2017 Model Year Studied
Research firm J.D. Power has been producing its annual U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study for more than 30 years — a study that automakers take seriously and consumers recognize and value. The 2020 study examines problems experienced in the last 12 months by original owners of 2017 model-year vehicles, with overall dependability determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles — also known as PP100. A lower score indicates higher dependability. This year J.D. Power reports that overall dependability improved 1.5 percent compared to 2019 — however, the level of improvement is down compared to last year. The 2020 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study is based on responses from more than 36,000 original owners of 2017 model-year vehicles after three years of ownership. J.D. Power conducted the study from July through November 2019.
“Despite the increased adoption of complex vehicle technology, dependability continues to improve,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. “There’s no question that three-year-old vehicles today are better built and more dependable than same-age vehicles were in previous years. However, the rapid introduction of technology is putting increased pressure on dependability, so it would not be surprising to see problem levels plateau, or even increase, over the next few years,” Sargent cautioned.
The in-vehicle technology category — which includes audio, communications, entertainment and navigation systems — still accounts for more problems than any other category in the study; however, the 2020 study results also reveal it as the most improved category. “Many owners complain about these systems early in the ownership experience and, three years later, they’re still frustrated with them,” Sargent said. “We’re seeing improvement, but automakers still have a long way to go to before they can declare victory in this area,” Sargent also noted.
Highest-Ranked Nameplate — Genesis
In its first year of inclusion in the annual J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study, Genesis ranks highest in overall dependability with a score of 89 PP100. Hyundai’s high-scoring luxury brand bumped Lexus to second place, after Toyota’s luxury brand held the top spot for the past six years. Buick, Porsche and Toyota round out the top five brands.
Most Dependable Vehicle Overall — Lexus ES
Lexus may no longer be the top brand overall, but the Lexus ES ranks highest of all vehicles in the study. The ES earned a score of a mere 52 PP100, which is the best score ever recorded in the study’s 31-year history.
Small Car — Honda Fit
The Honda Fit excels at space management — the perfect example of a car that’s small on the outside yet large on the inside. The unique rear seats can be configured in multiple ways to allow cargo storage of all shapes and sizes. The 2017 Honda Fit is powered by a 1.5-liter engine producing 130 horsepower, and it achieves up to 36 mpg on the highway with its standard 6-speed manual transmission. Standard equipment includes air-conditioning with air filtration, power windows and door locks, a 160-watt AM / FM / CD audio system, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity with audio streaming and a number of active safety features.
Small Premium Car — BMW 2 Series
BMW’s small entry-luxury model for the U.S. market, the 2 Series joined the lineup as a 2014 model to replace the 1 Series. The 2 Series is a modern example of the type of sporty, agile, fun-to-drive car on which BMW built its reputation in the 1960s. For 2017 the 2 Series received the latest generation of BMW’s TwinPower Turbo engine that offers increased horsepower and torque versus the outgoing version, as well as improved fuel economy. The high-performance M2 joined the lineup a year earlier, powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine that produces 365 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque in overboost mode.
Compact Car — Nissan LEAF
The Nissan LEAF is the first fully-electric vehicle to earn a top segment score in the Most Dependable study. By 2017 more than 100,000 LEAFs had been sold in America, making it by far the best-selling electric car of the time. The 30-kWh battery pack became a standard feature for the 2017 model year, extending the driving range to 107 miles — a 27 percent increase over the previous model. The 2017 LEAF is powered by an 80-kW electric motor producing 107 horsepower and 187 lb-ft of torque. The battery can be quick-charged to 80 percent in about 30 minutes, and a full charge takes 6 hours with a Level 2 240-volt system.
Compact Sporty Car — Mazda MX-5 Miata
The most successful convertible of all time, the fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata went on sale in summer 2015. In 2017 Mazda introduced the MX-5 RF — a retractable fastback with a power-folding hardtop that opens and closes in 13 seconds. The 2017 MX-5 incorporated SKYACTIV technology for improved performance and more efficiency; it also adopted the KODO—Soul of Motion design to bring a modern look to the classic roadster. The 2017 MX-5 is approximately 150 pounds lighter than its predecessor, making it lightweight, nimble and fun to drive. The 2017 MX-5 sports a 155-horsepower SKYACTIV- G 2.0-liter engine combined with a standard SKYACTIV-MT 6-speed manual transmission.
