The Ten Most Unreliable Vehicles for 2019

Cadillac, Tesla, and Jaguar prove that luxury doesn’t necessarily translate to reliability.
  • If there’s a lesson in the most recent automotive reliability ratings from Consumer Reports, it’s this: Move carefully when you deploy glitzy high-tech features.

    “It’s about evolution, not revolution,” Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer Reports, told Design News. “The larger the changes you make, the greater the chances are that things will go wrong.”

    Indeed, the numbers from Consumer Reports latest survey (available in its April issue) support that conclusion. After analyzing data from 470,000 owner reports, the magazine found that the best way to keep a car out of the service bay was to buy one without the latest in high-tech gadgetry. Conversely, a vehicle with fancy electronics and a high-tech powertrain is likely to give trouble, they concluded.

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    “It’s a balancing act,” Fisher said. “It’s a matter of how far do you want to push your technology in order to get great performance. If you hold back, you may not get the sexiest car, but you’re going to get the reliability.”

    Here, we’ve collected photos of vehicles that may have pushed the state of the art a bit too hard. From minivans to luxury sedans, they have a single thing in common – all received a “much worse than average” reliability rating from Consumer Reports. Flip through the following slides to see which vehicles got the worst ratings. (Image source: Design News)

    Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 35 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.

  • The Tesla Model X crossover was the second-best-selling EV in the US last year, but to date it has struggled with reliability. Consumer Reports has given it a “much worse than average” overall rating in three of the last three years, based on data from hundreds of owners. Problem areas have included in-car electronics, power equipment, noise, leaks, paint and trim. It also has exhibited minor issues with its drive systems and climate controls. In terms of the reliability, the Model X is the worst of Tesla’s three rated vehicles, but the others aren’t much better. Neither the Model S nor Model 3 are on Consumer Reports’ recommended list. (Image source: Tesla Inc.)

  • Consumer Reports’ engineers praised the test track performance of Cadillac’s vehicles this year, but their reliability has been a different matter. The worst of those has been the Cadillac Escalade. The roomy Escalade SUV, a favorite among professional athletes, received a “much worse than average” evaluation three years in a row, from 2015 through 2017. Its problem areas have been, well, everywhere – in-car electronics, power equipment, body hardware, noise, leaks, paint, trim, brakes, suspension, climate, transmission, and more. (Image source: Cadillac)

  • The Chevy Silverado pickup has enjoyed mammoth sales, but the 2500HD edition also has had major reliability issues. It received a “much worse than average” overall rating in five of the last eight years. Owners have reported problems in large numbers, especially in the fuel system, suspension, brakes, and exhaust. It also has exhibited some minor transmission issues, as well as problems with paint and trim. (Image source: Chevrolet)

  • The Jaguar F-Pace provides data-driven proof that luxury doesn’t necessarily go hand-in-hand to reliability. A beautiful vehicle by virtually every measure, the F-Pace has been a constant source of trouble for owners who responded to the Consumer Reports survey. Key problems areas included in-car electronics, power equipment, noises, leaks, paint, and trim. It has also suffered from issues involving the drive system. (Image source: Jaguar)

  • Volvo’s vehicles have exhibited more problems than most in the Consumer Reports surveys over the last few years, but the XC90 mid-sized crossover has emerged as a special problem. Like many luxury vehicles, the XC90 has struggled with in-car electronics and power equipment. But its problems have also gone beyond those areas. Owners have also identified such non-luxury items as brakes, suspension, climate system, and electrical technology as key problem areas. (image source: Volvo)

  • Buick vehicles did well in this year’s reliability survey, but the Enclave mid-sized crossover was an exception. The Enclave, which has a base price of $40,990, behaved like many other luxury vehicles in the survey, which is to say that it struggled with its in-car electronics. But owners said that its problems went deeper than that. They cited it for problems with the climate system, suspension, and brakes, as well. They even reported some minor issues with the Enclave’s engine and transmission. (image source: Buick)

  • The Chrysler Pacifica minivan’s reliability has been a disappointment during the short period when data has been available. To be sure, its problem areas have been limited—mostly in-car electronics and power equipment, along with a few drive-system issues. But Consumer Reports engineers considered the frequency of the issues to be too great for such a young vehicle, and gave it an overall designation of “much worse than average.” (Image source: Fiat Chrysler)

  • Cadillac’s compact ATS was yet another luxury car that was cited for a multitude of problems. From 2013 through 2016, the ratings on the ATS continually declined, from above average to average to below average and, finally, to “much worse than average.” Problem areas were all over the map: engine; drive system; climate system; suspension; in-car electronics; body hardware; noises; leaks; paint, and trim. (Image source: Cadillac)

  • The Cadillac CTS is a so-called “executive car” with a long history, suggesting that engineers have had time to work the bugs out. Unfortunately, Consumer Reports’ surveys indicate that hasn’t happened. The CTS has been plagued by a raft of bad owner reports that shouldn’t be happening at this point. Problem areas include in-car electronics, noises, leaks, paint, trim, brakes, suspension, and the drive system. From 2011 to 2016, the CTS received three “worse than average” ratings, and one “much worse than average” rating. (Image source: Cadillac)

  • The big surprise among this year’s list of most unreliable vehicles was the Honda Odyssey minivan. The Odyssey was considered a reliability leader just a few years ago, but its quality has declined recently. Key problem areas for the Odyssey include brakes, suspension, noises, leaks, paint, trim, body hardware, power equipment, and in-car electronics. It all added up to a “much worse than average” rating for the once-stalwart vehicle. The really bad news, however, was that Consumer Reports engineers said Honda’s reliability problems weren’t just confined to the Odyssey. “We’ve seen issues with a lot of their vehicles, both Honda and Acura, in electronics and even transmissions,” noted Jake Fisher, director of testing at Consumer Reports. “They seem to have taken their eye off the ball in terms of reliability.” (Image source: Honda)

 

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