Cars most likely to have major powertrain problems
Why you may want to avoid these particular automobiles
Modern cars and trucks are almost impossibly complex mechanical creations and are faster, safer and more efficient than ever before. But that doesn't mean relatively new vehicles are completely without their fair share of problems. Many automobile repairs are simple and relatively inexpensive to resolve. But serious problems with engines and transmissions can be extremely costly and time consuming to fix.
Consumer Reports, which regularly polls its readership to determine and forecast overall vehicle reliability, has released a new list of the vehicles that are most likely to suffer from catastrophic powertrain failure. Problems can vary from transmissions that break to head gaskets that blow, and the magazine has included mileage estimates where problems are most likely to arise.
We've ordered this list from ascending order, ending in the model that's most likely to have serious powertrain problems. Click on the image above to get started.
2010 GMC Acadia
According to Consumer Reports, the 2010 GMC Acadia may suffer from a catastrophic powertrain problem between 106,000 and 129,000 miles. Without seeing a breakdown of failures, it's not possible to say what caused the 2010 model year to be worse than any others. Interestingly, though, General Motors switched to a direct-injected version of its 3.6-liter V6 engine and made a change to the transmissions in its Lambda crossovers (which includes the Acadia along with the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and Saturn Outlook) in 2009.
GMC Acadia Information
2006 Buick Lucerne
Next on the list is the 2006 Buick Lucerne, which Consumer Reports says can suffer a catastrophic failure between 116,000 and 143,000 miles. The Lucerne debuted in '06 with two powertrain options. The standard engine was GM's long-serving and well-regarded 3.8-liter V6. The upgrade engine was a 4.6-liter Northstar V8, some versions of which were criticized for requiring expensive repairs related to head gasket issues.
Buick Lucerne Information
2003 Acura MDX
It may seem surprising to see an Acura singled out on a list of vehicles most likely to have major powertrain problems, but no automaker is immune to issues. The MDX, Acura's largest crossover, has a history of transmission problems, though the severity varies greatly by year. For the 2003 model year, only one engine and transmission pairing was available, a 3.5-liter V6 with a 5-speed automatic. According to Consumer Reports, the 2003 MDX is liable to have a significant problem around the 190,000-mile mark. To be fair, that's the highest mileage of any vehicle on this list, and a level at which we'd guess a good number of owners would expect problems to arise.
Acura MDX Information
2010 Cadillac SRX
According to Consumer Reports, the 2010 Cadillac SRX is susceptible to major powertrain problems around the 130,000-mile mark. It's not surprising that this is the first year of a major redesign, which saw the SRX switch from a rear-wheel-drive platform to the premium version of a front-drive chassis that shared a lot of bits with the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain.
The 2010 model year was also the only SRX to offer a 2.8-liter turbocharged V6 engine. Cadillac dropped the turbo mill after just one year, citing low take rates. However, it's also worth noting that this engine was subject to a small recall after it was found that problems could arise if it ran on anything less than high-octane premium fuel.
The standard 2010 SRX engine was a naturally aspirated 3.0-liter V6. It came with a 6-speed automatic, as did the turbo engine. It could be had with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
Cadillac SRX Information
2006 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
The 2006 Jeep Wrangler — the last year of the TJ model before the more recent JK model that introduced a four-door option — was available with either a 2.5-liter four cylinder or a 4.0-liter inline-six. The 4.0-liter is known as a very stout engine, and the majority of Wrangler buyers opted for the beefier powerplant. Either engine could be mated to a four-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission.
According to Consumer Reports, the 2006 Wrangler powered by the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine (shown in elongated Unlimited form above) is susceptible to major powertrain problems at around 150,000 miles.
Jeep Wrangler Information
2010 Chevrolet Equinox
Next up are the 2020 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain, which are basically the same vehicle under the skin. This is the first year of a new platform for this duo, which can often mean teething pains as an automaker works out the kinks over the course of a couple years worth of production. Consumer Reports' data suggests the 2010 model-year Equinox and Terrain can suffer from serious powertrain issues at just 84,500 to 108,500 miles. That's one of the lowest mileages of any vehicle on this list.
It's worth noting that the 2010 Equinox and Terrain used a different version of the optional 3.0-liter V6 engine than other years, which gained E85 compatibility starting in 2011. The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine has been reported to suffer from excessive oil consumption and problems with timing chains.
Chevrolet Equinox Information
2008 Mini Cooper
The Mini brand that was reborn with the 2001 Cooper has never been one associated with stunning reliability, but Consumer Reports specifically singles out the 2008 model year of the Cooper and lengthened Clubman hatchbacks. According to the magazine, the 2008 Minis are susceptible to powertrain problems between 122,000 and 129,500 miles. These regular Coopers came with a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
Mini Cooper Information
2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser
The Chrysler PT Cruiser ran from the 2001 through 2010 model years as a retro-themed urban runabout. Over the course of its life, the car (which was oddly actually considered a truck for federal purposes) featured a few different powertrain options, including a relatively powerful turbocharged four-cylinder in the GT model.
Consumer Reports singles out the 2001 edition, which, like some other vehicles on this list, was its first year of production, saying significant powertrain problems could arise between 102,500 and 133,000 miles. It's also worth noting that many PT Cruisers shares a similar 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine as the one used in the Jeep Wrangler that we previously saw on this list.
Chrysler PT Cruiser Information
2008 Ford F-350 Super Duty
The 2008 Ford F-350 is the only pickup truck on this list of vehicles with a much-higher-than-average rate of major powertrain defects. Consumer Reports says the 2008 edition of Ford's heavy-duty truck — again the first model year for this generation — powered by the brand-new 6.4-liter turbocharged diesel V8 engine may suffer catastrophic failure between 65,000 and 119,000 miles.
That's the lowest mileage of any vehicle on this list, which is especially problematic for big diesel trucks that are purchased by owners who plan to tow heavy loads over long distances. The 6.4-liter Power Stroke earned an early reputation for problems that are well documented on the internet, though major reliability improvements were made over the course of its production until 2011 when it was replaced with an all-new 6.7-liter diesel.
Ford F-350 Information
2010 Audi A4
And now we come to the vehicle that Consumer Reports says has more serious powertrain defects than any other: the 2009-2010 Audi A4 powered by the brand's 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The magazine's data says this vehicle is susceptible to issues between 107,000 and 153,000 miles. This engine has been the center of multiple class action lawsuits over excessive oil consumption and faulty timing chain tensioners.