Compact Premium Car — Lexus ES
One of the best-selling luxury cars in America during the 2017 model year, the ES was the entry-level Lexus sedan that came with many of the comfort and convenience features found in more expensive models. Updated with a bold new grille the previous year, the 2017 ES 350 is powered by a 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine driving the front wheels. At the time it may have been the entry-level sedan in the Lexus lineup, but the ES still offers plenty of standard luxury amenities expected in a Lexus. Leather trim was standard, as were a power moonroof, automatic climate control, a high-end audio system with Bluetooth audio streaming and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Midsize Car — Buick Regal
The 2017 Buick Regal represented the end of the fifth generation of this long-lived nameplate, and it was the last Regal sedan offered by Buick (In 2018 it was replaced by the Regal Sportback). The midsize sedan was available in a range of trim levels and could be obtained with front- or all-wheel drive. Buick offered the Regal with a premium interior and a long list of standard features that included heated leather seats, dual-zone climate control and signature ice-blue ambient lighting. For 2017, Buick added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.
Midsize Sporty Car — Ford Mustang
The current-generation Mustang debuted a few years ago with a lower, wider stance; a lower roof height; wider rear fenders and a wider track. Available as either a coupe or a convertible, the 2017 Mustang was offered with three different engine choices — a standard V6 and two performance options: a turbocharged EcoBoost four cylinder or a 5.0-liter V8, the latter producing 435 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque in the Mustang GT. For those in need of extreme performance, Ford also offered the Shelby GT350 boasting 526 horsepower.
Midsize Premium Car — Genesis G80
The Genesis G80 was an all-new model for 2017, one of two introductory vehicles of Hyundai’s premium brand when it launched that year. Previously sold as the Hyundai Genesis, the 2017 Genesis G80 featured a premium interior with high-grade materials such as genuine aluminum and matte-finish wood. Available with rear or AWD, at that time the G80 could be equipped with either a 3.8-liter V6 or a 5.0-liter V8 engine generating 420 horsepower.
Large Car — Toyota Avalon
Flagship of the Toyota lineup, Avalon feels like a high-end luxury sedan, especially in the Limited trim. Refreshed one year earlier, the 2017 Avalon offered a quiet, roomy cabin and was available with either a 268-horsepower V6 engine or very efficient hybrid system. For 2017 Toyota upgraded the Avalon with standard Toyota Safety Sense-P for all trim levels. This included dynamic radar cruise control, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist and automatic high beam headlights.
Small SUV — Buick Encore
The 2017 Encore was the smallest vehicle in the Buick lineup, and with a starting price of around $25,000 it was a great entry into the luxury crossover segment. The 2017 Encore came well equipped with such features as a power driver’s seat, 7-inch color display with backup camera and built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi connection. The Encore Sport Touring trim became part of the lineup a year earlier, powered by a 153-horsepower turbocharged 1.4-liter engine with direct injection and start/stop technology combined with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Small Premium SUV — Mercedes-Benz GLA
The smallest model of the Mercedes-Benz SUV lineup, the GLA debuted as a 2015 model aimed directly at the BMW X1. The 2017 GLA250 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that produces 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, teamed with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive was standard but at the time the GLA could be had with 4Matic all-wheel drive. For those looking for more performance, Mercedes also offered the AMG GLA45, powered by a hand-built 2.0-liter AMG engine that produces 375 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque with standard AMG 4Matic all-wheel drive.
Compact SUV — Chevrolet Equinox
One of the most popular crossovers in America, in 2017 the Equinox was Chevrolet’s smallest SUV with a roomy interior and seating for up to five occupants. Equinox received a number of design and feature updates a year earlier that included a new front fascia, projector-beam headlights and new wheel designs. Offered in a range of trim levels with front or all-wheel drive, the 2017 Equinox could be equipped with a choice of engines, including a 301-horsepower V6. The interior is quite spacious and offers increased flexibility with its MultiFlex sliding rear seat that provides more legroom for rear-seat passengers or, when needed, more cargo space.
Compact Premium SUV — Porsche Macan
The compact-premium SUV market continues to grow, but the Macan certainly stood out from said crowd in 2017. The fifth vehicle in the Porsche lineup at the time, Macan was styled after the larger Cayenne and still embodied all qualities expected from the iconic German sports car brand. Macan was available with full-time all-wheel drive, and could be equipped with various powertrains ranging from a 2.0-liter 252-horsepower 4-cylinder engine to a 440-horsepower V6 in the Macan Turbo with Performance Package.
