Thirsty 30 oil guzzling cars from Consumer Reports

BMWs, Audis, Subarus top list of 2010-14 models that have
higher-than-average rate of oil consumption

YONKERS, NY ― An in-depth new analysis of data from Consumer Reports’ 2014 Annual Auto Survey revealed that several auto manufacturers are building engines – available in a number of widely sold models – that require frequently topping off engine oil between recommended oil changes.

Consumer Reports reviewed the survey data of owners of 498,900 vehicles from 2010 to 2014 model years, many of which are still under their powertrain warranty. Several engines emerged as the main offenders: 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.

Those engines are in many models that made CR’s “Thirsty 30” list of vehicles that have much higher rates of oil consumption overall than the average for their model years. Among them are the Audi A3, A4, A5, A6, and Q5; BMW 5, 6, and 7 Series, and X5; and Subaru Forester, Impreza, Legacy, and Outback.

“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.”

The full report, including the entire “Thirsty 30” list, can be found online at, and in the August 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

Audi, BMW, and Subaru stuck firmly to the statement that oil consumption is a normal part of a car’s operation. Subaru considers a quart burned every 1,000 to 1,200 miles to be acceptable. Certain Audi and BMW cars’ standards state that a quart burned 600 to 700 miles is reasonable.

Not all engines suffer from this problem. In fact, Consumer Reports data shows that 98 percent of 2010-2014 cars do not require any topping off of engine oil between changes. But the remaining two percent that do burn oil excessively represents more than 1.5 million vehicles on the road. Several automakers are fighting class-action lawsuits regarding this problem.

Consumer Reports data does not show a direct connection between increased oil consumption and other engine problems. But CR’s survey data concerning 10 model years shows that if a car burns oil early in its life, it will burn even more as it ages. In tracking oil consumption by model year, engine families show increased consumption with each successive year on the road.

Ram 1500, Tesla Model S, Santa Fe, Foresters are new top picks in Consumer Reports annual list


Ram 1500 pickup first Chrysler model to make list in 16 years

YONKERS, NY — In its annual Top Picks list, Consumer Reports has crowned four new vehicles—the Hyundai Santa Fe, Ram 1500, Subaru Forester, and Tesla Model S—with the top honor in each of their respective categories.

For the first time in 16 years, a Chrysler earned a spot on the list with the Ram 1500 nabbing best Pickup Truck, a category that had taken a hiatus in 2013 because Consumer Reports had not yet tested two newly-released vehicles in that segment, the extensively updated Ram 1500 and the redesigned Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra. The last Chrysler vehicle to earn Consumer Reports’ Top Pick honors was the 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

“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.

Consumer Reports’ 2014 Top Picks list, Car Brand Report Cards and more from the annual auto issue were released at a press conference today before the Washington Automotive Press Association (WAPA) in Washington, D.C. For more details and videos of the Top Picks, visit Consumer Reports’ 2014 Autos Spotlight.

The redesigned Subaru Forester knocked the Honda CR-V from the top of the Small SUV category, and the Hyundai Santa Fe took top honors in the Midsized SUV category.

Although pricey, the Tesla Model S nabbed Consumer Reports’ Top Pick for Best Overall vehicle for its exceptional performance and its many impressive technological innovations.

For the 11th consecutive year and 13th overall, the Toyota Prius reigns as Consumer Reports’ Top Pick for Green Car. The only other vehicle since 2001 to be named a Top Pick in the Green Car category was the Honda Civic Hybrid—which took the honor in 2003. The Prius continues to offer the best fuel economy, at 44 mpg overall, of any five-passenger, non-plug-in vehicle.

For the second year in a row, the Audi A6 and  the  BMW 328i  top  the  Luxury  Car  and  Sports Sedan categories respectively. Until last year, neither carmaker had a Top Pick in more than 10 years. The A6 was praised as a joy to drive and the 328i touted for setting the standard for sports sedans.

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.

