Consumer Reports has long been a trusted resource for car buyers, and over the years, its coverage of Tesla has been objective and balanced. CR’s early rave review of Model S was an important vote of confidence for the then-young automaker, but the magazine later identified problems with Model X. In 2018, CR denied its coveted Recommended rating to Model 3 because of poor performance in a braking test—but quickly reversed its decision when Tesla fixed the brake problem. In 2020, the mag said Tesla was “absolutely the leader” in the EV market.
So when Consumer Reports named the Ford Mustang Mach-E as this year’s Top Pick in the EV category, dethroning Tesla’s Model 3, which held the honor for the past two years, Tesla-watchers (and hopefully Tesla execs) took notice.
The Ford earned the coveted prize based on its Overall Score, which incorporates a road-test score, predicted reliability, owner satisfaction and safety.
Consumer Reports hasn’t soured on Tesla’s flagship vehicle—it still recommends Model 3, and calls it “a great choice” that “shines with the latest technology, a long range, an impressive charging network, and a driving experience closer to a high-performance sports car than a sedan.”
However, CR finds the Mustang Mach-E to be “more practical and easier to live with,” and says it’s also quieter and rides better. “Both cars have large infotainment center screens, but the Mach-E’s is far easier to operate and doesn’t require multiple steps to activate routine features, such as using the defroster or adjusting the mirrors, as with the Tesla.”
Gallery: 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Beach Picnic
CR’s Reliability rating, which is a key factor in each model’s Overall Score, is based on an annual reader survey. The results of this survey kept Model Y off the mag’s list of Top Picks. “Owners reported problems with the Model Y concerning paint, body integrity, body hardware, power equipment, and the climate control system.”
CR found Model 3 to have “an average predicted reliability score,” whereas survey respondents reported “very few problems with the Mustang Mach-E.”
As driver assistance systems have become more prevalent, CR has become a strong proponent of autonomy features that promote safety, such as collision avoidance systems. CR’s testers place a lot of importance on a vehicle’s driver monitoring system. These systems are designed to prevent drivers from relying too much on self-driving features, by giving appropriate warnings when the driver’s attention wanders.
Beginning this year, CR is adding 2 points to a vehicle’s Overall Score if it has an active driving assistance system with “an adequate driver monitoring system.” The Mach-E’s BlueCruise active driving assistance system scored the extra 2 points. Tesla’s Autopilot system did not. Apparently, just resting one hand on the steering wheel is enough to keep Autopilot active, and that allows drivers to look away from the road, or fiddle with their phones.