With over 8 million subscribers and more than 50 labs, Consumer Reports claims to be the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. As far as the automotive industry is concerned, falling short of CR’s standards could spell bad news or at least bad publicity for any new model.
In its latest issue, the publication tested the Ford Escape Titanium and SE compact SUVs and the Infiniti JX, while also conducting two comparison tests: one in the compact upmarket segment, where the Acura ILX faced the Buick Verano, and the other in the luxury sedan category with the Fisker Karma placed against the Porsche Panamera S.
You may recall that CR has a patchy history with the Karma when the car broke down during testing. Fisker subsequently replaced the battery pack on all 2012 models, yet CR’s testers note that they “continue to encounter disconcerting intermittent glitches related to the gauges, warning lights, power windows and radio”.
CR’s director of auto test center Jake Fisher said: “Although we found its ride, handling and braking performance sound and it has first-class interior materials, the Karma’s problems outweigh the goods. Despite the huge dimensions it’s very cramped inside, the overcomplicated controls are frustrating and it’s hard to see out.”
The hybrid powertrain came under heavy fire, too. “When it’s running, the gasoline engine has an unrefined roar”, noted Fisher, who added, “the heavy weight affects agility and performance and the Karma lacks the oomph you expect.”
No “recommended” rating then, for the Karma. On the bright side, its direct rival from Stuttgart wasn’t recommended either – but that’s only because there were insufficient reliability data.
Unlike the Karma, the Panamera S was praised for offering “an exciting blend of performance and practicality”. CR also concluded that it upholds Porsche’s reputation thanks to its “quick acceleration” and “excellent handling”.
As far as the more down-to-earth models are concerned, the Ford Escape, despite being too new to be recommended, received a positive review. Ford’s crossover was described as “solid, sophisticated and fun to drive” and its EcoBoost engines were fuel-efficient. The only problem was that the (optional) MyTouch infotainment system was unintuitive in its operation.
In spite of the latest Civic being crucified by CR, the Acura ILX, which is based on Honda’s compact sedan, performed way better and received a “recommended” rating. It also beat its Chevy Cruze-based rival, the Buick Verano, which CR says has been unreliable in its first year in the market.
CR noted, however, that each of the two cars “fall short of true luxury” and that, “at over $30,000 as tested, the ILX costs a lot for what you get”.
While not exactly overwhelmed with excitement over Infiniti’s latest offering, Consumer Reports’ testers also recommended the JX. It said that the seven-seater model’s vague steering will not make it popular with keen drivers, but the low noise levels and the spacious and user-friendly interior earned it the coveted “recommended” tag.
By Andrew Tsaousis