Tesla Model S tops list second year running

Consumer Reports has announced its top new car picks for the 2015, and for the second year in a row, the Tesla Model S is the publication’s choice for best vehicle overall.

CR lauded the Model S for its technology and luxury, and sharp driving performance that erases the notion that electric cars are boring. The publication did note the car’s average reliability (an average rating or higher, according to CR subscriber input, is required for Top Pick consideration), suggesting that the very technology that makes the car special is also its weak point.

More surprising, but certainly not unwarranted, is the inclusion of two GM sedans: the Buick Regal is CR’s favourite sport sedan, while the Chevrolet Impala is tops among large cars.

That the Regal made this list is vindication of sorts for a brand that, for the last five years, has been trying very hard to appeal to drivers turned off by a reputation for dull cars sporting so-so build quality. An above-average reliability rating and genuine European driving feel won over CR’s testers; note they make special mention of the 2.0L turbo powertrain, which is the only one we think is worth bothering with, too. We agree, too, that Buick’s IntelliLink touchscreen interface is one of the best in the industry.

On the Impala, Consumer Reports says it “humbles the Toyota Avalon and even the Lexus ES 350.” We wouldn’t go quite that far—we’d call it a strong value relative to those cars, and a very well-built big sedan, but we’re not sure it’s the best in its class: it earns an average reliability rating, while the Camry-based Avalon is arguably the most reliable big sedan money can buy. it could be argued the Impala deserves a place on this list purely for being so much better than its predecessor, but we’d give it an honourable mention, rather than calling it best in class.

Subaru, Toyota, Honda and Audi round out the rest of the list: Subaru and Toyota score three and two entries, respectively, and one each for Honda and Audi.

We agree wholeheartedly with CR’s choice of the Subaru Legacy as best mid-size sedan. For one thing, the Legacy hasn’t looked this good for a while, and for another, it’s a very impressive car that blows its predecessor out of the water as far as driveability and interior finishes are concerned. Unsurprisingly, we especially like this car with its optional six-cylinder engine, a fantastic motor that suits the car quite nicely. We do miss the old turbo four-cylinder and manual transmission, though.

We’re cooler on the other two Subarus on the list. The Impreza and Forester are good vehicles in their respective categories (compact car and small SUV), but we feel like they both lost some of their charm when they were redesigned a few years ago. Of the two, we’d sooner drive home a Forester, as it’s a very good value and Subaru’s all-wheel drive setup is one of the most capable in the industry, never mind the small SUV class. We’d honestly skip the Impreza in favour of the XV Crosstrek, which has more personality. Subie does earn points, for all three models, for reliability: the Impreza and Legacy get above-average ratings from CR, while the Forester scores much better than average.

Consumer Reports calls the Toyota Prius its favourite green car, but it’s fair to say the Model S has already nailed that one down. But whatever: the Prius absolutely deserves a spot on this list. It’s far from fun to drive, but has established Toyota as the reigning king of hybrid technology with a drivetrain that operates with a smoothness and simplicity that belies its complicated engineering. Impressive fuel efficiency and much-better-than-average reliability (again, in spite of the car’s complex nature) explain why the Prius has been on CR’s Top 10 for 12 years running.

Toyota’s second entry on the list is the Highlander, for mid-size SUVs. An impressive piece, for sure, Highlander is here for its much-better-than-average reliability, as well as a sharper design and better build quality and handling than the outgoing model. There are mid-size crossovers with better third-row access, however.

Audi’s mid-size A6 makes the list, as best luxury car. In our mind, we might have called this best sport sedan, and tagged the Regal for luxury honours, but we can’t argue with CR’s contention that the A6 is a well-built machine designed to appeal to drivers who appreciate a nicely-tailored interior as much as sharp driving dynamics.

Finally, the Honda Odyssey makes the list as best minivan. CR calls it “the best vehicle Honda makes;” we’d bestow that honour on the Accord sedan, but otherwise, the Odyssey is indeed the most engaging-to-drive minivan you can buy. How much that matters in a class of vehicle cornered by the budget-priced Grand Caravan is up for debate, however. If we were to pay nearly full price for a minivan, we’d probably go with the Toyota Sienna, whose reliability bests the Honda’s average rating.

Tesla Model S

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