The latest car reliability survey from Consumer Reports sees it recommending and not recommending certain models, including some of the most popular green cars sold.
Data for the broad survey of all vehicle types came from over half a million vehicles from model year 2000-2016, with some 2017s as well.
“With that much information, Consumer Reports can predict the future reliability of established models,” said the influential publication. “We can also make predictions on new or redesigned models based on similar models and brand history.”
Tesla Model S Recommended
The Model S, while once raved about in May 2013 by Consumer Reports as possibly the best car it has ever tested – based on relatively early impressions by the publication that prides itself on its analysis and facts – is now on the recommended list.
Consumer Reports had initially said it could not recommend the Model S when first reviewed because it was so new, then downgraded the Model S to “below average” reliability in October 2015.
With the latest report, the Model S is now recommended, and makes the “Newly Recommended” list. Citing its midyear refresh, saying incorrectly a 90-kWh battery is the largest available – a 100 kWh is now – the car was recommended because “reliability has improved to average” for the electric car with which the publication has had a like/dislike relationship.
“Performance is exceptional, with thrilling acceleration, pinpoint handling, and a firm yet comfortable ride,” said the publication. “Drawbacks include tight access, restricted visibility, and range limitations, especially in cold weather. All-wheel drive and active safety features are also available.”
Model X On 10 Least Reliable List
As for the Model X, this crossover SUV gets the distinction of being one of Consumer Reports 10 Least Reliable Cars.
The Model X “is more showy than practical,” said CR and noted the wide access falcon wing doors, while novel, are slow to operate.
As an SUV it was nicked for having rear seats that do not fold down compromising its utility, and ultimately, “first-year reliability has been well below average.”
“Like the S, the Model X is very quick and handles well,” wrote the publication. “Ride comfort and noise isolation aren’t as good as in the S, however. The 90-kWh version we tested had a realistic 230-mile range. Note alert below.”
The alert referred to is Consumer Reports’ advocacy stance against the name “Autopilot” which it chastised Tesla for using as misrepresentational, and misleading.
It warns its readers against it, as it does for the Model S, and does not call it by its Tesla-given name of which it disapproves:
“This vehicle can be outfitted with a semi-autonomous driving package. Consumer Reports believes automakers should take stronger steps to ensure that vehicles with those systems are designed, deployed, and marketed safely. Please heed all warnings, and keep your hands on the wheel.”
The assessment of Tesla the brand was the worst news CR could bestow. It ranked Tesla as the 25th worst brand out of 29, scoring it with 11 other brands that are “less reliable.”
Brands that scored worse were Dodge, Chrysler, Fiat, and Ram – all Fiat-Chrysler products.
“Our brand-level rankings are based on an average predicted-reliability score across each brand’s model line. We also tracked whether each brand’s rank went up or down since our 2015 survey,” said CR.
“This year we converted our Predicted Reliability Score to a 0 to 100 point scale, with the average rating falling between 41 and 60 points,” explained the publication. “Better or worse than average ratings fall on either side of that range.”
Tesla scored 29 on this scale. Number-one Lexus scored 86, second-place Toyota scored 78, and other Tesla competitors include Audi (71), Infiniti (62), BMW (57), and Mercedes-Benz (44).
Chevy Volt Downgraded
The Chevrolet Volt is “no longer recommended” as it is on a list of vehicles with “declining reliability.”
Consumer Reports generally credits the all-new Volt with improvements all around. It says it got 38 mpg, not 42 mpg as it is EPA rated, and EV range is 50, not 53 as rated.
The kicker is “First-year reliability of the redesign has been well-below average,” says CR.
Toyota Prius Recommended
The Toyota Prius was the featured car on a list of 10 Most Reliable Cars.
Now in its fourth generation, the 2016 hybrid which is also the world’s best selling green car is “longer, lower, and wider than the previous version,” noted CR, and its new independent four-wheel suspension “contributes to more responsive handling and a steadier ride.”
CR’s mpg test procedures are typically tougher than the U.S. EPA’s, and cars usually get worse ratings in its hands, but not in the Prius’ case.
“We got 52 mpg overall, a significant improvement over the previous generation’s 44 mpg,” said CR – and 52 mpg is the official EPA rating.
The vehicle lost points for “rather chintzy” seats and tougher ingress/egress due to a lower stance.
Overall, the publication bubbled with praise for the car.
“Colorful digital gauges dominate the dashboard and make it easier to access the infotainment features,” it wrote. “The sensible Prius has always been about efficiency and low running costs.”