A revised methodology in devising its annual Car Brand Report Cards has seen Consumer Reports award Lexus its top overall ranking for 2013. For the first time ever, the institute broke out individual brands from their larger corporate umbrellas, meaning car makers like Lexus and Scion were judged independently from parent company Toyota. That strategy worked out well for Lexus, as the luxury brand earned a top report card score of 79 for the 2013 model year.

The institute has recommended every one of the Lexus models it has tested to date, and said that the company's products won out thanks to "a foundation of plush and very reliable vehicles."

Meanwhile, Mazda and Subaru tied for the second-highest scoring report cars, with scores of 76. Subaru earned praised for sporting models like the BRZ, which CR testers apparently had a lot of fun driving (naturally), while the Mazda products were lauded for their blend of practicality, sportiness and efficiency. Both of the Japanese brands offered good handling, fuel economy and versatility, said Consumer Reports.

The institute has recommended every one of the Lexus models it has tested to date.

Acura and Toyota rounded out the top five with twin scores of 74 points. A full eight out of the top ten best brands were Japanese companies, with Audi (eighth place) and Mercedes-Benz (tenth place) the only European companies with high-ranking scores. CR noted that those Euro brands were inconsistent this year, with Volkswagen losing ground and Mini doing the worst overall of the European brands, at 20 out of 26 overall.

Domestic automakers didn't do particularly well, either. Cadillac was at the tops of the General Motors portfolio, but was still held back by just average reliability and no love at CR for "complicated CUE controls," a complaint we've heard before. Ford and Lincoln were also dinged for their infotainment systems and reliability, as well as for EcoBoost engines that didn't deliver on promised fuel economy ratings. Chrysler brands were the worst off, however, with just the Dodge Durango, Jeep Grand Cherokee V6 and Chrysler 300 V6 being recommended by the publication. Scroll down for the full list of Brand Report Card scores, as well as the Consumer Reports press release, or head over to CR's website to read the full feature and find out the granular info behind each of the brands.
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Brand Report Card Scores:

Lexus: 79
Subaru: 76
Mazda: 76
Toyota: 74
Acura: 74
Honda: 72
Scion: 72
Audi: 70
Infiniti: 70
Mercedes-Benz: 69
Kia: 65
BMW: 64
Nissan: 64
Cadillac: 63
Hyundai: 63
Volkswagen: 62
GMC: 58
Chevrolet: 58
Volvo: 58
Mini: 56
Buick: 54
Chrysler: 52
Ford: 51
Lincoln: 50
Jeep: 47
Dodge: 46


Consumer Reports 2013 Annual Car Brand Report Cards: Lexus, Subaru & Mazda Earn Top Honors

Audi leads inconsistent European pack; Cadillac shines among struggling domestics
YONKERS, NY-With a current crop of luxury models that are quiet, comfortable, fuel efficient, and among the most reliable, Lexus has earned the best overall score in Consumer Reports' 2013 annual Car Brand Report Cards.

Lexus' models are rarely sporty, but the brand's overall score of 79 was earned on a foundation of plush and very reliable vehicles. Consumer Reports currently Recommends 100-percent of the Lexus vehicles it has tested.

"That is quite a feat for a brand whose cars are brimming with technology including impressive hybrid drivetrains and complicated infotainment systems," said Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports.

For 2013, Consumer Reports took a different approach than in previous years for its annual brand report cards story. CR graded each automaker's individual brands rather than calculating a single score for all the brands under one carmaker. For example, Toyota, Lexus, and Scion models were each scored separately this year instead of being incorporated into one overall score for Toyota. The same was true for Honda, Ford, Nissan, General Motors, Chrysler and other large manufacturers that market several brands.

Just off Lexus' pace are Subaru and Mazda, with dead-heat report-card scores of 76. Consumer Reports notes that both brands build solid cars with good handling, fuel economy, and versatility at relatively affordable prices. Subaru scores points for the sportiness of some models, including the new BRZ sports car. Testers found the BRZ great fun to drive, and its ratings improved the brand's overall score.

Mazda models are among the most reliable cars. Most deliver a good blend of practicality, sportiness, and efficiency. The company also moved forward with the sporty new CX-5 SUV and its line of fuel-efficient Skyactiv engines. Consumer Reports currently Recommends 89 percent of the Mazda models it has tested.

