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There’s a lot to be thankful for in the automotive world. Cars are more sophisticated than ever, with continued innovations in fuel economy, and entertainment and safety features. But even as cars improve, there are still some turkeys—those models that just don’t keep pace with the state of the art.
Here, CR highlights the cars and tires that come up short in our current ratings. Remember, as new test data and survey results become available, and models are retired, different models will capture the turkey designation.
Worst Overall Score: Jeep Wrangler JK
The Jeep Wrangler has the dubious distinction of having the lowest Overall Score, which combines owner satisfaction, road test, and reliability into a single rating. Although loved by its owners, the Wrangler’s Overall Score is weighed down by a poor road-test score and middling reliability.
As an everyday vehicle, the Wrangler trails most SUVs, but few are better for off-road use. The Wrangler uses Chrysler’s 3.6-liter V6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission, which returned 17 mpg overall in our tests. Though the Wrangler may be better than ever before, the vehicle rocks and jiggles constantly, and handling is clumsy. Wind noise is very loud at highway speeds. Getting in and out is awkward, and the interior is uncomfortable. Its off-road performance, on the other hand, remains legendary, and the Rubicon version performs better there than our tested Unlimited Sahara did.
Read the complete Jeep Wrangler JK road test.
Worst Road-Test Score: Jeep Wrangler JK
Umm . . . see above.
Read the complete Jeep Wrangler JK road test.
Worst Predicted Reliability: Cadillac Escalade/Tesla Model X (tie)
There is a two-way tie for least-reliable vehicle.
Cadillac Escalade (shown)
Trouble spots: Power equipment, transmission (major), climate system.
The Escalade falls down on the fundamentals as a luxury SUV; it rides too stiffly and doesn’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 that provides more cargo space is available. The Cue infotainment system is confounding.
Tesla Model X
Trouble spots: Body hardware, paint and trim, climate system.
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 rear 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. The Model X is very quick and handles well. The 90-kWh version we tested had a realistic 230-mile range.
Read the complete Cadillac Escalade and Tesla Model X road tests.
Worst Owner Satisfaction Score: Acura ILX
Only 41 percent of Acura ILX owners said they definitely would, all things considered, buy the same car again.
Sometimes you just can’t transcend humble origins. Trying to make a premium model out of the previous generation Honda Civic is a fool’s errand, as proved by the Acura ILX. Adding projector headlights and slapping the Acura badge on the car shouldn’t deceive anyone. There is nothing wrong with the concept of providing an upscale experience in a small package, but the ILX’s hard ride, loud cabin, and lack of some essential features undermine that goal. Charging $30,000 for the ILX amounts to total chutzpah on Honda’s part.
Read the complete Acura ILX road test.
Worst Fuel Economy: Nissan Armada/Toyota Land Cruiser (tie)
Excluding heavy-duty pickup trucks, the Nissan Armada and Toyota Land Cruiser tie for the lowest fuel economy in our ratings, with 14 mpg overall.
Nissan Armada (shown)
The hulking second-generation Armada is very much a clone of the highbrow Infiniti QX80, a full-sized luxury three-row SUV that has been on sale since 2010. Even though it’s about $20,000 less expensive, the Nissan gives up practically nothing to its more luxurious twin. Strong points include a smooth, powerful powertrain; quiet cabin; and formidable 8,500-pound towing ability. Clumsy-yet-secure handling and a voracious appetite for fuel are among the Armada’s demerits.
Toyota Land Cruiser
The Land Cruiser is quick, plush, and refined. It has a composed, comfortable ride and quiet cabin. The Cruiser is a capable off-roader, but it’s fuel-thirsty and lacks agility. The third-row is cramped, especially given the SUV’s rather large size. Many alternatives perform just as well for much less.
Read the complete Nissan Armada and Toyota Land Cruiser road tests.
Worst Accident-Avoidance Score: Toyota Tundra
The Tundra handles well enough in normal driving, but its steering lacks feel. Overall, it just feels larger and bulkier than some newer competitors. With so much power coming from the 5.7-liter V8 engine, the rear wheels spin easily, even on dry surfaces. In our emergency-handling tests, the Tundra reached its limits of tire grip early on, and its top speed navigating our emergency-avoidance maneuver was quite low. Standard electronic stability control helped keep it on course.
Read the complete Toyota Tundra road test.
Worst Winter-Driving Performance: Ford Focus
We asked subscribers to rate their vehicle’s performance in snowy conditions. The results, based on 36,000 vehicles between model years 2013 and 2016, show that some models are better than others. And all of them were rated better than the Ford Focus.
Sporty handling, relatively low noise, and a well-done interior make the Focus feel more like a small sports sedan than a humdrum compact. Though not blazingly fast, the Focus does get good fuel economy: We recorded 29 mpg overall in our tests for both the four-cylinder and three-cylinder turbo. But several flaws keep it from being one of our top-rated small cars. The most irksome of those is the PowerShift automatic transmission, which stumbles at low speeds.
Read the complete Ford Focus road test.
Worst All-Season Tire: GT Radial Champiro VP1
The GT Radial Champiro VP1 is the lowest-rated among all-season car tires, and its score is particularly hurt by Poor marks for snow traction and ice braking. Its performance in other test categories is Good or better. Our engineers have noted that it is particularly comfortable and quiet. Ultimately, this is more a three-season, rather than an all-season, tire.
See the complete GT Radial Champiro VP1 ratings.
Worst Winter/Snow Tire: Firestone WinterForce
The Firestone WinterForce is the lowest-rated tire in the winter/snow category. In particular, it scored a Poor for noise and wet braking. It got just a Fair rating for dry braking, handling, ice braking, and rolling resistance. To its credit, the WinterForce excelled in hydroplaning, snow traction, and ride comfort evaluations. There are clearly better all-around tires available.
See the complete Firestone WinterForce ratings.
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