2014 Models Studied
Research firm J.D. Power and Associates has been producing its annual U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study for the past 28 years. The 2017 study examines problems experienced in the last 12 months by original owners of 2014 model-year vehicles, with overall dependability determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100). A lower score indicates higher dependability. It is interesting to note that the average among the 10 top-selling 2014 models is just 134 PP100 — considerably better than the industry average of 156 PP100. The 2017 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study is based on responses from more than 35,000 original owners of 2014 model-year vehicles after three years of ownership. The study was conducted from October through December 2016.
“We find buyers are increasingly avoiding models with poor reputations for dependability, so
manufacturers can’t afford to let quality slip, particularly on their best sellers,” said Dave Sargent, vice president, global automotive at J.D. Power. “While many expensive and niche vehicles do have excellent quality, the fact is that most consumers are shopping in the high-volume mainstream segments. The good news is that consumers don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a very dependable vehicle,” Sargent noted.
Technology = Problems
The addition of high-tech features in new cars has become the source of problems for many buyers — the most problematic area in the last 12 months has centered around the Audio / Communication / Entertainment / Navigation category. These technology-related problems have contributed to the second year of decline in dependability scores across the board. Let’s look at the brands and models that J.D. Power considers most dependable.
Highest-Ranked Nameplate — Lexus, Porsche (tie)
For the sixth consecutive year, Lexus sits atop the dependability pedestal, but this year the luxury brand shares the spot with Porsche. Both manufactures scored 110 PP100. Toyota follows with 123 PP100, and Buick and Mercedes-Benz round out the top five. Hyundai moves from 19th to 6th position, making it the most improved brand in the study. Toyota Motor Corporation topped 10 of the 18 categories — the most awards ever received by one manufacturer in the Dependability Study. Infiniti, Jeep and Fiat reside at the bottom of the list and are the only brands to score more than 200 PP100.
Small Car — Chevrolet Sonic
It’s nice to see American brands delivering high-quality, economical small cars — the Chevy Sonic is an excellent example. For the 2014 model year this fun little car offered good performance with a fuel-efficient 1.8-liter engine putting out 138 horsepower while delivering up to 35 mpg on the highway. A sportier turbocharged Sonic RS was also available. For 2014 Chevrolet offered Sonic with advanced safety features such as Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning.
Compact Car — Toyota Prius
This gas-electric hybrid was in its third generation by the 2014 model year, and at that point more than 3 million copies had been sold, making Prius the best-selling hybrid in the world. It may not have been particularly fast or stylish, but that wasn’t the goal of the Prius back then — it was all about getting the best fuel economy. The EPA rated the 2014 Prius at 51 mpg city / 48 mpg hwy / 50 mpg combined, making it more fuel efficient than just about any other car on the road.
Compact Premium Car — Lexus ES
Lexus introduced the sixth generation of the ES sedan in 2013 with a number of new high-tech features, as well as a fresh design featuring the now-signature Lexus spindle grille. Available with a 268-horsepower V6 or very-efficient hybrid powertrain, the ES offered a class-leading 10 airbags as well as a radar-based pre-collision system that could detect objects ahead and prepare the car for a collision. The 2014 ES was also available with Siri Eyes Free Mode — technology licensed from Apple.
Midsize Car — Toyota Camry
The Toyota Camry wore the crown as the best-selling passenger car in America for 2014, and the popular sedan continues to hold that top spot in the years since. Camry also celebrated its 30th year in the Toyota lineup in 2014. Available with four cylinder, V6 and hybrid powertrains, the Camry was available in three trim levels and offered with a number of advanced comfort, convenience and safety features. Camry was completely redesigned following the 2014 model year.
Midsize Sporty Car — Chevrolet Camaro
Chevrolet made a lot of Camaro fans happy when it brought back the famed nameplate in 2010. In 2014 the Camaro received a facelift with new headlight and taillight designs. The interior was also redone with premium materials and new color displays. Available as a coupe or convertible, the Camaro could be configured with a variety of powertrains ranging from a 323-horsepower V6 engine to a 580-horsepower supercharged V8 in the high-performance ZL1. Chevrolet also added the track-ready Z/28 to the lineup.
Midsize Premium Car — Lexus GS
After skipping the 2012 model year, the Lexus GS was all-new for 2013. The fourth-generation GS featured fresh styling, updated suspension and could be equipped with a number of new high-tech features such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and a night vision system. A number of new powertrains became available, including the GS 450h hybrid that boasts 338 horsepower and 34 mpg on the highway. For 2014 a new 8-speed automatic transmission was added with paddle shifters on the steering column.
Large Car — Toyota Avalon
Avalon is the flagship of the Toyota lineup, featuring a roomy interior with an array of high-tech luxury and convenience features. Completely redesigned for the 2013 model year, Avalon was available with either a 268-horsepower V6 engine or a gas-electric hybrid system that produced a total of 200 horsepower while delivering a combined city / highway fuel rating of 40 mpg. A standard rearview camera and available blind-spot monitoring system were added for the 2014 model year.
