Consumer Reports Targets 30 New Cars That Burn Excessive Oil

Not to be confused with cars that guzzle fuel, Consumer Reports’ “Thirsty 30” list spotlights late model “oil-guzzling” cars that consume excessive oil too early in their lifecycles, but several automakers say these conditions are OK.

According to the watchdog report, two percent of newer cars or more than 1.5-million 2010-2014 model year vehicles on the road today burn excessive oil.

The report follows analysis of data from Consumer Reports’ 2014 Annual Auto Survey providing feedback from owners of 498,900 vehicles from 2010 to 2014 model years.

Specific models called out on the list include the Audi A3, A4, A5, A6, and Q5; BMW 5, 6, and 7 Series, and X5; and Subaru Forester, Impreza, Legacy, and Outback.

“Several engines emerged as the main offenders,” said the publication in a statement, “Audi’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder and 3.0-liter V6, BMW’s 4.8 liter V8 and twin-turbocharged 4.4 liter V8, and to a lesser extent Subaru’s 3.6 liter six-cylinder and 2.0- and 2.5-liter four-cylinders.”

The reliance on turbocharging has been on the rise both for maximum performance models and by those trying to downsize the engine to increase fuel economy on government test drive cycles, while providing power of a larger engine.

Alleging something is wrong with this oil-buriniing picture, Consumer Reports said responses by automakers vary but some say nothing is wrong. Audi, BMW, and Subaru are sticking to their story that oil consumption is normal.

Burning of one quart is reasonable every 600-700 miles according to Audi and BMW, and Subaru says a quart every 1,000-1,200 miles is OK.

Consumer Reports however disagrees.

“While it’s normal for cars to burn a little oil as they age toward 100,000 miles and beyond, we believe that for a late-model car to burn a quart or more of oil between changes is unacceptable,” said Mark Rechtin, Consumer Reports’ Cars Content Development Team Leader. “It’s also our strong opinion that any engine that burns oil between changes should be repaired under the powertrain warranty.”

Whether a warranty might fix a perceived problem the automaker says is to be expected as inherent with the vehicle’s engineering parameters is an open question.

Meanwhile certain class-action lawsuits in cases are underway, while it’s made clear also Consumer Reports has not been able to prove excessive oil loss to the degree reported correlates with actual engine failures or mechanical problems.

Obviously running an engine too low does increase internal metal-on-metal friction, and maintaining full levels at all times is preferable to what’s nigh to a mild constant-loss system.

So while the named carmakers say it’s all fine, what this at least means is buyers of these cars need to carry around a bottle of oil or drop by a service station to have them checked and topped off between normally serviced oil and filter changes.

The article is to be found at and in the August 2015 print issue.