The Honda Odyssey and Subaru Impreza round out Consumer Reports’ Top Picks List. The Honda Odyssey, Top Pick Minivan, is praised as the most complete family vehicle one can buy also offering decent fuel economy. For the fourth consecutive year, the Subaru Impreza has been named Top Pick Compact Car, with both the sedan and hatchback versions praised for their compliant ride and impressive fuel economy for all-wheel-drive cars.

Consumer Reports’ 2014 Top Picks By Category:

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.

Prius named best new car value for 2d straight year by Consumer Reports


Toyota's Prius took top honors for new car value for the second straight year in Consumer Reports annual ranking.

Toyota’s Prius took top honors for new car value for the second straight year in Consumer Reports annual ranking.

 Nissan Armada ranked lowest overall in CR’s annual Best- & Worst-Value Ranking


It may not be a surprise in these days of rising gas prices that a gas-sipping pioneer hybrid took top honors over a full-sized SUV that can haul plenty of people and parcels this holiday season with the greatest of ease but may require in-flight refueling.

Today, Consumer Reports crowned the Toyota Prius as  the best overall value for the automotive dollar and the Nissan Armada the worst in its annual Best New-Car Value analysis.

CR said the hybrid has the right combination of performance, reliability and low estimated five-year ownership costs of 47 cents per mile. Last year, the Prius unseated the perennial best-value leader, the Honda Fit and its four-year title run.

Nissan's full-sized SUV, Armada, received the lowest ranking for value, no doubt to a rise in gas prices.

Nissan’s full-sized SUV, Armada, received the lowest ranking for value, no doubt to a rise in gas prices.

It figures, that the Armada, a large SUV that gets only 13 mpg overall is said to cost $1.20 per mile – because it has a very different inherent mission than the Prius. However CR also noted that Armada scored poorly in its annual reliability survey.

Toyota and Lexus models placed at the top in three of the 10 categories that Consumer Reports analyzed—with the Prius taking top overall ranking and emerging in first place in the compact/subcompact cars category. The Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited is the top-scoring vehicle in the Large Cars group and the Lexus ES 300h is the top model in the Luxury Cars category.

Vehicles from Subaru and Mazda were also standouts in the analysis; each automaker had vehicles that topped the rankings in two categories. The Subaru Legacy 2.5i Premium was the top-scoring vehicle in the Midsized Cars category and the Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium scored best among Small SUVs. The Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand ranked first overall in the Sports Cars/Convertibles category while the Mazda5 Grand Touring was best in the Wagons/Minivans group.

In creating its annual Best and Worst New-Car Values list, Consumer Reports rates performance, reliability, and owner-cost data to calculate a value score for more than 200 different vehicles ranging from small cars like the Hyundai Accent and Honda Fit to luxury sedans such as the Cadillac XTS and BMW 750Li.

“The Prius’ 44 mpg overall is the best fuel economy of any non-plug-in car that Consumer Reports has tested,” said Consumer Reports Automotive Editor Rik Paul. “Though it’s not particularly cheap to buy, the Prius’ depreciation is so low that it costs less to own over the first five years than its initial MSRP. We call that a bargain.”

The scores were calculated based on the five-year owner cost for each vehicle, along with Consumer Reports’ road-test score and the organization’s own predicted-reliability score from the latest Annual Auto Survey. The five-year owner cost estimates factor in depreciation, fuel, insurance premiums, interest on financing, maintenance and repairs, and sales tax. Depreciation is by far the largest owner-cost factor.

The 10 vehicle categories Consumer Reports included in this analysis:

  • Compact/Subcompact Cars
  • Midsized Cars
  • Large Cars
  • Luxury Cars
  • Sports Cars/Convertibles
  • Wagons/Minivans
  • Small SUVs
  • Midsized SUVs
  • Luxury/Large SUVs
  • Pickups

Here’s a look at the winners and losers in each of the categories:

