By on May 18, 2015

Tesla Model S In Hero Blue

The thrill has gone for Consumer Reports‘ review team over the Tesla Model S, declaring the P85D “undrivable” in a new blog post.

The publication said its tester was described as such due to issues with the automatic door handles, The Detroit Bureau writes. The handles were supposed to extend when someone with the vehicle’s keys walked up to the car, failing to do so with the model in review.

With repeated attempts to enter the car in the traditional manner failing, one of the reviewers opened the front passenger door with a smartphone app to fire-up the EV. The success was short-lived, however, as the onboard electronics limited driving time to two minutes before shutting down.

Ultimately, CR called up customer service — which continues to receive high praise according to the publication’s reviewers — to haul the ailing P85D to the dealership for repairs. Despite the woes suffered prior to rectification, though, the publication continues to give the Model S a strong recommendation to its readership.

[Image credit: Tesla]

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51 Comments on “Consumer Reports Declares Tesla Model S P85D ‘Undrivable’ Due To Glitch...”


  • avatar
    carve

    The friggin door handles are one of the biggest issues with the car. I’m sure they give a high-tech appeal in the showroom, similar to the fold-away vents and shifter in a Jag, but are ultimately of no benefit and will hurt the long-term value and reliability of the car, to say nothing of the added expense and weight. They at least need a backup manual-mode.

    I say go with an airplane style handle (push in on one side and the handle deploys, or just a flash handle as on the Dodge Challenger.

  • avatar

    I borrowed 2 different Model S P85D’s (one White, one Blue) and obviously test drove them for a full weekend (videod)

    The door handles malfunctioned a few times, but it didn’t make the car “undrivable”…it just made the car “annoying” sometimes.

    It’s a good car, all-in-all, but there’s plenty of shortcomings no one wants to talk about.

    For $135,000…

    Tesla Lovers and “greeners” won’t ever rate against the car for the malfunctioning. And that’s one of the problems with consumer reliability. No one will talk about the basic problems they have if they “believe” in the brand.

    It becomes an “emotional issue”.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I can understand gimmicky equipment to lure in sales, but you don’t want to put it on equipment like a door handle where it can essentially render the vehicle completely inoperable when it fails.

    Did none of their brilliant engineers not think that maybe there should be a manual backup in case the automatic door handle fails?

    • 0 avatar
      hotdog453

      Yeah. They’ll send a flat bed out, lickety split! And give you Starbucks as you wait for them to fix it.

      But you have a spare car anyways, right? I mean, that’s the old thing: You just use your other car, the one you bought for driving across multiple states or outside the range of the charging network, during these events.

      Gosh, you guys are dense.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    I hope Musk doesn’t use the same technology on the Dragon crew capsule. “Hello mission control, we’re locked out and running low on oxygen..”

  • avatar
    Fordson

    I think CR lost all kinds of credibility and became outright leg-humpers to Tesla for its best-ever rating of the S.

    And now due to a minor, annoying issue, it’s undriveable?

    Time to renew the bipolar meds.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      CR liked how it drove. Combine that with a reliability survey result of average or better, and it was able to recommend it.

      One glitch is anecdotal in nature. Having one particular example of a car that is reliable does not prove that the model itself is generally reliable; similarly, having one particular example of a car that is unreliable does not prove that the model itself is generally unreliable. An anecdote is just that, and it cuts both ways.

      If CR had an agenda, then it would not have informed the world about this problem. That being said, it’s not great that both CR and Edmunds have had severe problems with their Teslas.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        What I dont get is how CR normally claims “Not enough data to rate” for cars that dont sell in high enough numbers (such as the first gen Kia Sephia, exotic cars, etc), however, this evidently does not apply to their darling Model S, as it was just over 1,000 (IIRC) units being enough to judge its reliability. And, it just barely earns a good enough rating to allow them to recomend it.

        Theyve been accused of bias for years, and its not hard to see why. Such comments about the new for 1998 Toyota Corolla, months before it was introduced. They were already saying how great it was going to be, even saying it will be “an especially roomy one”. There was nothing to suggest that the car was to be “especially roomy”, and it wasnt. The Mazda Protege was the roomiest compact in its class throughout the 1990s. They just had their nose so far up Toyota’s arse, it wasnt funny. Now, it seems theyve moved on to Tesla.

        Let me save the CR stooges the trouble of saying they dont accept advertising money. That does not preclude bias, it just means it isnt paid for through ads.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          It’s not hard to understand.

          The CR survey requires 100 respondents for a given model. If there are at least 100 responses, then the results are reported. If there aren’t at least 100, then they aren’t.