Midsize Pickup — Nissan Frontier
The Frontier is Nissan’s entry in the midsize pickup truck market and it hasn’t really changed much in the last 10 years. Available as a King Cab or Crew Cab, the 2017 Frontier could be had with rear- or 4-wheel drive as well as with long or short truck beds. Two engines were available: a 2.5-liter 152-horsepower 4-cylinder unit or a 4.0-liter V6 producing a more respectable 261 horsepower. Frontier could be equipped with a variety of features including a heavy-duty suspension, available off-road-tuned Bilstein high-pressure performance gas shock absorbers, skidplates (PRO-4X grade), and an innovative Utili-track Channel System for easy cargo securing.
Midsize SUV — Toyota 4Runner
As one of the few remaining truck-based SUVs on the market, the 2017 Toyota 4Runner offered capability that couldn’t be found in most car-based crossovers. With a 270-horsepower V6 engine that could tow up to 5,000 pounds, 4Runner boasted a number of high-tech features in addition to its full-time 4WD system, making it one of the most capable SUVs available. For 2017 Toyota added the TRD Off-Road and TRD Off-Road Premium trims to the 4Runner lineup, offering excellent off-road capability while maintaining a luxurious, comfortable interior.
Midsize Premium SUV — Lexus GX
By the middle of the first decade of the new millennium, the SUV trend had moved toward luxury crossovers that were more at home on pavement than on dirt, although the 2017 Lexus GX still retained its impressive off-road prowess. Based on the Toyota 4Runner, the GX had full-time 4WD and all the equipment needed to do some serious off-roading. Utilizing a trucklike body-on-frame construction, the 2017 GX460 is powered by a 4.6-liter V8 engine that produces 301 horsepower and 329 lb-ft of torque with advanced dynamic control systems and a 6,500-pound towing capacity. Despite exceptional off-road capability, the 2017 GX460 features luxurious amenities inside, while the standard Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System delivers a smooth, comfortable ride.
Minivan — Toyota Sienna
As one of the top-selling minivans on the U.S. market, the 2017 Sienna came well equipped with features that included 3-zone climate control and Toyota’s Entune audio system with applications such as Yelp, iHeartRadio, OpenTable and Pandora. Although other minivans have offered all-wheel drive over the years, Sienna was the only AWD minivan on the market that year — perhaps making it even more appealing to those desiring a crossover. For 2017 the Sienna also received a power boost: a new 3.5-liter V6 engine generating 296 horsepower.
Large SUV — Chevrolet Tahoe
There aren’t many vehicles on the road that can compete with the Chevrolet Tahoe. With seating for up to nine occupants, plenty of cargo capacity, the capability to tow more than 8,500 pounds, and 9 inches of ground clearance for off-road adventures, the Tahoe is still one of the most capable SUVs on the road. Available with 2WD or 4WD, the 2017 Tahoe could be equipped with a suite of safety features as well as 4G LTE connectivity with a Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless phone charging, power-folding second- and third-row seats, an 8-inch color touchscreen and multiple USB ports.
Large Light-Duty Pickup — Toyota Tundra (tie)
The full-size truck market is one of the hardest for a non-domestic brand to crack. Although the Tundra had improvements in sales over the years, it still makes up a small percentage of overall truck sales. Just two years after getting a complete redesign, the 2017 Tundra carried through with a variety of cab styles and bed lengths as well as rear- or 4-wheel drive. Two V8 engines were available, with the higher trims getting a 5.7-liter V8 that produced 381 horsepower, allowing the big truck to tow more than 10,000 pounds.
Large Light-Duty Pickup — Ford F-150 (tie)
The 2017 Ford F-150 was the most technologically advanced F-Series to date. New technology included an available 360-degree camera view, available trailer-hitch-assist rear camera view, available remote tailgate with hands-free opening, and an available next-generation tailgate step. That year Ford also brought back the F-150 Raptor — a high-performance off-road truck with a competition-proven chassis, powered by a 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine producing 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque.
Large Heavy-Duty Pickup — Chevrolet Silverado HD
When consumers climb into the heavy-duty truck market, their choices narrow considerably. The 2017 Silverado HD combines impressive capability with a comfortable cabin and driving ease. The latter was further improved with Chevrolet’s New Digital Steering Assist power steering — designed to make hauling and trailering more manageable via electronic controls that enhance road holding and stability on the highway. The 2017 Silverado HD can tow as much as 23,300 pounds when properly equipped.