High-end for­eign brands top ‘Con­sumer Re­ports’ auto list

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS -

Audi, Porsche, BMW and Lexus are the best-per­form­ing brands in Con­sumer Re­ports’ an­nual rank­ings, but lower-priced op­tions aren’t far be­hind.

Subaru, Kia, Mazda, Honda and Buick also made it into the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s top 10 brands for 2017. Tesla was the high­est-rank­ing U.S.-based brand, at num­ber eight. The worst per­form­ers were Fiat, Jeep and Mit­subishi.

The brand rank­ings com­bine scores from Con­sumer Re­ports’ road tests as well as re­li­a­bil­ity and sat­is­fac­tion rat­ings that are based on owner sur­veys. Safety is also a fac­tor. Ve­hi­cles get points off if they do poorly in govern­ment crash tests; they are awarded ex­tra points if they have au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing or for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing as stan­dard equip­ment.

This year, for the first time, au­tomak­ers got points off if they have an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion shifter that is dif­fi­cult to op­er­ate or doesn’t au­to­mat­i­cally re­turn to “park” when the en­gine is shut off or the driver’s door is open. Un­usual shifter de­signs, in­clud­ing ro­tary knobs and but­tons, are becoming more com­mon as au­tomak­ers try to free up space in the front seat, but they can be dan­ger­ous. Last April, Fiat Chrysler re­called 1.1 mil­lion ve­hi­cles af­ter 41 peo­ple re­ported in­juries be­cause their ve­hi­cles rolled away when they thought they were in “park.”

Con­sumer Re­ports cited only one ro­tary shifter — in the 2017 Ford Fu­sion — that meets its stan­dards. Nu­mer­ous ve­hi­cles — in­clud­ing the Chrysler 300, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Lexus CT 200h — are no longer rec­om­mended be­cause of their shifters.

Con­sumer Re­ports’ rank­ings are closely watched by the in­dus­try. The Yonkers, N.Y.-based non­profit buys all the ve­hi­cles it tests and prints the re­sults in its monthly mag­a­zine.

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