Overall, eight of the top 10 scores were earned by Japanese brands. Toyota and Acura brands round out the top five with a report card score of 74. Honda and Toyota's scores have been buoyed by the significant strides the automakers made with their respective redesigns of the Accord and Camry. Both handle better than their predecessors and get impressive fuel economy. For 2013, Honda delivered a solid, speedy refresh of the Civic that put it back on Consumer Reports Recommended list after the unimpressive 2012 redesign had fallen off. Honda and Acura ranked closely, with Acura achieving a higher test score. Honda is still dragged down by the low scoring Insight and CR-Z.

Nissan brought up the rear among Japanese brands, weighed down by its low scoring and unreliable large trucks and SUVs, but still managed to land midpack among all automakers. The redesigned four-cylinder Altima delivered impressive fuel economy, though it wasn't as engaging to drive as the previous model. The company's luxury Infiniti brand placed four slots higher, thanks to its excellent G and M sports sedans, although the G is due to be replaced this summer.

European inconsistency

European brands ended up scattered across the middle of the spectrum, distinguished from each other more by reliability than test score. Audi and Mercedes-Benz were the only non-Japanese nameplates to crack the top 10. They were ranked 8th and 10th, respectively. Audi separated itself from the pack as the only European brand to achieve very good reliability overall along with an excellent average road-test score.

Mercedes-Benz wasn't far behind Audi and was tied with Acura for having the highest average road-test score. Volkswagen lost ground with some redesigned sedans that didn't score as well as their peers. Several of its niche models, such as the Touareg SUV and the New Beetle, have well-below-average reliability.

Mini had the worst overall score of any European brand, placing 20th among the 26 brands. Only nonturbocharged Minis deliver average or better reliability. Recent Volvos, such as the S60 and XC60, are competitive and reliable, but the brand is saddled with older models.

Detroit's struggles

General Motors is revamping its lineup and building several promising models, but some of its brands still anchor the bottom of Consumer Reports Brand Report Cards. Cadillac scored three places ahead of Chevrolet and GMC, based largely on the strength of the CTS. Cadillac's small and midsized models perform well and their reliability is average. Some of its newer designs are hurt by complicated CUE controls. Buick, with subpar reliability, lagged farther behind, just ahead of Ford and Chrysler.

Ford's and Lincoln's overall scores have been dragged down by various issues. The MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch control interfaces are very difficult to use, and electronic problems in those systems have affected Ford's reliability scores. Ford vehicles' road-test scores have also been handicapped by some models' unrefined dual-clutch automated manual transmissions and a new lineup of EcoBoost turbocharged engines that don't deliver the performance and fuel economy of some competitors' larger engines.

"That's unfortunate because many of Ford's new models ride and handle as well as European luxury cars costing much more. And Ford's latest hybrids, the Fusion Hybrid and C-Max, are impressive," Fisher said.

None of Chrysler's brands fared well. The only Dodge Consumer Reports recommends is the Durango SUV. Although the new Dart is an improvement over the car it replaced, it still lags behind the best compact sedans. Jeep doesn't fare much better; the only model that is CR Recommended is the V6 Grand Cherokee. The unreliable Wrangler joins the clumsy Compass and Patriot in weighing down the brand. The Chrysler brand is saddled with many older, uncompetitive models. Only the V6 Chrysler 300 scored well and is reliable. Overall, Consumer Reports Recommends fewer than half of the domestic models the organization has tested, and most of them come from Chevrolet and GMC.

Consumer Reports calculates each brand's overall score using an equally weighted composite of the road-test and reliability scores for each of its tested models. Reliability scores are based on information that CR's subscribers provided during the organization's Annual Auto Survey. For a brand to be included, Consumer Reports must have test results and reliability data for at least three models. That's why CR's 2013 rankings do not include Fiat, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Ram, or Smart:

Each had too few models for which CR had adequate reliability data. Several sell fewer than three models. Ratings on individual models from those makers are available at www.ConsumerReports.org.

The complete report and scores for all 13 automakers in Consumer Reports Car Brand Report Cards for 2013 is available in the April issue of Consumer Reports and at www.ConsumerReports.org starting February 26, 2013. Updated daily, ConsumerReports.org 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.

