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Whoa! Musk Promises Update to Improve Model 3 Braking

Greg Fink
Photo credit: Brad Fick - Car and Driver

From Car and Driver

In our test of the Tesla Model 3, we recorded a 176-foot stop from 70 mph, which was (just barely) the best of its competitive set. However, we also experienced a disturbingly wide variation in braking results, with some stops from 70 mph taking as long as 196 feet, a dismal result for a mid-size sedan. Consumer Reports experienced a similar phenomenon in its tests of the Model 3. In part because of the model’s poor and inconsistent braking performance, that publication does not recommend the entry-level Tesla.

That announcement has triggered a reaction from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who announced via Twitter that the Model 3 will receive a firmware update designed to curb the car’s erratic braking behavior. The update reportedly will address the anti-lock braking system’s calibration algorithm, which Musk blamed for the Model 3’s brake fade.

Photo credit: Brad Fick - Car and Driver

If Tesla is truly serious about improving the Model 3’s stopping performance, however, adopting more robust mechanical braking components that are less susceptible to heat-induced fade might also be necessary. We at C/D are skeptical that changes to the ABS algorithm alone will solve what our test data suggests is a hardware issue.

Fortunately for Model 3 owners, Musk tweeted that Tesla is willing to physically upgrade the brakes of all Model 3s produced if necessary, saying that the company “will make sure all Model 3s [have] amazing braking ability at no expense to customers.”

Despite the disappointing braking performance of the current rear-motor Model 3, it could be that the upcoming dual-motor version will not suffer from such severe brake fade. Not only might the current controversy push Tesla to equip the dual-motor car with more capable mechanical brakes, but the additional regeneration from the second, front-mounted motor ought to also assist in bringing the all-wheel-drive electric sedan to a stop more quickly and consistently than its rear-drive counterpart.

That’s what we saw with the Model S. When we tested a rear-drive version in 2014, that car initially came to a stop from 70 mph in 171 feet but needed 196 feet by its sixth stop. An all-wheel-drive Model S tested the following year performed more consistently, its shortest and longest braking distances varying by just nine feet.

Naturally, we’d be eager to retest a Model 3 with the firmware update to see if its fade resistance improves. Feel free to drop one off at our office for testing at your earliest convenience, Elon.

Photo credit: Brad Fick - Car and Driver

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