  • – Compact /Subcompact Cars: Best, Toyota Prius Four; Worst, Volkswagen Beetle 2.5L
  • – Midsized Cars: Best, Subaru Legacy 2.5i Premium; Worst, Nissan Altima 3.5 SL
  • – Large Cars: Best, Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited; Worst, Ford Taurus Limited
  • – Luxury Cars: Best, Lexus ES 300h; Worst, BMW 750Li
  • – Sports Cars/Convertibles: Best: Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring; Worst, Chevrolet Camaro convertible 2SS (V8)
  • – Wagons/Minivans: Best, Mazda5 Grand Touring; Worst, Chrysler Town & Country Touring-L
  • – Small SUVs: Best, Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium; Worst, Ford Escape SE (1.6T)
  • – Midsized SUVs: Best, Nissan Murano SL; Worst, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara
  • – Luxury/Large SUVs: Best, BMW X1 xDrive28i; Worst, Nissan Armada Platinum
  • – Pickups: Best, Honda Ridgeline RTS; Worst, Ford F-250 Lariat (6.7L V8)

Lexus, Toyota, Acura snare top spots in Consumer Reports’ 2013 reliability issue

Audi, Volvo & GMC Secure Spots in Top 10


In what is an annual make or break day for many automakers, Consumer Reports has released its posting of the most reliable vehicles that will be the consummate reference periodical for most car shoppers this year.

Japanese automakers Lexus, Toyota and Acura grabbed the top three spots while Volvo, GMC and Audi also broke into the top 10.

Toyota’s Camry, RAV4 and Prius V, some of the Japanese makers most popular and top-selling models didn’t make the coveted car collection because the vehicles scored poorly in an insurance industry crash test.

CR survey’s findings are based upon subscribers’ experiences with 1.1 million vehicles. Consumer Reports uses the survey data to compile reliability histories on vehicles and predict how well new cars that are currently on sale will hold up.

Audi moved up four places this year to finish fourth overall—the top European manufacturer in the survey. Three Audis, the A6 sedan, Q7 SUV and Allroad wagon, have “much better than average” reliability.
Volvo, now owned by Chinese firm Geely, jumped 13 places to seventh.
GMC emerged as the top domestic brand, finishing ninth—three places higher than last year.
The top predicted-reliability score went to the redesigned 2014 Subaru Forester SUV, which hadn’t been on the market for very long when CR conducted the survey.
Ford’s C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid got the worst score, and the regular C-Max Hybrid wasn’t much better. Only Ford’s vaunted pickup truck, the F-150, was a recommended model.
In addition to GMC, Buick climbed nine slots to 12th place over last year. All Buicks except the V-6 LaCrosse were average or better. The only dark spots for Chevrolet are the Camaro and Cruze, both of which earned below-average reliability scores.
Japanese brands took seven out of the 10 top spots in the survey. Nissan sank to 22nd among the 28 brands in the rankings. As a group, the nine Japanese brands in the survey still produce a remarkable number of reliable cars. Of the almost 100 models, 90 percent were average or better and almost a third ofthem received top marks. Ten of those highest scorers were Toyotas. Of the eight Lexus models in CR’s survey, six got top marks. All Lexus and Acura models earned an above average reliability score while all Infiniti, Mazda, and Toyota models earned an average or better reliability score.
Two popular models, the redesigned 2013 Honda Accord V6 and the 2013 Nissan Altima, scored too poorly in the survey for Consumer Reports to continue Recommending them. Last year, CR had predicted that both vehicles would have at least average reliability.
Mazda slipped from fourth to fifth. The redesigned Mazda6 debuted with above-average reliability.
Subaru and Scion, which also typically rank well in reliability, were torpedoed by their twin sports cars, the Subaru BRZ and the Scion FR-S, which scored below average. This dropped Subaru to 10th place, from last year’s fifth. Scion, for which CR had only two models with sufficient data, sank from first place to 11th this time.
One of the key problem areas in Consumer Reports’ survey centers on in-car electronics, including the proliferating suite of audio, navigation, communication, and connected systems in newer cars.
Of the 17 problem areas CR asks about, the category including in-car electronics generated more complaints from owners of 2013 models than for any other category. The survey revealed touch-screen infotainment systems have been buggy, with screen freezes, touch-control lag, or a reluctance to recognize a cell-phone, an MP3 device, or a voice command.
Hybrids and electric cars continue to do well. The Toyota Prius, Lexus ES 300h, Toyota Prius C, and Honda CR-Z hybrids, as well as the Nissan Leaf electric car, were among the top models. Ford’s C-Max and Fusion hybrids were the only exceptions.
The Tesla Model S electric car performed well enough in the survey to earn a Recommendation from CR for the first time. CR gathered data on more than 600 2012 and 2013 models. Owners of the 2012 model reported very few problems, although 2013 owners reported quite a few more. Problem areas included wind noise, squeaks and rattles, and body hardware (including the sunroof, doors, and locks).
Of the 31 Ford models in Consumer Reports’ survey, only one, the F-150 pickup with the 3.7-liter V6, was above average. Seven achieved an average score. Ford’s challenges don’t end with the historically problematic My-Touch systems. Several EcoBoost turbocharged V6 models have poor reliability as well. Almost two-thirds of the 34 Fords and Lincolns in our survey got scores that were much worse than average.
Chrysler’s bright spy was the 300 C with above average scores. Jeep’s 2014 V-6 Grand Cherokee received below average reliability.
Hyundai and Kia slipped a bit in the 2013 survey, with Kia ranking midpack and Hyundai slid to 21st place.
Complete reliability report and results for all models are available at  and in the December issue of Consumer Reports, on newsstands November 5.

