Today Consumer Reports announced a wide variety of vehicle manufacturers to its 2014 Top Picks list, with the Tesla Model S named “Best Overall,” meaning it is “the best all-around model” in its category.
Since the Model S is considered best among all 10 categories of cars, light trucks, and SUVs Consumer Reports tests, this is high praise for a vehicle with less than two years on the market.
Other vehicles in respective categories to take top honors are the Hyundai Santa Fe, Ram 1500, and Subaru Forester.
The publication says quality among all automakers is increasing, and Japanese manufacturers no longer dominate as they historically have.
But while other makes and models that have been around for years fared well in respective categories, the “Best Overall” was the comparative newcomer from Tesla.
Consumer Reports buys the cars it tests, and it has already raved about the Model S.
Today in a brief phone interview, CR’s Director of Automotive Testing Jake Fisher said that while the publication reviewed an 85-kwh Model S, it feels confident saying that $89,650 MSRP car it evaluated is a representative sample of the range.
Its naming Model S is thus a blanket endorsement for any Model S, he confirmed, and this is notwithstanding whether it is a 60-kilowatt-hour or 85-kwh version, and regardless of options level or price which spans the gamut from low $70,000s to low $130,000s.
Its criteria for “Top Pick” is as follows:
Consumer Reports Top Picks are the best all-around models in their categories; chosen from more than 260 vehicles the organization has recently tested. Top Pick models must meet CR’s stringent criteria in three areas: road test, reliability, and safety. They must rank at or near the top of their category on overall road test scores; they must have earned an average or better predicted-reliability Rating, based on problems Consumer Reports’ subscribers reported on 1.1 million vehicles in the latest survey; and they must perform adequately if tested in crash or rollover tests by the government or the insurance industry.
Of the Model S, Consumer Reports said it ranks high because it does all these things the best.
That said, Consumer Reports noted quality is picking up across the range of vehicle makes. Since 1997 Japanese brands have tended to take 70 percent of the spots on CR’s Top Pick list, but “their hold may be slipping,” it said.
This year eight makes are listed.
“The competition in the marketplace has grown fierce. There was a time when a handful of brands dominated our Top Picks list, but in recent years we’ve seen a more diverse group make the cut,” said Rik Paul, Consumer Reports’ automotive editor.
The Toyota Prius was the Top Pick “Green Car,” a distinction it has had for 11 consecutive years. The list of winners is as follows:
BEST OVERALL: Tesla Model S ($89,650) This electric luxury vehicle offers blistering acceleration, razor-sharp handling, a compliant ride, and a versatile cabin with room for a small third-row seat. This technological tour de force, while pricey, is brimming with innovation and offers a 225-mile driving range and 5-hour charges with Tesla’s special connector.
MIDSIZED SEDAN: Honda Accord (4-cyl.) ($23,270) This roomy, well-equipped, and competitively priced sedan gets a lot right and squeezes out an impressive 30 mpg overall and 40 on the highway which is as good as the tiny Honda Fit subcompact. Handling is agile, although the ride isn’t quite as comfortable as that in some competitors.
COMPACT CAR: Subaru Impreza (sedan, $21,345; hatchback, $22,345) This all-wheel-drive vehicle gives a lot for its affordable price. Both sedan and hatchback versions are well-rounded packages. They deliver nimble handling and an impressively compliant, absorbent ride that’s among the best in its class. For an AWD car, fuel economy is also commendable.
GREEN CAR: Toyota Prius ($26,750) There’s no shortage of hybrids on the showroom floor; however none can match the combination of affordability, practicality, and fuel efficiency that the Prius delivers—which is why it leads in this category for the 11th year in a row. Its 44 mpg overall is still the best Consumer Reports has measured in any five-passenger, non-plug-in vehicle. And its roomy interior and hatchback versatility make it practical.
LUXURY CAR: Audi A6 ($56,295) A joy to drive with its potent, supercharged V6 engine and super-smooth eight-speed automatic transmission delivering invigorating power; the interior is an impeccably finished, first-class cabin brimming with the latest in high-tech features. And the A6 returns a respectable 22 mpg overall, even with all-wheel drive; the diesel-powered TDI delivers 28 mpg.
SPORTS SEDAN: BMW 328i ($43,195) The 3 Series has long set the standard for sports sedans. The current, roomier, more luxurious model delivers excellent handling and a high fun-to-drive factor. It’s more fuel-efficient than past models, posting 28 mpg overall—the best among gas-powered models in its class.
SMALL SUV: Subaru Forester ($26,814) This user-friendly small SUV climbed to the top of the class after its 2014 redesign. With a space-efficient design and large windows and doors, it provides the easiest access and best visibility in its category; plus a class-leading 26 mpg overall and a frugal 35 mpg on the highway.
MIDSIZED SUV: Hyundai Santa Fe ($36,290) Redesigned for 2013, this seven passenger mid-sized SUV provides a comfortable ride, a quiet interior, a limo-like rear seat, and generous cargo area—yet doesn’t feel too bulky to drive or park and offers a lot of features for the money. Its smooth, refined 290-hp V6 engine delivers a decent 20 mpg overall.
MINIVAN: Honda Odyssey ($36,830) The most complete family vehicle available—easily carrying up to eight people—features comfy second- and third-row seats that can be configured in a myriad of ways to accommodate a wide range of cargo- and passenger-carrying needs. This minivan is relatively fun to drive and gets decent fuel economy too.
PICKUP TRUCK: Ram 1500 ($42,810) With its 2013 freshening, the Ram is surprisingly refined and inviting. A coil-spring rear suspension—unique for full-sized pickups—makes it the most comfortable-riding truck. And the whisper-quiet cabin makes it feel like a luxury vehicle, while being able to get its hands dirty when duty calls.