Consumer Reports is the world's largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, Website and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 53 Comments
      Jesus!
      • 1 Year Ago
      Is anyone really surprised they were all Japanese manufacturers?
        DarkKnight67
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jesus!
        Especially not when it comes from CR - they turn a blind eye to everything wrong with certain manufacturers.
          Typesbad
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DarkKnight67
          Examples, please.
          2MUCH
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DarkKnight67
          Question; at the moment what manufacture doesn't have problems ???
        Dean Hammond
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jesus!
        nope, they are tops at everything...including recalls...............HOW exactly can CR overlook THAT anomoly...? seriously?
        Dean Hammond
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jesus!
        nope they rate tops at just about everything...including recalls....HOW does that get glossed over by CR...seriously?
      tylermars.design
      • 1 Year Ago
      The big story here is that Consumer Reports is still around. This is unfortunate.
      H.E. Pennypacker
      • 1 Year Ago
      consumer reports does not conform to my bias, therefore consumer reports must be biased. -murrican autoblog readers.
        NightFlight
        • 1 Year Ago
        @H.E. Pennypacker
        It is called confirmation bias and it can be seen everywhere, and still makes no sense. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias
      miketim1
      • 1 Year Ago
      Lexus knows what they are doing ... I never seen one brand win so many honors. Bravo Lexus. Mazda is another brand im starting to like.
      Tina Dang
      • 1 Year Ago
      What can I say, Lexus builds a damn good car. Congrats.
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
        jason32379
        • 1 Year Ago
        Apples and Oranges comparison. Kind of like Black Dynamite sucks ass and Law and Order gets way more viewers.
      sp33dklz
      • 1 Year Ago
      Domestic cars are uncompetitive. So, what\'s new?
      mbukukanyau
      • 1 Year Ago
      CR continues to live in the Reagan years.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mbukukanyau
        [blocked]
        NightFlight
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mbukukanyau
        Please, read this. You and Walt apparently have the same problem. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NightFlight
          [blocked]
          Walt
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NightFlight
          CR's reliability ratings have been flawed for years, and you know it. But in case you somehow forgot yourself, here are the objections spelled out for you - http://www.allpar.com/cr.html
      Jamie Elmhirst
      • 1 Year Ago
      A not surprisingly touchy response from some of the first comments here. Look, we all know where Consumer Reports is coming from. They aren't Car and Driver and not everyone gives a hoot what they have to say, but I can tell you as someone who sells cars that a high proportion of folks who come through the door treat CR like the Bible. Poo poo them all you like, but in my world their rankings matter.
        rsxvue
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jamie Elmhirst
        And to give CR credit, they do test things that are important to the avg buyer (including enthusiasts) such as quality, reliability, and fuel efficiency. Most cars they test they buy themselves so they're not souped up press cars that are passed around from auto journalist to auto journalist.
      ICantDrive88
      • 1 Year Ago
      As much as it pains me since I don't care for Toyota's - Lexus makes a good car. One of the only upscale brands that really takes division between them and their underling very seriously.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ICantDrive88
        [blocked]
      D E S I G N
      • 1 Year Ago
      foking ugly ass mofoing predator looking piece of shiat. someone must've been taking a crap when they penned this beast
        ryan_four
        • 1 Year Ago
        @D E S I G N
        I agree my friends and I saw this thing at the auto show and said the same. It does look like a POS; moreover, it looks like predator. The new Infiniti Q50 looks like its racing this one in the exterior design department. They should of learn from Acura with the infamous "beek". I guess to each his own.
      BRKF06
      • 1 Year Ago
      Fascinating how people say Lexus is a good car. Different priorities. They're reliable. Just not a car I like driving. Mazdas have been rock solid for me on reliability too and they have decent handling but again, cannot see ever returning to the brand (the engines/transmissions always seem far behind current tech).
        plarson79
        • 1 Year Ago
        @BRKF06
        Mazda's current engines and transmissions are in some respects MORE advanced than much of their direct competition.
        plarson79
        • 1 Year Ago
        @BRKF06
        Not so much anymore. Mazda's new Skyactiv engines and transmissions are more advanced than many of their competitors.
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