Infiniti Q50, LEXUS IS 250 miss mark in Consumer Reports tests

Press Release

YONKERS, NY— Two promising upscale sedans, the redesigned Infiniti Q50 and Lexus IS 250, fell short in Consumer Reports’ tests and wound up near the bottom of the rankings—below competitors from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lincoln, and Volvo.

The Q50 was intended to replace the G37 in Infiniti’s lineup, but it has taken a step back from its excellent predecessor. “The Infiniti G has been one of Consumer Reports’ highest-rated sedans for many years, but after its 2014 redesign and transition to the new Q designation, this car seems to have lost its way,” said Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports.

The Infiniti Q50 posted a “Very Good” overall road test score but still landed near the bottom of the rankings for sporty and upscale sedans. The IS 250 scored merely a “Good.” It was the worst road test score posted by any Lexus sedan in recent memory. Other competitors posting higher overall road test scores include the BMW 328i, Mercedes-Benz C250, Lincoln MKZ 2.0 EcoBoost and Volvo S60 T5.

CR’s engineers and editors found that the Q50 isn’t as much fun to drive as the G37. Handling is mundane, due in part to dull steering. The underwhelming driving experience strips the car of much of its sporty legacy. The Q50 also doesn’t ride well and isn’t particularly quiet. Its new InTouch dual-screen controls are slow to respond, and interior quality is nothing special. On the plus side, the Q50 is very quick, even with the added weight of the optional all-wheel-drive system.

Consumer Reports’ testers found the Lexus IS 250 is neither sporty nor luxurious. CR purchased and evaluated the IS 250 with the small 2.5-liter V6 because that is the model most consumers will buy; the test vehicle is also fitted with all-wheel-drive, a popular option. In that trim, the vehicle’s acceleration lacks punch. Fuel economy is disappointing at 21 mpg overall in CR’s own tests.

The Lexus IS handling is short on finesse, with vague-feeling steering that doesn’t telegraph much feedback. Road noise is elevated and the ride is neither plush nor tied-down. The interior is very tight, even when considered against the modest standards for sports sedans, with a narrow cabin, wide center console and large overhanging dashboard. In addition, the IS 250’s controls now include the fussy, distracting mouse-like controller found in other Lexus models.

Neither the Q50 and IS 250, can be Recommended. Although the Q50 scored reasonably well, it’s still too new for CR to have reliability information. The IS 250 scored too low to be Recommended; CR also doesn’t have reliability data on it because it’s new. To be Recommended, a vehicle must perform well in CR’s battery of tests, have average or better reliability in CR’s Annual Auto Survey and perform well in government and industry crash tests.

