2015 Model Year Studied
Research firm J.D. Power has been producing its annual U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study for the past 29 years. The 2018 study examines problems experienced in the last 12 months by original owners of 2015 model-year vehicles, with overall dependability determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100). A lower score indicates higher dependability. This year J.D. Power reports that overall dependability improved by 9 percent compared to 2017 — the first improvement the industry has experienced since 2013. The 2018 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study is based on responses from more than 35,000 original owners of 2015 model-year vehicles after three years of ownership. The study was conducted from October through December 2017.
“For the most part, automotive manufacturers continue to meet consumers’ vehicle dependability expectations,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. “A 9% improvement is extremely impressive, and vehicle dependability is, without question, at its best level ever. For people looking for a new or used model, now is a good time to find that special vehicle,” Sargent noted.
Technology = Problems
The addition of high-tech features in new cars continues to be 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. The most common issues reported are with built-in voice recognition and Bluetooth connectivity.
Highest-Ranked Nameplate — Lexus
For the seventh consecutive year, Lexus sits atop the dependability pedestal with just 100 PP100, inching out second-place Porsche by just 1 PP100. Buick ranks third overall, and is the top-ranked mass-market brand with 116 PP100. Infiniti is one of the most improved brands, jumping from position 29 last year to the fourth-most dependable nameplate in 2018. Kia follows in fifth place. Chrysler and Land Rover reside at the bottom of the list as the only brands to show more than 200 PP100. Here are the top models in each of 19 categories.
Small Car — Kia Rio
The Rio is Kia’s entry-level model, and in 2015 its starting price was just under $14,000. But as is the case with other models from the Korean car company, the Rio offered quite a bit for the price — and continues to do so today. Available features such as sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels and paddle shifters add a level of sportiness to the Rio. Other features normally reserved for higher-end models could be had on the 2015 Rio, including rear camera display, automatic headlights, leather trim and a power tilt / slide moonroof. The 2015 Rio was also quite fuel efficient, rated at 27 mpg city / 37 mpg highway.
Small Premium Car — Lexus CT
An attractive hatchback with sporty styling, the CT200h was, and continues to be, the only model in the Lexus lineup that is exclusively a hybrid. And with a starting price of $32,200 at the time, the 2015 CT200h was also the least expensive Lexus available. With only 134 horsepower from its gas-electric hybrid powertrain, the CT was not very quick, but it excelled in efficiency — rated at 42 mpg in combined city / highway driving.
Compact Car — Toyota Prius
This gas-electric hybrid was in its third generation by the 2015 model year — one year prior to a complete redesign, 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 2015 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
It may be the entry-level sedan in the Lexus lineup, but the 2015 ES offered plenty of standard luxury amenities expected in a Lexus. Leather trim is standard, as are a power moonroof, automatic climate control, a high-end audio system with Bluetooth audio streaming and 17-inch alloy wheels. Engine choices are a 3.5-liter V6 or a fuel-efficient hybrid powerplant. The 2015 ES was also available with Siri Eyes Free Mode — technology licensed from Apple.
Midsize Car — Chevrolet Malibu
Chevrolet introduced the Malibu name back in 1964 — when it was a top-line version of the Chevelle — making it the longest running midsize nameplate in the industry. The stylish sedan offers a roomy rear seat, spacious trunk, and a few conveniences including a secret storage location behind the touchscreen radio. The 2015 Malibu was the last of the eighth generation — an all-new 2016 Malibu premiered at the 2015 New York Auto Show and arrived in showrooms that fall.
Midsize Sporty Car — Dodge Challenger
The Challenger is Dodge’s retro-styled coupe offering an impressive list of standard features, even on the most basic models. Dodge updated the Challenger for 2015 with a new standard 8-speed transmission, an all-new interior, exterior updates and new safety technologies. But the 2015 Challenger was all about performance, boasting several high-powered engine options including the 707-horsepower Hellcat that features a 6-speed manual transmission, Brembo 4-piston brakes, performance suspension and electronically-controlled exhaust system that provides the deep, throaty burble emanating from dual exhaust pipes.
Midsize Premium Car — Lexus GS
After skipping the 2012 model year, Lexus introduced the fourth-generation of the GS in 2013. The new GS featured fresh styling, updated suspension and could be equipped with several 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 2015 Lexus added a new multimedia system featuring a 12.3-inch display screen.
Large Car — Buick LaCrosse
The largest car in the Buick lineup, the LaCrosse received a major redesign in 2014. Available with front or all-wheel drive, the 2015 LaCrosse was available in five trim levels. Buick also offered the LaCrosse with OnStar with 4G LTE and a standard built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, IntelliLink with Text Messaging Alerts and Siri Eyes Free. LaCrosse also featured Buick’s “QuietTuning,” designed to reduce or block unwanted noise, making the LaCrosse one of the quietest models in the segment.
