All new could be all wrong if your buying a new car. Buyers of the latest and greatest are more often than not, are The unofficial guinea pigs for Automakers If often takes a few years to get the bugs out of all new car. Last week, Consumer Reports released their annual new-car reliability ranking. The culprit in some of the newer models seems to be the infotainment systems, the complex nine and ten speed automatic transmissions and the new Turbo Charged engines.
In this report there seems to be a trend. Some Vehicles with new technology: engines, transmission, infotainment systems have dropped in reliability. Highly rated brands like Buick, Honda, Tesla, and other reliable name plates have seen steep drops from 2017. Older lower rated cars like the Dodge Charger and the Chrysler 300 with designs that date back to 2006 have risen in reliability. In some cars, like the Tesla nearly every function is handled via the infotainment system. In those cars, some owners complained about freezing screens, preventing them from changing station, to adjusting the temperature. Some systems like Chrysler’s give you the option of using knobs or the screen.
The Ford Fusion, one of the best built domestic vehicles, have seen its ratings fall due to problems with Ford’s new Sync 3 system. The second generation Buick LaCrosse enjoyed a good repair history. The third generation introduced in 2017 was all new with a new 8 speed transmission, buyers of the third generation complained about a rough transmission.
Each year, Consumer Reports sends a questionnaire to its members to learn about issues that they’ve had with their cars over the past year, and the severity of those issues. In their latest survey , CR got info on over 500,000 vehicles from model years 2000 to 2018, gathering information bout problems that owners have had in twelve key areas, including engine internals, accessory drive, cooling system, transmission internals, drive train, fuel system, electrical system, brakes, climate control, exhaust, in-car electronics, and others.
Consumer Reports Most Reliable Brands for 2018
- LEXUS-(Best Model-GX\ Worst-IS)
- TOYOTA (Best Model PriusC\Worst-Tacoma)
- MAZDA (Best Model-Miata\Worst-CX-3)
- SUBARU (Best Model-Crosstrek\Worst WRX)
- KIA (Best Model-Sedona\Worst Cadenza)
- INFINITI (Best Model-Q60\Worst Q50)
- AUDI (Best Model-Q5\Worst-A3)
- BMW (Best Model i3\Worst X1)
- MINI (Best Model Countryman\Worst Cooper)
- HYUNDAI (Best Model Santa Fe XL\ Worst Ioniq)
- PORSCHE (Best Model 911\ Worst-Cayenne)
- GENESIS (Best Model G80\Worst G90)
- ACURA (Best Model ILC\Worst MDX)
- NISSAN (Best Model Maxima\Worst Versa Note)
- HONDA (Best Model Fix\Worst Clarity)
- VOLKSWAGEN(Best Model Passat\ Worst Atlas)
- MERCEDES-BENZ (Best Model GLS\ Worst E-Class)
- FORD (Best Model Taurus\Worst Mustang)
- BUICK (Best Model Encore\Worst Enclave)]
- LINCOLN (Best Model Continental\Worst MKZ )
- DODGE (Best Model Charger\Worst Journey)
- JEEP (Best Model Renegade\Worst Compass)
- CHEVROLET (Best Model Impala\Worst Traverse)
- CHRYSLER (Best Model 300\Worst Pacifica)
- GMC (Best Model Yukon\Worst Sierra 2500 HD)
- RAM (Best Model 2500\Worst 3500)
- TESLA (Best Model Model 3\Worst Model X)
- CADILLAC (Best Model XTS\ Worst Model ATS)
- VOLVO (Best Model XC60\ Worst Model S90)
A Mighty Fall
In a quest to build lighter, more fuel efficient cars. Automakers have turned to smaller turbo charged four cylinder engines and complex 8, 9 and 10 speed transmissions. Four cylinder engines that are as powerful as the old mighty V8 engines. Ford has replaced large displacement V8 for smaller displacement engines in their trucks and large SUV’s. The massive 5800 pound Ford Expedition Max is powered by 3.5 (213 cubic inch) turbo charged six cylinder engine generating 400 horsepower and 480 pound feet or Torque. Chrysler’s, 5.7-liter (345 cubic inch) HEMI V8 engine produces 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque. To give you a sense of size, the first Ford Mustang was a six cylinder was 200 cubic inches.