Complete tests results for the Infiniti Q50 and Lexus IS250, as well as results of the new Fiat 500L and Nissan Versa Note appear on today, and in the December issue of Consumer Reports, on newsstands November 5. Updated daily, is the go-to Website for the latest auto reviews, product news, blogs on breaking news, and car-buying information. Check out CR’s ongoing Twitter feed at @CRCars.

Acura MDX shines in tests’ of 3-row SUVs : Consumer Reports

2014 Acura MDX

2014 Acura MDX

YONKERS, NY— The redesigned 2014 Acura MDX earned a “Very Good” test rating by Consumer Reports. The mid-sized luxury SUV continues the model’s long-standing tradition of scoring among CR’s top-rated SUVs.

Consumer Reports found the MDX pleasant and well-rounded. The hushed cabin and supple ride are a step up from the previous version, although handling is less agile. The new 3.5-liter V6 engine is quick, responsive, and refined. The MDX delivers impressive fuel economy of 20 mpg overall, which is the same as the diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz GL350 Bluetec and only one mpg fewer than the Lexus RX 350—the most efficient non-hybrid gasoline-powered model in this class.

The MDX has a roomy, comfortable, and functional cabin. Access to the third-row seat simply requires pressing a single button, a clever, user-friendly design that should be a benchmark for competitive models. However, Consumer Reports’ engineers complained that the multi-screen dashboard design is unintuitive and can be distracting. Reliability is likely to be above average. The MDX is Recommended by Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports tests also included the diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz GL350 Bluetec. The  GL earned an “Excellent” overall score and stands out as an exceptionally well-crafted package. It offers a plush, quiet, and roomy interior; very comfortable seats; and a long list of convenience and safety features. The GL also provides enough room for seven people to sit comfortably, surprisingly good fuel economy, and plenty of towing capacity. The GL lost points for poor performance in one of CR’s emergency handling tests.

New Kia Cadenza Makes Impressive Debut

 Also tested, Kia’s Cadenza made an impressive debut in the large sedan category. It scored an 86 and earned a spot near the top of Consumer Reports large sedan ratings. It edged out the Toyota Avalon, which was once a benchmark in the large sedan category.

“The Cadenza banishes any lingering thoughts that Kia is just a manufacturer of cheap, unrefined cars. Pulling off that high score requires a long list of positives and very few faults.” said Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports.

Thanks to its better ride and handling, the Cadenza also outscores the Hyundai Azera, which shares its platform and powertrain. The cabin is quiet, well-finished, and spacious. Controls are super-simple, rare in a loaded luxury sedan. The refined 3.3-liter V6, which is mated to a smooth six-speed automatic transmission, delivers ample power and a respectable 22 mpg overall.  Ride comfort is very good, but the Cadenza lacks the placid isolation of the best-riding cars, such as the Buick Lacrosse and Chevrolet Impala.

Complete tests results for the Acura MDX, Mercedes-Benz GL350 Bluestem, Kia Cadenza, as well as results for the Mitsubishi Outlander and Chevrolet Cruze Diesel appear on today, and in the October issue of Consumer Reports, on newsstands September 5.

’14 Chevy Impala takes top sedan spot in Consumer Reports, a first for domestics and GM in 20 years

2014 Chevy Impala                                           Gerry Miles photo

2014 Chevy Impala                                                                                                        Gerry Miles photo

Outscores luxury competitors costing as much as $20,000 more


In a short time, the Chevy Impala has literally gone from worst to first.

After one time when the car didn’t yield enough points to even be listed as a ‘recommended buy’ by Consumer Reports, it just took the top sedan spot for all sedans, pushing aside popular Japanese and European models, for the first time in 20 years.

In CR’s testing, Impala – one derided for its real taillights that glowed red like hot plate burners on old stoves – scored a 95 or excellent that put it atop the ‘large sedan’ category. Only the Tesla Model S hatchback and BMW 135i coupe scored higher.

“The Impala’s performance is one more indicator of an emerging domestic renaissance,” said Jake Fisher, director of Consumer Reports automotive testing. “We’ve seen a number of redesigned American models—including the Chrysler 300, Ford Escape and Fusion, and Jeep Grand Cherokee— deliver world-class performance in our tests.”

