the Model 3’s design over the past few months.
During the March-April timeframe, for one, Tesla rolled out changes to the Model 3’s glass to adjust wind noise in the cabin. Around the same time, Tesla also made modifications to the suspension, such as its shock absorbers, to make the ride more comfortable.
Musk discussed the controls of the Model 3 as well, a particular aspect of the vehicle that was considered as a weakness in Consumer Reports’ evaluation. According to Fisher, Musk threw out some ideas to make the car’s controls better.
“We talked about the vents, and he talked about ideas of, well, maybe as you move the seat, (the Model 3) would automatically adjust the vents and the mirrors to suit you,” Fisher said.
Musk also discussed another one of Consumer Reports’ complaints about the Model 3 — the car’s keycard. During its testing, the magazine noted that the phone key worked very well with the Model 3, but using the keycard proved cumbersome. Musk addressed this issue during his phone conversation with Fisher as well.
“He (Musk) admitted that yeah, this isn’t working too well, and we really should do something better. Again, I don’t know if they’re gonna do it or not, but he said we really need to provide a normal key to the customers of this car,” Fisher said.
The Model 3’s keycard stands as one of its differences with its larger siblings, the Model S and the Model X, both of which use Tesla’s ubiquitous electric car-shaped key fobs. The keycard, which is credit card-sized for easy storing in a wallet, is embedded with a small chip that acts as a digital signature for the vehicle.
Since the Model 3 keycard uses near field communication (NFC) technology, the card has a limited transmission range of about 4 inches, requiring owners to tap the electric car’s B-pillar to unlock the door. The card is also placed between the front seats of the vehicle to start the car.
Consumer Reports has been mixed with Tesla’s vehicles so far. The magazine dubbed the Model S as the best car it ever tested. The Model X, on the other hand, was dubbed by CR “fast and flawed,” citing the overcomplicated Falcon Wing Doors of the all-electric luxury SUV. Despite its reservations with the Model X, however, Consumer Reports nevertheless ranked Tesla as the sole American automaker in its Top 10 list for 2018.
Watch Consumer Reports’ recent episode on the Tesla Model 3 in the video below.