How Tesla Blew Up the Consumer Reports Rating System

tesla model s
Source: Tesla

Has the sound of a GPA over 4.0 ever made you flinch? What about a test score of 110 out of 100? These numbers seem impossible and even suggest a fault in the person or organization giving the test, but often it’s the unheard-of performance of the pupil that causes a change to the scoring system. Add Consumer Reports to the list of those who have been blindsided by a superior force. In the road test of the Tesla Model S P85D, CR staffers ended up with a score of 103, leading the publication to say the electric vehicle “broke” its own scoring system.

The base Model S previously logged the best Consumer Reports road test score in history, 99, when it was tested in 2013. Improvements in the P85D include quicker acceleration, better brakes, smoother handling, more horsepower and torque, all-wheel drive, and greater economy at 87 miles per gallon equivalent. Without getting into the scoring minutiae, it’s easy to see how a 99 could be marked up to 103 with just one or two of the upgrades mentioned.

According to Consumer Reports, it was those upgrades plus the fact the car was more than the sum of its parts that brought the score to 103 and shattered the scoring system for future use. In a video published with the review, the reviewer mentions how the P85D “set new benchmarks” for performance and describes it as “an automotive milepost” that served as “a glimpse into the future of the…industry.”

Among those benchmarks, the P85D set the record for the sprint to 60 miles per hour (3.5 seconds). Likewise, it set the record for most expensive car ever tested at $127,820. Perfect road test score aside, reviewers continued to have beefs with the range-topping Model S.

Tesla Model S
Source: Tesla

As the costliest car to ever get the Consumer Reports treatment, reviewers remained unimpressed by the luxury appointments of the P85D’s interior. Meanwhile, the fact you cannot drive over 300 miles in a Model S continues to drop it down a peg when comparing to the world’s best automobiles.

Nonetheless, the exquisite performance and safety features made it an overwhelming force in the company’s road tests. Over-the-air updates, which can seem as relentless as the EV automaker’s run of improvements to its flagship sedan, continue working out the kinks and making it better than it was just months before.

Consumer Reports readers may consider those updates a necessary part of of the equation, as the Model S has scored average in reliability when put to the tests of long-term ownership. Finally, while a rating system that favors fuel economy loved the lack of gasoline needed to operate this electric vehicle, the promise of zero emissions remains on hold until every Model S runs on batteries charged with solar power.

Electric car makers have to start somewhere and, according to the most respected consumer-facing testing company, the Model S P85D has done what other vehicles couldn’t even approach. Now what if the Model 3 can bring a slice of this perfection to the masses?

Follow Eric on Twitter @EricSchaalNY