          Spend less time dreaming up conspiracy theories about surveys that say things that you don’t want to hear, and more time learning about them.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I think you’re onto something with the meds. Didn’t they go gaga about the Impala a while back? The sales-proof, boring, heavy, indifferent, rental-grade Impala? CR’s always had a degree of the inexplicable to their method. Twenty years ago, I worked for a big electronics mail-order company. We had piles of some of their top-rated products returned, as their problems were fairly inescapable. Then there was the Maytag v. Kenmore washing machine debacle. In a comparison rating of dishwashers(or clothes), CR rated Maytag the best and Kenmore the worst. They listed everything they liked about the Maytag and everything they didn’t like about the Kenmore. The only problem is that they were the same machines, made in the same plant with the same specifications. IIRC, the eventual explanation was that Sears made them pay for the test unit while Maytag had a relationship with the magazine.

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        I know a mechanical engineer who spent several years at Maytag whom I plan to ask about this – in the meantime, can you back up any parts of this story?

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          It was during 1994-1995 that I worked with the guy that showed me the story about the washing machines. I haven’t had any luck finding documentation on the internet. All of the machines are made by Whirlpool now, but it is hard to find historical production data on washing machines. My coworker showed me the story because we had an incredible collection of returned Pioneer 6-disc cartridge CD changers and Mitsubishi VCRs, the two models that had each topped CRs ratings that year.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        ….Didn’t they go gaga about the Impala a while back? The sales-proof, boring, heavy, indifferent, rental-grade Impala?….

        Was that review for the new Impala? Not even remotely rental grade. It is a hell of a nice car. Now, the W body….

        • 0 avatar
          revjasper

          They had nothing but contempt for the W-body Impala. Which made me a little sad as it was consistently my favorite rental car for road trips. Which probably proves your point?

      • 0 avatar
        palincss

        “…Maytag had a relationship with the magazine.” A very serious accusation indeed, and completely unsubstantiated. I’m calling bullshit on this. In the first place, if it had ever been true there would be no difficulty in finding stories about it and wouldn’t need to resort to innuendo but rather would have posted links to the stories that would have resulted; but even on the face of it the notion is absurd. Why spend what they spend on new cars every year and then blow their credibility forever for a wash machine? That makes no sense at all. Which leaves me which but one conclusion: you are a liar.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          Excuse me for remembering things that happened before the internet became a catch all for published information. Stories that once were on the internet are impossible to find too, but call me a liar for remembering a news item that meant something to me when I worked in consumer electronics, but hasn’t been important to me since. I just googled ‘consumer reports bicycle helmets controversy’ and the top results came back with ‘controversy’ crossed out, even though CR’s bicycle helmet ratings have been a fiasco since 1997, and the 2015 one is lighting up cycling boards even now, since they said not to buy a Cannondale Teramo helmet that everyone else involved in helmet testing says is superb.

          Maybe you should try to find someone smart and over 50 years old and see if they remember when CR got caught pointing out the best features of one brand and the worst of the other when they were comparing identical models. Then you can apologize. The funny thing is they didn’t blow their credibility forever because people don’t pay much attention. They didn’t destroy their credibility with their bogus antivirus test a decade ago either. When Sears complained loud enough to attract some notice over the washing machines, the story died down and Kenmore proceeded to rank near the top in every category for years and years.

          • 0 avatar
            HotPotato

            I believe it is CR’s policy to always buy retail, as an ordinary consumer. No free anything. Maybe that policy was instituted after the washing machine incident. Or maybe your friend is pulling your chain and the washing machine story is a tall tale.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    How did that feature get past the NHTSA (whatever that acronym is)? One of the things NHRA drag strips won’t allow is a car w/o a mechanical door handle. Someone gets in a crash and is knocked out, how do you pop their handleless doors? Must be the same thing for street cars I imagine.

    I like technology but not when it comes at the expense of functionality

    • 0 avatar
      nitroxide

      National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in case you’re wondering. It’s rather ungainly, I must admit.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      If you can’t get in the car it’s impossible to have an accident in it. NHTSA highly approves of this feature and is proposing to make it mandatory on all vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      My guess is they unlock and get ready to open automatically if it detects a wreck.

      *Exactly* like the locks in cars with normal handles, which equally won’t let a responder in if the automatic unlock fails…

      Also, there’s always breaking a window and cutting the car open, which happens in serious wrecks anyway.

      Not that big of a deal, here, really.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        So if you were trapped in your lovely Tesla with failed electronic door handles there sure as hell better be a way to manually unlock the door to get out without having to relying on automatic detection.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    How much of a drag diff would a flush door handle with room underneath to get your fingers in there have over one like Tesla’a over-complicated design?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      And consider, a traditional door handle is probably lighter without the motors and etc in it. So I bet it’s a complete wash.

