J.D. Power releases annual list of most dependable vehicles
Data analytics firm J.D. Power has been producing an annual U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study for more than 30 years — a study that automakers take seriously and consumers recognize and value.
The 2021 study examines problems experienced in the last 12 months by original owners of 2018 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 is at an all-time high, with ratings improving 10 percent compared to 2020's results.
Of the eight categories analyzed by J.D. Power for this study, all improved year over year. However, ACEN, which stands for Audio/ Communication/Entertainment/Navigation, showed only marginal improvement and remains the most problematic category.
"From early in the ownership experience, many owners complain about these systems being problematic," said Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at J.D. Power. The 2021 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study is based on responses from more than 33,000 original owners of 2018 model-year vehicles after three years of ownership.
J.D. Power conducted the study from July through November 2020.
Winner: Most Dependable Vehicle Overall 2021 - Porsche 911
Photo courtesy of Porsche Cars North America
For the second time in the last three years, the Porsche 911 earns the rank of most dependable vehicle overall. Perhaps the most iconic sports car in the world, the 911 reached the end of its seventh generation (991) in 2018. A few years earlier Porsche had gone to all turbocharged powerplants, with the base-level 911 Carrera generating 370 horsepower from its rear-mounted 3.0-liter engine.
In 2018 Porsche added the high-performance 911 GT3, boasting outstanding performance and handling with 500 horsepower and a proper manual gearbox.
Winner: Highest-Ranked Nameplate - LexusPhoto courtesy of Lexus
Lexus returns to the top of the annual J.D Power Vehicle Dependability study for the ninth time in the last 10 years. Last year Genesis — Hyundai's new luxury brand — outpaced Lexus, Toyota's longstanding luxury brand. With a low score in this year's study of 81 PP100 , Lexus is closely followed by Porsche, Kia, Toyota, Buick and Cadillac to round out the highest-ranking nameplates.
Winner: Most Dependable Small Premium Car 2021 - BMW 2 Series
Photo courtesy of BMW
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.
Winner: Most Dependable Compact Car 2021 - Volkswagen BeetlePhoto courtesy of Volkswagen AG
Volkswagen designed the contemporary VW Beetle as a modern interpretation of the German automaker's most iconic model. The New Beetle joined the lineup for 1998 and a convertible version joined the lineup for the 2003 model year. The Beetle was refreshed in 2017 with a revised exterior with more aggressive front and rear bumpers with chrome accents.
For 2018 Volkswagen swapped engines to a new 2.0-liter turbocharged unit producing 174 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, and also added a new variant called the Beetle Coast, which features a unique Deep Sea Teal paint scheme, surfboard wood-look dash front and Pepita houndstooth cloth seating surfaces.
Winner: Most Dependable Compact Premium Car 2021 - Lexus ES
Photo courtesy of Lexus
One of the best-selling luxury cars in America during the 2018 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 in 2016, the 2018 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 lineup, but the ES still offered plenty of standard luxury amenities expected in a Lexus including leather trim, a power moonroof, automatic climate control, a high-end audio system with Bluetooth audio streaming and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Winner: Most Dependable Compact Midsize Car 2021 - Kia Optima
Photo courtesy of Kia Motors
In 2015 Kia refreshed the popular Optima midsize sedan with styling that tied in with the rest of the automaker's lineup. For 2018 Kia added the new Optima S, powered by a 185-horsepower 2.4-liter engine and features a sport front bumper, a rear spoiler, 17-inch alloy wheels, LED fog lights, LED taillights, a 10-way power driver's seat and optional panoramic roof. The Optima SX 2.0L Turbo adds LED fog lights, a panoramic roof, a 10-way power front passenger seat and heated/ventilated front seats.
Winner: Most Dependable Midsize Sporty Car 2021 - Chevrolet Camaro
Photo courtesy of Chevrolet
Chevrolet introduced the sixth generation of the legendary Camaro for the 2016 model year, and while it looks similar to the previous version, the only carryover was the bowtie on the grille. Slightly smaller than the outgoing model, that new Camaro shed more than 200 pounds with the goal of improving performance as well as fuel efficiency.
A year later Chevrolet reprised the vaunted ZL1 powered by an LT4 supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine producing 650 horsepower and 640 pound-feet of torque.
In 2018 the automaker added the 1LE Performance Package for the ZL1 Coupe with carbon fiber aerodynamic enhancements, Multimatic DSSV dampers, adjustable ride height and camber, and 19-inch aluminum wheels.
Winner: Most Dependable Midsize Premium Car 2021 - Genesis G80
Photo courtesy of Genesis Motors
Genesis spun off from parent company Hyundai as an entirely new brand for the 2017 model year, aiming to move more clients upscale. Once Genesis became its own brand, the model formerly known as the Hyundai Genesis was renamed the G80, and in its first year on the market it was already one of the top-selling luxury sedans in America. The 2018 G80's 3.8-liter V6 engine produces 311 horsepower, combined with a smooth 8-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional.
Today's G80 is well equipped with heated power front seats, leather trim, an 8.0-inch touchscreen display, a high-end audio system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as the latest high-tech safety features.
Winner: Most Dependable Large Car 2021 - Toyota Avalon
Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.
Flagship of the Toyota lineup, Avalon feels like a high-end luxury sedan, especially in the Limited trim. Refreshed in 2015, the 2018 Avalon offers a quiet, roomy cabin and was available with either a 268-horsepower V6 engine or very efficient hybrid system. A year earlier 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. One year later Toyota introduced an all-new Avalon based on the Toyota New Global Architecture platform.
Winner: Most Dependable Small SUV 2021 - Kia Sportage
Photo courtesy of Kia Motors
The Kia Sportage moved into its fourth generation with a complete redesign for the 2017 model year. The compact crossover featured updated styling, a stiffer structure, new suspension, premium materials and a suite of advanced driver-assistance systems. Larger than its predecessor, the updated Sportage features improved passenger and cargo space.
