Tesla Model 3 Impresses Consumer Reports, but Doesn’t Dazzle

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Along with some 400,000 other buyers, Consumer Reports ordered a new Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) Model 3 when the company first began taking orders. The consumer magazine was quick enough with its order to have already received its car and put it through its first driving test.

While the full round of testing won’t come until after the car passes its 2,000-mile break-in period, Consumer Reports on Wednesday posted its initial impressions of the Model 3. It is probably safe to say that the new car won’t literally top the charts the way the Model S did when Consumer Reports tested Tesla’s first production car in 2015.

First, the details on the car Consumer Reports purchased. It is not the basic, $35,000 entry-level version. The tested car comes with the $9,000 long-range battery (310-mile range), $5,000 in premium upgrades, the $5,000 enhanced Autopilot system and the $3,000 self-driving capability option. The final price as purchased: $59,000 including the destination fee.

Consumer Reports’ testers liked the car’s acceleration and handling but were less excited about the ride quality in what they called a luxury compact: “The car is overly stiff, struggling to absorb bumps with the dignity expected from a luxury car. There’s also considerable wind noise at highway speeds.”

The Autopilot system “does a good job of keeping the car between the lines” and compares well to the Autopilot system in the latest Model S.

The Model 3 comes without a key. The owner’s smartphone is the key: install an app on your phone and the car senses that you’re on your way, unlocks the car and lets you drive away by putting the car in gear. The backup system is less inventive.

Here’s Consumer Reports’ bottom line on the Model 3:

As our Model 3 reaches 2,000 break-in miles and heads into our formal testing phase, we’re struck by how enjoyable this car is to drive. But we’re on the fence about its 15-inch touch screen. Time—and further testing—will tell if this consolidated control center and display is the way of the future or just a distracting gimmick.

And, of course, we’re also keen to see the results of the Model 3’s range. Stay tuned for our complete road test as we finish putting the Model 3 through its paces.

See the Consumer Reports website for the full review.