Small SUV — Volkswagen Tiguan
Tiguan is Volkswagen’s compact SUV, powered by a 200-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder and a 6-speed automatic transmission, combined with either front-wheel drive or 4Motion all-wheel drive. Introduced in 2009, the Tiguan received a number of updates for the 2014 model year including the addition of the Tiguan R-Line, which featured 19-inch “Mallory” aluminum-alloy wheels, leather trim, a roof spoiler, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and stainless-steel pedal cluster.
Compact SUV — Toyota FJ Cruiser
The highly-capable FJ Cruiser was inspired by the legendary FJ40 built in the early 1960s. While thoroughly modern, the FJ Cruiser’s design was clearly influenced by that early utility vehicle. With 32-inch tires, almost 10 inches of ground clearance, a locking rear differential, skidplates and an advanced traction control system, the FJ was built to handle the toughest terrain. Unfortunately FJ sales were not strong, and 2014 was the final year of production for Toyota’s “other” Cruiser.
Compact Premium SUV — Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class
The first compact SUV to be offered by Mercedes, the GLK was designed to be a modern interpretation of the larger and tougher G-Class. Powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine teamed with a 7-speed automatic transmission and available 4MATIC full-time four-wheel drive, the 2014 GLK came well equipped with such items as 19-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, roof rails, privacy glass and chrome details inside and out.
Compact MPV — Toyota Prius v
In 2012 Toyota expanded its popular Prius lineup, adding a smaller Prius c and the wagonlike Prius v. For the 2014 model year the Prius v remained primarily unchanged, offering the spaciousness and versatility of a larger hatchback with the impressive fuel economy drivers had come to expect of the Prius. The Prius v’s hybrid powertrain was rated at 40 mpg on the highway, 44 mpg in the city.
Midsize Pickup – Honda Ridgeline
With a unit-body structure rather than the more common body-on-frame design, the Ridgeline is unique in the pickup truck market. This helps the Ridgeline provide a carlike ride while still providing the capability expected of a pickup. The Ridgeline is available with a number of innovative features including the in-bed trunk and dual-action tailgate that can hinge on the bottom or on the side. Able to tow up to 5,000 pounds, the Ridgeline was the only truck to feature a standard rearview camera in 2014.
Midsize SUV — Toyota Venza
Introduced in 2008 as a cross between a family sedan and an SUV, the Venza attempted to fill a small niche in the U.S. market. Available in LE, XLE or Limited trims, the Venza received updated styling inside and out for the 2013 model year. Although built on the same platform as the Toyota Camry, the Venza offered a spacious cargo area, fold-down rear seats, all-wheel drive and a 3,500-lb towing capacity.
Midsize Premium SUV — Lexus RX
When the RX was introduced in 1999 it was the first luxury crossover SUV on the market, and ultimately created one of the hottest vehicle segments in America. In 2013 the RX was redesigned, implementing the signature Lexus spindle grille and adding the sporty F Sport. Power came from a 3.5-liter V6 producing 270 horsepower for either the front- or all-wheel drive versions. Among additions for the 2014 model year was the Siri Eyes Free system that integrated the driver’s iPhone into the vehicle interface.
Minivan — Toyota Sienna
The Sienna was completely redesigned in 2011, bringing the third generation of Toyota’s minivan to market. Still the only minivan with available all-wheel drive, the 2014 Sienna offered features such as a conversation mirror, seating for up to eight passengers, a fold-flat third-row seat, and an available rear-seat Dual View Entertainment Center that uses two displays side-by-side to create either a seamless 16.4-inch widescreen image from a single source or two individual screens — each with input from separate sources.
Large SUV — Chevrolet Tahoe
According to General Motors, the Chevrolet Tahoe made up almost 30 percent of the full-size SUV segment in 2014. With seating for up to eight occupants, impressive cargo space and a maximum towing capability of 8,500 pounds, the Tahoe really is in a class all its own. All Tahoes were powered by a 5.3-liter V8 producing 320 horsepower. Available in a number of different trim levels, the Tahoe could be had with rear- or 4-wheel drive.
Large Light-Duty Pickup — Ford F-150
The Ford F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in America for more than 30 years and shows no sign of giving up that title. The 2014 F-150 was the last of the twelfth-generation, which was introduced for the 2009 model year. At the time it featured a more aggressive front-end appearance with a bigger, bolder grille similar to the style of the Super Duty. Available with multiple cabs, bed lengths, drive system and powertrains, the F-150 could be built in dozens of different configurations.
Large Heavy-Duty Pickup — Chevrolet Silverado HD
The 2014 Silverado HD (heavy duty) was the ultimate work truck for its time, with some impressive capabilities. Standard towing capability was increased to 13,000 pounds for 2014, and when properly equipped the 3500 HD could tow more than 23,000 pounds or carry a payload of more than 7,000 pounds. With the powerful, efficient 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel engine, the Silverado HD could travel almost 700 miles between fill-ups.