Tesla “Breaks” Consumer Reports Scale

When Consumer Reports bought a Tesla Model S for road testing this spring, its $127,820 hatchback got off to an inauspicious start. After 27 days and 2,300 miles, an electric door handle failed, locking the driver’s door shut.

It got fixed. As testing moved forward, it became clear that it was Consumer Reports’ rating scale that was broken. The Model S P85D scored a 103 on a scale designed to top out at 100, forcing the magazine to recalibrate its ratings.

“It blew away everything else we’ve ever tested,” Jake Fisher, the automotive testing director at Consumer Reports, said in an interview. Not only was it the quickest car tested in the magazine’s history, dashing from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, it delivered the equivalent of 87 mpg from its electric powertrain.

“For the right price at least, you can have your cake and eat it, too,” Fisher said. “Now we’re just waiting for this technology to come down to a lower price point.”

It is not the first time Consumer Reports has praised Tesla’s engineering acumen. Two years ago, the magazine gave the original rear-wheel-drive Model S a score of 99, the highest rating it had ever assigned.

The magazine’s next-highest-rated large luxury car is the Mercedes-Benz S550, with a score of 96.

Despite its score, Fisher said, the P85D was not perfect. Its interior materials weren’t as sumptuous as those in some other luxury cars.

Planning road trips around charging stops can be complicated, despite Tesla’s network of Superchargers. The automaker doesn’t have a long-term track record for reliability. It has been prone to problems like the one that Consumer Reports experienced with the door handle.

Fisher said it was not the first time the magazine’s ratings have been adjusted. About a decade ago, a test of the Porsche Boxster forced Consumer Reports to recalibrate its ratings scale for sports cars. Roughly a decade before that, the magazine’s luxury-car ratings were upended by the Lexus LS sedan.

For now, the magazine isn’t going to change ratings for other cars.

“Right now, the Model S is an outlier and a very expensive car,” Fisher said. “If we see more cars having this type of performance at a lower price point, we’ll absolutely need to change how we’re doing our ratings.”

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