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The latest CR car reliability data show that performance from the domestic brands is all over the map, spanning from the highest-ranked Buick to the lowest-ranked Cadillac.
We scrutinized data from about 400,000 subscribers who reported on 640,000 vehicles in our latest survey to answer the age-old debate of how American-brand cars compare against those from Asia and Europe.
The short answer, illustrated in the chart below, is that the Asian brands dominated with the highest average predicted reliability score, followed by Europe, and ultimately trailed by America.
But there’s more to the story . . .
Volatility for Asia
For the fifth straight year, Toyota brands sit atop the manufacturer rankings for predicted new-car reliability, but other Asia-based manufacturers, including Acura and Mazda, saw their reliability averages take a tumble.
For Toyota, it’s worth noting that the Tacoma pickup is still problematic. It dropped to below-average reliability last year after its 2016 redesign and remains below average this year. It is the only Toyota or Lexus model that has below-average reliability.
Kia continues to make impressive strides, gaining two spots to rank third. The new Niro hybrid debuts as the most reliable new car in the entire survey. Kia’s lowest-scoring model is the Sportage small SUV, which has average reliability.
Europe Stays Steady
Audi remains unchanged from last year’s fourth position, with its Q7 SUV and redesigned A4 sedan both having above-average reliability.
BMW gains four spots to join the top five brands this year. All of its models have average or better reliability.
The redesigned Mercedes-Benz 2017 E-Class has much-better-than-average reliability in its first year, and the S-Class finally improves to average. But the GLC, which was new in 2016, drops to well-below average. Most notable issues are in the brakes that squeak badly when the car is in reverse and minor transmission problems with the new nine-speed automatic. Though the E-Class also switched to the nine-speed transmission, it seems to have benefited by not being the first model with it.
The Golf family remains below average (aside from the Alltrack, which is average), but the Passat improves to better-than-average reliability. The previous-generation Tiguan, now sold as the Tiguan Limited, comes in at average.
Volvo remains near the bottom, hurt by the much-worse-than-average XC90, which ranks as the third least reliable model among new vehicles. The problem rate for the XC90’s infotainment is the worst in CR’s Survey—it’s almost as high as Ford/Lincoln’s MyTouch system when it debuted.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Chrysler gains 10 positions from last year—but it has only two models in its lineup. The all-new Pacifica minivan has average reliability, with some minor transmission issues. Reliability of the 300 has been spotty, dropping to below average this year.
Jeep seems to have worked out the transmission problems that plagued the early years of the Cherokee, but the Grand Cherokee and Renegade remain below average. Still, our data shows marked improvement with these models each year, which is promising.
The only Dodge model that does not have below-average reliability is the Grand Caravan. The Journey is unreliable and uncompetitive in its class. The Charger and Challenger have improved over last year but are still below average. Ram’s 1500 pickup has improved to average, but the low standing of the 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty pickups keeps the brand near the bottom.
Fiat would have ranked last, but we have sufficient data only on the 500. Because we require data on at least two models, Fiat is excluded from the ranking.
Ford gains several spots and ranks 15th. The F-150 pickup improves to average reliability. However, the perennially least reliable Ford models—the Focus and Fiesta—are still well below average, with ongoing clutch and transmission problems. Some respondents reported a few problems with the new Sync3 infotainment system in the Fusion. As for Lincoln, the MKZ sedan has average reliability, and the MKC and MKX SUVs are below average.
Overall, GM’s brands did not fare well this year, with most of them (aside from Buick) all in the bottom third group.
Even Buick dropped five spots, to eighth this year, with the redesigned LaCrosse debuting with reliability that is well below average. The much-better-than-average reliability of the Encore, and the better-than-average reliability of the Cascada and Chinese-built Envision, all contribute to Buick staying afloat among the top 10.
The new Bolt electric car is Chevrolet’s most reliable model, with above-average reliability. However the Volt plug-in hybrid remains below average, and the Cruze, which debuted with well-above-average reliability last year, plunged to below average this time around. The Camaro and Corvette sports cars dropped to below average, with complaints about their torque converters. The Colorado and Silverado 1500 pickups, and large truck-based Suburban and Tahoe SUVs, maintain their below-average ratings.
GMC and Cadillac occupy the bottom of the rankings. The Acadia debuted with well-below-average reliability and is among the 10 least reliable new vehicles. Aside from some infotainment issues, problems with the drive system, power equipment, and climate system were also reported. And GMC’s pickups and large truck-based SUVs are still below average.
All of Cadillac’s models have below-average reliability, including the new-for-2017 XT5 compact SUV. The Escalade continues to have problems such as a rough shifting transmission, and it ranks as the second least reliable new vehicle.
For the first time, the Tesla Model S has above-average new-car reliability. But the Model X remains at well below average, and it is the least reliable new car in the entire Annual Auto Survey.
We do not have sufficient data to rank Alfa Romeo, Jaguar, Genesis, Land Rover, Maserati, Mini, Mitsubishi, or Smart.
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No. of Models
Average Predicted Reliability Score
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