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One of the main reasons people buy a brand-new car is the promise of a no-hassle ownership experience, free from the drip-drip-drip of service problems that set in as cars age. Nonetheless, CR’s exclusive Auto Survey tells us that some buyers will be taking their brand-new car back to the dealer’s service department sooner and more often than other car buyers will.
The models featured here are the 10 least reliable vehicles. (For more details, check our Guide to Car Reliability.)
Our survey takes a deep dive into the numerous things that can go wrong with a vehicle. We study 17 trouble areas, from nuisances—such as squeaky brakes and broken interior trim—to major bummers, such as out-of-warranty transmission repairs and trouble with four-wheel-drive systems. We weight the severity of each type of problem to create a predicted-reliability score for each vehicle.
Based on that analysis, these models are the least reliable. They are presented in rank order, counting down to the least reliable model, the Jaguar F-Pace.
For more details on the models’ reliability histories, click through to their respective model pages.
Volkswagen’s Atlas is a formidable competitor among three-row SUVs. The Atlas drives well, with a comfortable ride and surprisingly agile handling for its size. The cabin is quiet and very accommodating, including a true third-row seat that’s fit for adults. A unique, effortlessly articulating second row allows a clear access path to the wayback. The controls are a model of clarity, with an easy-to-use infotainment system. Though the V6 engine and smooth eight-speed automatic make the Atlas feel lively during everyday driving, its acceleration trails competitors’ and its 20 mpg overall fuel economy is not outstanding. Forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, and lane keeping assist are standard.
Price as tested: $44,165
See the complete Volkswagen Atlas road test.
The CTS is a midsized luxury sedan with a firm, absorbent ride and precise handling that crowns it as one of the sportiest cars in the class. But as satisfying as it is to drive, the CTS can also be frustrating, partly because of the overly complex Cue infotainment system. The cabin is luxurious, with impressive material quality. But rear-seat room is relatively snug, and the trunk is a bit small. Neither the four-cylinder turbo nor the 3.6-liter V6 engine is as refined as the best in class.
Price as tested: $58,780
See the complete Cadillac CTS road test.
Alfa Romeo Giulia
Alfa’s compact luxury sport sedan corners and steers like a sports car, which makes it fun to drive. Still, it’s filled with everyday annoyances, such as its unintuitive controls. The 280-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and provides punchy acceleration even in the all-wheel-drive version. The firm ride absorbs most bumps, but it’s less plush than many competitors’. The attractive interior has matte wood and nicely textured surfaces, but some controls are cheap. The convoluted infotainment system is distracting to use. Seat comfort is compromised by a short cushion and limited range of adjustments, and the cabin isn’t as quiet as that of its peers. The high-performance Quadrifoglio version is even sportier, but at the expense of comfort.
Price as tested: $48,890
See the complete Alfa Romeo Giulia road test.
The Cadenza is a competent large sedan that flies under the radar. It is considerably bigger than the Optima and is competitive with the Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Avalon. The car is roomy and quiet, with easy-to-use controls. The ride is pleasant enough, though not particularly plush. Handling is secure when the car is pushed to its limits, but the Cadenza is better suited to long-distance cruising. The 290-hp, 3.3-liter V6 is slick and powerful, and the eight-speed automatic shifts smoothly. Higher-end Limited versions include additional soft surfaces and more luxurious leather seats. Automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning are available, but only in upper trim versions that cross the $40,000 mark.
Price as tested: $36,945
See the complete Kia Cadenza road test.
The Escalade falls down on the fundamentals as a luxury SUV; it rides too stiffly and can’t stop or handle with the grace of its peers. Despite casting a massive shadow, the Cadillac is not even that roomy inside. The second-row seats aren’t very comfortable, and the third row is cramped. For those who want more room, a longer ESV version with increased cargo space is available. The Cue infotainment system is confounding. The real strength of the Escalade lies in its work abilities, with a powerful 420-hp V8 engine and an impressive tow capacity. We consider a well-trimmed Chevrolet Suburban or GMC Yukon XL to be a smarter buy.
Price as tested: $87,360
See the complete Cadillac Escalade road test.
The CT6 is athletic and lively to drive. While the ride is firm, the CT6 is steady and controlled, and the interior is very quiet. The base engine is a turbocharged four-cylinder, but most buyers will opt for the midlevel nonturbo V6. All-wheel drive is standard on versions with a V6 or V8 engine. The interior is plush and roomy, but in-cabin storage is practically nonexistent. Front-seat comfort is superb, but the rear seat is short on thigh support. The CT6’s Super Cruise driver assistance system operates on freeways and monitors the driver to make sure he or she is paying attention. New for 2019, the V Sport model gets a turbo V8. A plug-in hybrid version with an estimated 30 miles of electric range is also available.
Price as tested: $64,485
See the complete Cadillac CT6 road test.
Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD
The HD Silverado and its twin, the GMC Sierra HD, are designed for heavy towing and hauling as well as snow plowing. And they each have reliability concerns. The 6.0-liter V8 and 6.6-liter turbodiesel engine are both mated to a six-speed automatic. The latter works well and employs a heavy-duty Allison-made transmission. The LTZ trim has a luxurious cabin. If you don’t plan to go off-road, the Z71 suspension is superfluous—it severely degrades ride comfort. Available safety features include forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, and front and rear park assist. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are compatible with the straightforward infotainment system.
Price as tested: $62,995
See the complete Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD road test.
Tesla Model X
The electric-powered Model X is more showy than practical. It features rear doors that open up and out of the way, giving easy access to the second-row seats. But these massive doors take their time to open and close. The huge windshield extends up and over the front-seat occupants, making the cabin feel airy and futuristic. Buyers can opt for a five-, six-, or seven-passenger seating configuration, but unlike in every other SUV, the second row doesn’t fold if buyers opt for the two captain’s chairs, which compromises utility. Getting into the third row is complicated by having to motor the middle seats forward, but at least the resulting entry path is decently sized. The X is very quick and handles well. But ride comfort and noise isolation aren’t as good as in the S.
Price as tested: $109,200
See the complete Tesla Model X road test.
The large, three-row Buick Enclave is a quiet, comfortable, and responsive three-row SUV. Power comes from a lively 3.6-liter V6 teamed with a smooth nine-speed automatic. Towing capacity is 5,000 pounds. The roomy cabin is very quiet, and the ride is comfortable, befitting a Buick flagship. The third-row seat is relatively roomy for the class. The infotainment system is easy to use, and connectivity features abound. But the unintuitive gear selector is fussy and a nuisance to use in parking maneuvers. City-speed automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning are standard, though only on top versions costing more than $50,000.
Price as tested: $55,680
See the complete Buick Enclave road test.
Jaguar’s compact SUV shares its rear-wheel-drive platform with the XE and XF. The F-Pace is quick, thanks to its 340-hp, supercharged 3.0-liter V6, but the omnipresent engine drone quickly becomes tiring. The S uses a 380-hp version of this engine. A 2.0-liter turbo is now the base engine, and a diesel is also available. A smooth eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive are standard. The taut and nimble F-Pace is one of the best-handling SUVs, contributing to the lively driving experience. However, the ride is stiff and choppy. The seats are comfortable, but interior quality doesn’t match some competitors’. The infotainment system is behind the times, utilizing a slow and fussy touch screen. A number of safety features, including lane keeping assist and automatic emergency braking, are standard.
Price as tested: $53,895
See the complete Jaguar F-Pace road test.
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