Nearly all manufactures foreign and domestic has made major changes with all new engines, transmissions, infotainment systems. To put things in perspective, for nearly twenty years most of the automatic transmissions built were four speed transmissions . Twelve years ago, six speed transmissions were common. Four years ago, eight speed transmissions came to market. In the last few years 9 and 10 speed transmissions have come to market. Every manufacturer is now building smaller displacement turbo charged cars for the first time. Longevity for the most part is unknown.
According to Consumer Reports, this new technology has damaged the reliability of some brands. Buick, the most reliable American brand fell 11 spots from 2017 to 2018. Tesla also dropped sharply.
Honda, a brand known for its reliability also dropped sharply in Consumer Reports Ratings . Honda, added turbo charge engines to some of its current generation Civics. The new Accords has new 9 and 10 speed transmissions, all new turbo charged engines and new infotainment systems. As a result the all new Accord, one of the most reliable cars was down graded to average.
Honda’s Odyssey minivan is no longer recommended and Consumer Reports says, the Clarity line of cars apparently has “electronic glitches” that bring it to “much-worse-than-average.
Consumer complaints about the 1.5 Turbocharged engine in Honda’s best selling CR-V to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could lead to major recall. Honda says ,A fix will be issued by dealers by mid-November and will be covered under the vehicle’s warranty. Honda will also preemptively fix 2019 CR-V models before they go on sale, although it does not yet say what exactly the fix entails.
Toyota’s to my eye aren’t necessarily sexy, they aren’t exciting to drive. But they sure are reliable. There are more twenty, and thirty year old Toyota’s on the road than nearly any other car.
Unlike Honda, most of Toyota engines are naturally aspirated. The company hasn’t rushed to turbos. The company still build 6 speed transmissions. Last year it added 8 speed transmissions to the Camry and Avalon.
The magic started early on. On auto production lines in Europe and American the lines buzzed on. If there was a defect, it was handled after the car rolled off the line. At Toyota, workers could stop the entire production line if they realized anything was wrong. Management could fix the problem before it was an issue down the line.
Slow and Steady
One of the first infotainment system came from Ford,designed by Microsoft it was called Ford Sync. In 2008, it was optional on nearly every Ford or Lincoln vehicle. With a push of a button, one could make a phone call, change a radio station, change a CD track by a voice command.
By 2010,a more complex system was introduced called “My Ford Touch” This system allowed the user with the aid of touch screen to read text messages and more. While it was very profitable for Ford, it was an utter failure, with owners saying that it crashed and was unreliable. There were several attempts by Ford to repair the system but they were not successful. JD Power said “My Ford Touch” had a negative effect on Ford’s overall reliability. Consumer Reports suggested buyers avoid the system entirely. Despite all the negative press, the public wanted this expensive option.
Automaker went all in adopting this new technology. Toyota didn’t. It was one of the last carmakers to adopt the technology.
And that is the theme or secret sauce to Toyota. While the other automakers rush new technologies to market. Toyota and Lexus (Toyota’s luxury division) is slow and conservative. Unlike other automakers adding new engines and other technology to all models across the line, they gradually add new engines, electronics and transmissions to the product line. The trade off is superior reliability.
Brand Recommendations for 2019
If your buying a new car you may just want to keep it simple and stay clear of the infotainment systems. All of the cars will have Bluetooth, that will allow hands free calling. You may even consider installing an after market stereo from establish brand like Pioneer, Alpine, Kenwood and JVC. This would require some modification to your car. They all have bluetooth and the trade off is in most cases superior sound, and better electronics. Many of these units have back up cameras, navigation and your steering wheel controls will control these units.
If you must have a infotainment, the best are from Audi, BMW, Hyundai/Kia/Genesis, and Mercedes Benz. Chrysler has a conditional recommendation. Prior to 2018, their U-connect system was considered one of the best in the industry. However, some software additions has made the system buggy with occasional screen freezing. We suspect they will work the bugs out in 2019. The worst of the worst, is Volvo. The company has built award winning and compelling cars with some of the BEST interiors in the industry . However, like many luxury cars infotainment system if you want a Volvo you do not have any other option.
Other vehicles on the caution list includes the Honda Accord and Civic. Honda has a solid reputation. With new turbo engines and transmissions, have resulted in a decline in ratings. However, in a couple of years we think they will have worked out of these issues. Tesla’s Gull wing Model X has been an disaster,doors, rattles and electronic issues. The Model S air suspension and door handles has problematic for the company. The popular Model 3 isn’t as complex as the other models two and more expensive models and so far its most reliable vehicle.