Product rating company Consumer Reports initially refused to recommend Tesla's (NASDAQ:TSLA) important Model 3, listing a handful of problems with the car, chief among them being a stopping distance that was "significantly longer than any other contemporary car." But just days after the company said it wouldn't recommend the vehicle, Tesla pushed a software update to its Model 3 vehicles that has CR reversing its stance on the vehicle.

The software update improves the Model 3's safety and shows off Tesla's prowess with over-the-air updates.

A red Model 3.

Model 3. Image source: Tesla.

Model 3 brakes get a major update

After hearing CR's initial feedback on the Model 3, CEO Elon Musk said the vehicle's poor stopping performance would be able to be fixed with a firmware update. "Will be rolling that out in a few days," Musk said on Twitter last week. Four days later, Tesla started rolling out a firmware fix for upgraded brake performance on Model 3 that Musk said would improve braking distance by about 20 feet for repeated heavy braking events. 

Sure enough, when CR retested its Model 3, the consumer rating magazine said the vehicle's braking distance improved by nearly 19 feet.

CR was impressed:

Until now, that type of remote improvement to a car's basic functionality had been unheard of. 'I've been at CR for 19 years and tested more than 1,000 cars,' says Jake Fisher, director of auto testing at Consumer Reports, 'and I've never seen a car that could improve its track performance with an over-the-air update.'

But CR did note that Model 3 braking still isn't "class-leading" after the update.

Over-the-air updates

Though this is the first time Tesla has used an over-the-air update to significantly improve vehicle braking, the automaker has released many updates in the past that have made major improvements to its vehicles.

In 2013, Tesla rolled out an update to its vehicles equipped with adjustable suspension that gave them higher ground clearance at highway speeds after several vehicle fires caused by underbody collisions with objects. Then in late 2015, Tesla added Autopilot to its vehicles equipped with its latest camera, radar, ultrasonics, and GPS via an over-the-air update. In September 2016, Tesla released a major update for its front-facing radar sensor to give it a primary role, alongside Tesla's front-facing vision system, during braking events.

Of course, Tesla also regularly provides updates to its vehicles that focus on the user experience, such as acceleration improvements, user interface updates, and the addition of new features, like assigned key fobs and improved sound systems.

Tesla Model 3 interior and 15-inch touch display.

Model 3. Image source: Tesla.

Tesla already has more updates in store for Model 3, according to Musk. "[User interface] improvements [for Model 3] coming via remote software later this month," Musk Tweeted Wednesday.

The electric-car maker cites its over-the-air updates as a key selling point for its vehicles, noting on its website that its vehicles are "designed to improve over time with regular software updates, introducing new features, functionality, and performance." 

Investors seem pleased with Tesla's ability to quickly deploy such an important software update. Shares climbed 2.8% on Wednesday, outpacing the S&P 500's gain of 1.3% on the same day.

Daniel Sparks owns shares of Tesla. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Tesla and Twitter. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.