Small SUV — Hyundai Tucson
The Korean automaker has established a reputation for building stylish vehicles that are excellent values, and the Tucson fits this description to a tee. In addition to its impressive 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, the 2015 Tucson served up standard premium features including 17-inch alloy wheels, projector headlights with LED accents, a remote keyless entry system with alarm, an AM/FM / SiriusXM / CD / MP3 audio system with iPod / USB / auxiliary input jacks and a Bluetooth mobile interface.
Small Premium SUV — Audi Q3
The Q3 is the smallest of Audi’s SUV offerings and was able to earn the Most Dependable rating in its first year on the market. Available with either front-wheel drive or Audi’s legendary quattro all-wheel-drive system, the Q3 was designed to offer the agility of a small car without losing the capabilities of an SUV. Powering the 2015 Q3 was a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder powerplant producing 200 horsepower. In keeping with Audi’s reputation for luxurious amenities, the Q3 came well equipped with heated 12-way power front leather seats, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, Xenon headlights, and keyless entry/start.
Compact SUV — Chevrolet Equinox
In 2015 the Equinox was Chevrolet’s smallest SUV but still offered a roomy interior with seating for up to five occupants. In addition to its advanced safety features and entertainment options, the 2015 Equinox could be equipped with OnStar with 4G LTE and a standard built-in Wi-Fi hotpot to keep occupants connected via their devices. The 2015 Equinox was also available with advanced safety features such as forward collision alert and lane departure warning, which helped earn the small SUV a top safety rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Compact Premium SUV — Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class
The first compact SUV offered by Mercedes, designers created the GLK 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 2015 GLK came well equipped with such items as 19-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, roof rails, privacy glass and chrome details inside and out. Following the 2015 model year the GLK was discontinued — replaced by the all-new GLC.
Midsize Pickup — Toyota Tacoma
The 2015 Toyota Tacoma was the best-selling compact pickup truck in America by a wide margin, offering so much versatility that many buyers reconsidered the need for a full-size pickup. Available with an Access Cab (extended cab) or 4-door Double Cab, the Tacoma could be equipped as a basic 2WD work truck or, at the other end of the scale, set up like an off-road racer with a TRD Pro package. The TRD Pro Series adds a beefed-up body and chassis, raised ride height, updated suspension with greater wheel travel and all-terrain tires. An all-new Tacoma was introduced one year later.
Midsize SUV — Chevrolet Traverse
Chevrolet’s largest crossover, the Traverse was introduced in 2009, with the 2015 model year falling in the center of the second generation. The 2015 Traverse seats up to eight occupants and was available with front- and all-wheel-drive. Powering the 2015Traverse was a 3.6-liter V6 producing 281 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy was listed at 24 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive. The 2015 model was available with Siri Eyes Free and a rear-seat entertainment system.
Midsize Premium SUV — Lexus RX
When Lexus prescribed a new RX 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. The RX was also available with Active Torque Control All-Weather Drive. This electronically-controlled system varies torque distribution from front-wheel drive to a 50:50 split between front and rear wheels as needed.
Minivan — Honda Odyssey
The 2015 Honda Odyssey was one of the most feature-packed minivans available at the time. In addition to the expected dual-sliding doors and impressive cargo space, the Honda of minivans was available with an entertainment system using an ultra-widescreen display, a 650-watt sound system with up to 12 speakers, Bluetooth audio streaming with SMS and e-mail functionality, and HD radio. Passengers could enjoy cold drinks stored in the optional Cool Box, located in front of the second row.
Large SUV — Ford Expedition
Primarily unchanged from the year previous, Ford’s full-size SUV still received several updates for the 2015 model year. Front-end styling was freshened with a new grille and headlights, and an updated tailgate featured a chrome strip emblazoned with the vehicle name. A new 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine was the only engine available, producing 365 horsepower and giving the big SUV a towing capacity of 9,200 pounds. Interior upgrades for the new model year included an available 8-inch touchscreen display with SYNC and MyFord Touch.
Large Light-Duty Pickup — Chevrolet Silverado
The Silverado has been Chevrolet’s best-selling model for a long time, and one of the best-selling models overall in America. Available in multiple configurations of different cab styles, bed lengths and powertrains, the 2015 Silverado could tow up to 12,000 pounds when properly equipped. Silverado could be had in a number of different trim levels, and for 2015 Chevrolet added a new 8-speed automatic transmission, available spray-on bedliner and available OnStar with 4G LTE and built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.
Large Heavy-Duty Pickup — Ford Super Duty
The 2015 Ford Super Duty boasted incredible capabilities — as it does today — with vehicles ranging from the F-250 to the powerful F-450. Two engines were available in the F-Series Super Duty: a 6.2-liter V8 or — for the ultimate power — a 6.7-liter turbodiesel V8 that puts out a massive 860 lb-ft of torque at a mere 1600 rpm. The diesel engine gave the F-450 a max towing capacity of more than 30,000 pounds.