Consumer Reports engineers found the Impala rides like a luxury sedan, with a cushy and controlled demeanor, while delivering surprisingly agile handling, capable acceleration, and excellent braking. The Impala corners quite well for a large car, with prompt turn-in response and controlled body lean. Steering is nicely weighted; it’s light enough for parking maneuvers and provides decent feedback. When pushed to its handling limits, the Impala proved secure, responsive, balanced, and easy to control.

Inside, the spacious cabin sets a new standard for Chevrolet fit and finish, with generally high-quality materials and trim. The backseat is roomy and comfortable, the trunk is huge, and controls are refreshingly intuitive and easy to use. The 22 mpg overall Consumer Reports measured with the Impala’s 3.6-liter V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission is competitive, but it’s not the best in its class.

However, since Impala is so new, it’s too soon for CR to collect enough data to see if it’s reliable enough to be a “recommend” or not.

C found the Impala is competitive with cars that cost $20,000 more, including the Audi A6 and Lexus LS460L, and the Acura RLX and Jaguar XF.

Complete tests results for the Impala, Acura RLX and Jaguar XF, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Kia Sorrento, appears on and the September issue of Consumer Reports, August 1.

CR Testers find Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Forte impressive redesigns

The redesigned, 7-passenger Santa Fe is one of the most pleasant and well-rounded three-row SUVs on the market. It’s stylish, functional, and easy to live with. It now tops its class in Consumer Reports’ midsized SUV ratings, edging out the Toyota Highlander by two points.

Spacious and accommodating, the Santa Fe has a limo-like rear seat and a generous cargo area. Yet it doesn’t feel too bulky to drive or park. The comfortable ride and quiet interior make it a welcome partner on family trips. Easy access and simple controls add to its user-friendliness. Its smooth, refined 290-hp V-6 engine delivers a best-in-class 20 mpg overall with little compromise in performance.

Consumer Reports testers also found the 2014 Kia Forte has made a quantum leap from the previous model. It even improves, albeit incrementally, on the highly rated Hyundai Elantra upon which it is based. Overall, it’s a solid, mature compact sedan that will satisfy many buyers. Consumer Reports testers found the Forte is one of the more comfortable riding cars in this class; it has a smooth powertrain, and the cabin is relatively quiet.

The Forte’s fuel economy of 28 mpg is merely par for this class, but the sedan compensates with a relatively roomy driving position and rear seat, and controls that are very easy to use. The interior is spacious and nicely finished, the seats are firm and well-shaped, and the in-car entertainment system is brimming with the latest connectivity features. Handling agility is not the car’s strong suit; it just doesn’t have the high fun-to-drive factor of a Ford Focus or a Mazda3.

Ram 1500 top ranked fullsize pickup: Consumer Reports

2013 Dodge Ram 1500

2013 Dodge Ram 1500

Ram’s score trumps Toyota Tundra, Ford F-150; Chevy Silverado still being tested; Chevy Avalanche no longer produced after 2013.


The hits just keep on coming for the folks at Chrysler/Dodge/Ram these days.

For the first time, Consumer Reports named the Dodge Ram as its top fullsized pickup truck. Although this confusing paragraph was buried in the news release, the 2013 Chevy Avalanche actually scored higher than the Dodge Ram, but since it’s not produced after this model year, the win went to Dodge.

Although it’s not surprising to automotive market watchers, the fact that the updated Dodge Ram 1500 easily trumped such fullsized pickup names in the Toyota Tundra and Ford F-150 might send shock waves through the unknowing.

“The Ram 1500 is surprisingly luxurious and refined—but still fully capable of doing hard work when needed,” said Jake Fisher, director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center in East Haddam, Connecticut. “Continued interior and powertrain improvements make the Ram a particularly well-rounded choice.”

For 2013, the Ram got a lighter and stiffer frame, a revised interior with a new infotainment system, and updated powertrains.