      And the benefit can’t be more than .25mi every 500mi anyway.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Alternate headline:

    “Consumer Reports Strongly Recommends Tesla P85D Despite Balky Door Handles”

    These articles make it sound like the ‘undriveable’ adjective is an opinion. Inoperative door handles and protective software made it a fact that the car couldn’t be driven.

    This is an important distinction, because while the undriveability of the car was a momentary and unfortunate fact, their recommendation required some mulling over.

    If they had to mull over the ‘undriveable’ term, then that’s a wet blanket on the whole Model S product line. But that isn’t what happened, even though the headlines give that impression.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I think the story minimizes the fact that these door handles have been creating issues for owners since the day Model S deliveries began and Tesla still hasn’t figured out a solution. That’s pathetic.

    • 0 avatar
      palincss

      The actual headline is: “Consumer Reports’ Tesla Model S P85D breaks—before testing begins. A broken power door handle is one of the most common Tesla problems.”

      The actual story, which I quote below, doesn’t bear much resemblance to the sensationalized reports about it either.

      A new car shouldn’t have problems when you’ve owned it for less than a month. Yet Consumer Reports’ brand-new $127,000 Tesla Model S P85 D, with the fancy retractable door handles refused to let us in, effectively rendering the car undriveable. (Read “Why We Bought a Tesla Model S.”)

      After we’d owned the P85 D for a mere 27 days, with just over 2,300 miles on the odometer, the driver-side door handle failed. The door handles in the Model S retract electrically so they rest flush with the sides of the car when they’re not in use. Walk up to the car with the key fob in your pocket, and the handles move out to allow you to grip them.

      Except this time, the one on the driver’s door of our P85D didn’t pop out, leaving us no way to open the door from the outside. And significantly, the car wouldn’t stay in Drive, perhaps misinterpreting that the door was open due to the issue with the door handle. We have observed other vehicles likewise prohibiting driving with a door open.

      We’re far from the first Tesla owners to experience this problem. Our car reliability survey shows that doors, locks, and latches are the biggest trouble areas with Teslas and that the Model S has far higher than average rates of such problems.

      “Model S’ connectivity paired with over-the-air software updates allow Tesla to diagnose and fix most problems in Model S without the owner ever coming in for service,” said a Tesla Motors spokesperson via e-mail. “In instances when hardware, like the door handle, need to be replaced, we strive to make it painless for a customer to get their Model S serviced. ”

      The good news: Getting our Tesla fixed could hardly have been more convenient. We called our local Tesla service center to have the car picked up and hauled 60 miles away to the service center for repair. But instead, the company sent a local technician to our Auto Test Center the next morning. Tesla maintains a fleet of repair vans with technicians to provide on-site service for minor problems. Such house calls are part of the Tesla ownership experience, available to all customers.

      The technician diagnosed and repaired the problem quickly. Our car needed a new door-handle control module—the part inside the door itself that includes the electronic sensors and motors to operate the door handle and open the door. The whole repair took about two hours and was covered under the warranty.

      Now that we can open the driver’s door and slide behind the wheel, our P85D is ready to start our formal test regimen. We’ll keep you posted on how it performs and let you know whether we have any more problems with it.

      — http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2015/05/consumer-reports-tesla-model-s-p85d-breaks-before-testing-begins/index.htm

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        Would love to see how this would play out in the Winter climates when it’s 20 below zero. Bet that technician wouldn’t be rushing out to fix this idiotic abuse of technology then!

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        Thanks for posting. So only the driver’s door was affected, and it still could be opened from the inside? That’s a pain in the butt to be sure, but it’s not exactly something I’d characterize as rendering the car undriveable or even “effectively undriveable.”

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          You’re not reading the whole story. The fault in the driver’s door handle was reporting its presence to the car’s main control system, prompting the car to refuse to stay in Drive, which makes it more than an inconvenience. I suppose they could have tried Reverse.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    When I went to pick up a new car I had purchased years ago, they had left the lights on, so when I got there it was dead. So you might say I bought a new car that was undrivable as well.

  • avatar
    JEFFSHADOW

    TESLA ROCKS! (The band, not the car…) Keep it Simplicity…

    The outside door handles on my three Toronados, the 1975 Riviera and GMC Motorhome all work just fine after an average span of forty years!

  • avatar
    Bee

    All this talk of flush mounted door handles and no mention of the Subaru XT?

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    And here we have what one can call a stupid use of technology. When a consumer must depend on Chinese parts bin electronics just to enter there vehicle there is a huge problem. It will be a cold day in hell before I plunk down this kind of money when there isn’t even a fail safe way to enter my own vehicle without relying on technology. So much for CR and there so called highest ranked sedan.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    So…this is a problem area and needs fixing.

    Move on.

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