Consumer Reports: Tesla Model S has problems

A Tesla Model S car is displayed at a Tesla showroom on Nov. 5, 2013, in Palo Alto, California. Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Consumer Reports last year called the Tesla Model S the best car it had ever tested. But after more than 15,000 miles of driving the electric sedan, the magazine reports that the Model S has had more than its share of problems.

Although Consumer Reports emphasized that its latest assessment is based on driving only a single vehicle, the publication said it expects the reliability ratings for the Model S to fall. That could represent a problem for Tesla given that last year owners scored the car, which sells for $70,000 and up, only as having average reliability.

Consumer Reports identified a number of problems with the Model S. At about 12,000 miles, for instance, the tested car's center screen went blank, blocking access to most functions of the car and essentially disabling it. The Tesla service center in Connecticut performed a "hard reset" to restore the functions of the car.

The Model S' automatically-retracting door handles also wouldn't emerge as designed so that the driver door could be opened. Tesla solved this problem with an over-the-air programming update to the car. And the trunk release, a virtual button on the car's center screen, stopped working at about 15,700 miles. Fixing this took two days at the Tesla service center. Consumer Reports also had to get a new adapter from Tesla for its non-Tesla electric vehicle charger.

The magazine generally praised the service at Tesla, noting that it was standard for the company to pick up the car for free and offer a loaner.

Despite the glitches with the Model S, Consumer Reports's test drivers and other staffers still loved driving it. "Everyone has raved about this car, impressed with its smoothness, effortless glide and clever, elegant simplicity," the magazine said in a news release.

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    Jerry Edgerton, author of Car Shopping Made Easy, has been covering the car beat since Detroit companies dominated the U.S. market. The former car columnist for Money magazine and Washington correspondent for Business Week, Edgerton specializes in finding the best deals on wheels and offering advice on making your car last.

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