Consumer Reports tested a four-wheel-drive Ram 1500 Crew Cab, with the most popular engine option—the 5.7-liter Hemi V8—mated to a new 8-speed automatic transmission. The combination delivered what CR called seamless power while producing  class-leading 15 mpg overall in CR’s fuel economy tests.

The complete tests and ratings of the Ram 1500 appear on

The Ram 1500 earned a 78-point overall road test score. Other tested full-size pickups include the Toyota Tundra (69) and the iconic Ford F-150 (68).

CR is studying the  2014 Chevrolet Silverado and will announce its findings later this summer.  Ford’s F-150 will be redesigned for 2015.

Prior versions of the Ram have been reliable so Consumer Reports is Recommending the freshened truck. To be Recommended, a vehicle must perform well in CR’s battery of tests, have average or better reliability in CR’s Annual Auto Survey and perform well in government and industry crash tests.

CR liked the Ram’s ride-owed to its coil spring rear suspension-a super-quiet, roomy crew cab. It noted the optional UConnect infotainment touch screen is one of the best in the business.

A negative, but part of the process of building a large fullsized pickup, CR noted that step into the cab is high and the tailgate is heavy, unsprung and not damped so it drops quickly.

Subaru Forester atop small SUV class: Consumer Reports

2014 Forester Premium 2.5

2014 Forester Premium 2.5                                                                                  Gerry Miles  photo

Consumer Reports cites superb practicality, fuel-efficiency as hard to beat


Well you knew an entire state couldn’t be wrong, right?

If there’s one state in New England that has a true love affair with Subaru, it’s Vermont. And perhaps in a close second place race is Maine.

Folks just like the ability of their cars to laugh at the cold weather, drive through the snow, sleet and rain with the greatest of ease while maintaining the surefootedness of a mountain goat with hiking boots.

The all-new redesigned Forester now boasts greatly increased leg room, head room, and cargo room along with a variety of engines in addition to its symmetrical all-wheel-drive. (why they’ve moved away from the tag line of ‘transferring power from the wheels that slip to the wheels that grip – succinctly summarizing how the AWD works – escapes me.)

That reworking led to Consumer Reports to award the 2014 at the top of its class over the recent redesigns including the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5.

CR liked Subaru’s keeping its basic Forester shape that doesn’t cramp window room with sloped styling that scrubs visibility out the back. At a Subaru presentation, a rep noted that when Forester was first offered for sale in the US marketing wags in Japan proffered naming it the Turtle Top … which would not have translated very well.

“Overall, if you’re looking for a small SUV that’s very functional and fuel-efficient, the Forester is hard to beat,” said Jake Fisher, director, Consumer Reports Auto Test Center.

Also new is a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the Forester now delivers better acceleration in addition to a class-leading 26 mpg overall and 35 on the highway in Consumer Reports tests. While some folks whine that the CVT is a drain on power and performance it’s hard to notice it holding the Forester back under acceleration whereby the engine doth not protest too much

CR dinged the Forester’s ride changing from “calm and cushy, but now is rather firm and jittery.” CR’s engineers also declared that the Forester isn’t as agile as the Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5, or Toyota RAV4. And, they deemed Subaru’s in-car infotainment “is behind the curve.”

Consumer Reports bought and tested a Forester 2.5i Premium for $26,814, which included heated front seats, a big sunroof, a backup camera, and a power driver’s seat.  Because above-average reliability is anticipated, it is CR Recommended.

Complete tests and ratings of the Forester appear on today, and in the July issue of Consumer Reports.

Beyond turbos, what car technology works to boost mpg?


Do you want to know, in detail, what works to boost or harm fuel economy? Can a turbo really boost power and economy? Does that certain brand name air filter really increase your car’s mpgs?

Sorting it all out is Consumer Reports auto writer Eric Evarts, who provides a look at everything from the reported or purported successes of hybrid cars to boost mileage, whether CVT transmissions are working, and more. Read on and learn!

The past few years have shown dramatic fuel economy improvements in all types of cars in our testing. Rather than exotic technology, such as hybrids and vehicle electrification, most of the improvements have come the old-fashioned way: through conventional technologies applied to gasoline engines.