Available in a range of trim levels, the Sportage is also offered as the SX Turbo, powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder unit producing 240 horsepower. Sportage was the first Kia to offer UVO3, which features 14 telematics services, 8 GB of music storage, access to onscreen apps and Wi-Fi tethering capability.
Winner: Most Dependable Small Premium SUV 2021 - Mercedes-Benz GLA
Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz
The smallest model of the Mercedes-Benz SUV lineup, the GLA debuted as a 2015 model aimed directly at the BMW X1. The German automaker refreshed the compact GLA crossover for 2018 model year with updated exterior styling as well as a new instrument cluster, a standard 8.0-inch high-resolution display and a standard rearview camera.
The GLA is available with a variety of powertrains, including the high-performance GLA45 AMG powered by a handcrafted AMG turbocharged 2.0-liter engine producing 375 horsepower.
Winner: Most Dependable Compact SUV 2021 - Buick Envision
Photo courtesy of Buick
The Buick division of General Motors has experienced great sales success in China, and in 2016 Buick introduced a new SUV built in that country. The Envision crossover slots between the small Encore and midsize Enclave crossovers.
The 5-passenger Envision features styling that fits seamlessly in the Buick lineup and employs a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that produces 252 horsepower and uses Buick's first Active Twin Clutch all-wheel-drive system.
Occupants of Envision enjoy 8-way power front seats, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, tri-zone climate control and available OnStar with 4G LTE and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.
Winner: Most Dependable Compact Premium SUV 2021 - Porsche Macan
Photo courtesy of Porsche AG
The compact-premium SUV market is plenty crowded, but the Macan certainly stood out from said crowd in 2018. The second crossover in the current Porsche lineup, Macan joined for the 2014 model year with sales increasing every year since its introduction. Styled after the larger Cayenne, Macan still embodies all qualities expected from the iconic German sports car brand.
The 2018 Macan comes with full-time all-wheel drive and is available with various powertrains ranging from a 2.0-liter 252-horsepower 4-cylinder engine to a 440-horsepower V6 in the Macan Turbo with the Performance Package.
Winner: Most Dependable Midsize SUV 2021 - Kia Sorento
Photo courtesy of Kia Motors
The 2018 Kia Sorento features exterior styling that fits in with the rest of the Kia lineup. Sorento has a roomy interior and can be equipped with the latest version of Kia's UVO entertainment and communication interface offering services such as Geo Fencing, Speed Alert and Curfew Alert. Available with front- or all-wheel drive, the 2018 Sorento comes in a few trim levels with three engine options, including a powerful 290-horsepower V6.
The Sorento features a long list of advanced safety features, including autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert, making Sorento one of the safest crossover SUVs on the road.
Winner: Most Dependable Midsize Premium SUV 2021 - Lexus GX
Photo courtesy of Lexus
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 2018 Lexus GX still retains its impressive off-road prowess. Based on the Toyota 4Runner, the 2018 GX has full-time 4WD and all the equipment needed to do some serious off-roading.
Utilizing a trucklike body-on-frame construction, the 2018 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 2018 GX460 features luxurious amenities inside, while the standard Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System delivers a smooth, comfortable ride.
Winner: Most Dependable Large SUV 2021 - Chevrolet Tahoe
Photo courtesy of Chevrolet
There aren't many vehicles on the road that can compete with the Chevrolet Tahoe or its larger Suburban sibling. With seating for up to nine occupants, plenty of cargo capacity, the capability to tow more than 8,500 pounds, Tahoe is still one of the most capable SUVs on the road.
Available with two- or four-wheel drive, the 2018 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 8.0-inch color touchscreen and multiple USB ports.
In 2018 Chevrolet also offered the Tahoe RST special edition that added a street-performance look with most of the chrome deleted and additional gloss-black trim.
Winner: Most Dependable Minivan 2021 - Toyota SiennaPhoto courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.
As one of the top-selling minivans on the U.S. market, the Sienna received a slight face-lift for the 2018 model year and, more importantly, added Toyota's Safety Sense P suite of high-tech safety features as standard equipment. Powering the 2018 Sienna is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 296 horsepower and the only minivan in 2018 available with all-wheel drive.
The van also boasts several innovative features, including Driver Easy Speak, which uses the microphone from the voice-command multimedia system to broadcast to the audio system's rear speakers. Sienna is also available with a Blu-ray entertainment system featuring a 16.4-inch display.
Winner: Most Dependable Midsize Pickup 2021 - Nissan Frontier
Photo courtesy of Nissan North America
The Frontier is Nissan's entry in the midsize pickup truck market. Available as a King Cab or Crew Cab, the 2018 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, four-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.
Winner: Most Dependable Large Light-Duty Pickup 2021 - Toyota TundraPhoto courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.
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 three years after getting a complete redesign, the 2018 Tundra carried through with a variety of cab styles and bed lengths as well as rear- or four-wheel drive. Two V8 engines were available at the time, with the higher trims getting a 5.7-liter V8 that produces 381 horsepower, allowing the big truck to tow more than 10,000 pounds.
Winner: Most Dependable Large Heavy-Duty Pickup 2021 - Chevrolet Silverado HD
Photo courtesy of Chevrolet
When consumers climb into the heavy-duty truck market, their choices narrow considerably. The 2018 Silverado HD combines impressive capability with a comfortable cabin and driving ease. Engineers improved the latter thanks to Chevrolet's new Digital Steering Assist power steering, designed to make hauling and trailering more manageable via electronic controls that enhance roadholding and stability on the highway. The 2018 Silverado HD can tow as much as 23,300 pounds when properly equipped.