Following our reports on turbocharged engines and hybrids that don’t live up to their fuel economy claims, we decided to take a look at the technologies employed by cars that did show significant fuel-economy improvements in our testing. Among them: direct injection, continuously variable transmissions, conventional automatic transmissions with multiple ratios, and electric power steering. Some models have added more than one of these technologies simultaneously, most typically during redesigns.

We have collected examples with fuel economy data from our tests to illustrate the potential benefits from various technologies, understanding that in some cases, there may be other subtle changes at play. Here’s what we found:

Continuously variable transmissions
CVTs have proliferated in recent years. They boost efficiency by keeping the engine working at its optimum rpm for power and fuel economy at all times. While some CVTs accentuate engine noise obnoxiously, we’ve found that not all of them do. And based on our testing, they can deliver significant improvements in fuel economy and improve acceleration, as well.

The Subaru LegacyOutback, and Impreza, as well as the Nissan Sentra and Versa, and Honda Accordswitched to CVTs with their latest redesigns. Gas mileage improved 3-5 mpg over their predecessors. Acceleration was also quicker in all but the Versa. With the Impreza, the CVT allowed Subaru to use a smaller engine and gain 3 mpg.

More gears
More automakers have recently been introducing conventional automatic transmissions with six, seven, and eight speeds. Two automakers are even reportedly set to introduce models with nine-speed automatics this year.

Looking at the Audi A4, which switched from a six-speed automatic to an eight-speed in 2011, showed a that that change alone boosted fuel economy by almost 14 percent, from 22 mpg to 25 mpg and slightly improved acceleration.

Direct injection
As the name implies, direct injection squirts fuel precisely where it’s needed in each cylinder’s combustion chamber in gasoline and diesel engines, rather than into the cylinder head outside the cylinder. This allows the engine to deliver the same power on less fuel. It’s becoming common in all kinds of cars.

When Toyota added direct injection to the Lexus RX SUV in 2007, gas mileage increased by one mpg, even with a larger engine displacement. Plus, the powertrain upgrade produced significantly quicker acceleration. The same engine swap in the 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid helped boost fuel economy from an impressive 23 mpg for this large, 7-passenger SUV, to an almost sedan-like 27 mpg. The slightly larger, direct-injected engine was the only change in both SUVs.

Combining improvements
Several automakers have boosted fuel economy significantly by combining more than one of these technologies. The new four-cylinder Honda Accord gets an impressive 30 mpg by combining a smooth-and-unobtrusive CVT with direct injection and electric power steering. That figure marks a 20-percent improvement over the old Accord’s respectable 25 mpg.

Several other automakers have combined direct injection with additional gears in their conventional automatic transmissions, including Hyundai, Kia, and Mazda. Mazda even has a name for this combination: It markets cars that use direct injection and the company’s new six-speed automatic (up from five) as SkyActiv models. When Mazda added the SkyActiv powertrain to the Mazda3 for 2012, the combination boosted mileage by 14 percent and improved acceleration.

Kia did the same with the Soul for 2012, gaining 1 mpg and significantly improving acceleration.

Other technologies
Electrically assisted power steering has virtually become the norm in the industry with significant fuel economy improvements. Most often electric power steering systems are introduced with complete redesigns of a vehicle. Thus, they’re typically coupled with other technology improvements.

Looking at new models as technology is introduced can be a little misleading, because other factors can change during a redesign. For example, the new Honda Accord is slightly smaller than the old one, while the current Subaru Outback is significantly taller than the previous model. But we’ve tried to keep examples here as close to equivalent as possible. The Audi A4, Kia Soul, Lexus RX, Mazda3, and Toyota Highlander had no other changes.

The fuel economy improvements are real. According to a University of Michigan study, the average EPA fuel economy of all new vehicles has risen from barely 20 mpg at the end of 2007 to 24.6 mpg in January 2013. But not all technology implementations make the promised gains, underscoring the importance of checking our test findings before buying—especially if hitting a high fuel-economy benchmark is a key motivator.

—Eric Evarts