We have seen a full-fledged SUV boom in the U.S. auto market. In recent years, the once-dominant midsize sedan has seen its sales snatched away by new crossovers and updated versions of top utility models. If you like to ride high and have extra cargo space, you’ve never seen a better selection of SUVs in America.
However, with every new crop of vehicles comes a certain amount of build defects. Inventing new platforms — or, in Tesla’s case, new vehicle types altogether — is not an exact science. To temper enthusiasm for such models, the folks at Consumer Reports usually suggest avoiding new models or redesigns in their first year.
Anyone who’s ever looked at the nonprofit testing agency’s reliability surveys can see why. Every year, Consumer Reports asks vehicle owners to give feedback on 17 potential trouble spots. The ones that ace most or all of the tests end up as the stars of the annual reliability ratings. Those that fail usually end up on lists like this one. Here are the 15 SUVs that ranked worst in reliability for 2018.
1. Alfa Romeo Stelvio
It may be the debut of Alfa Romeo Stelvio, but Consumer Reports already predicts it will be among the least reliable SUVs in its class. This assessment weighs the early returns for Giulia (the sedan on which Stelvio’s based) and other data points from Alfa Romeo’s recent history. As a result, this compact luxury SUV has a high probability for malfunctions. Maybe sit this model year out, and see whether Stelvio improves next time around.
2. Chevrolet Suburban
While the data is often scarce for brand new vehicles, there is a wealth of information to account for Chevy Suburban’s poor reliability rating. Since the redesigned model appeared in 2015, owners and lessees have reported trouble with the paint and trim, navigation system, power equipment, and weather-stripping, among other things. Altogether, the feedback landed Suburban the worst score for any model in the large SUV class.
3. Mazda CX-9
While Mazda usually places high on the list of most reliable brands, the automaker dropped six places (to 12th) in late 2017. CX-9, the midsize SUV redesigned for 2016, dragged the automaker down as the worst model in its class. Problems with in-car electronics, body integrity, and the brake system brought CX-9’s score down below 20. Perennially struggling Fiat-Chrysler SUVs even did better than this Mazda ahead of 2018.
4. Lincoln MKX
For the third straight year since its redesign, Lincoln MKX landed in the bottom of the luxury SUV pack for reliability. Owners did not report many complaints outside of the electronics system, but Consumer Reports noted an airbag recall among its deficiencies. Its predicted reliability score of less than 20 was the Lincoln brand’s worst.
5. GMC Acadia
It was a rough year for General Motors brands in the 2017 reliability survey. Chevrolet dropped out of the top 15 and GMC fell all the way down to No. 26 of 27 automakers. The worst performer for GMC was Acadia, which had issues ranging from blank screens to a navigation system with a habit of crashing. Its rear-view camera and drive system didn’t win Acadia any fans either.
6. Land Rover Range Rover
The Range Rover’s reputation preceded it in the latest Consumer Reports roundup. After averaging three recalls per year since 2015, testers were comfortable giving this luxury model the worst rating possible. With a high-end model SUV close to $200,000, consumers shouldn’t have to deal with antiquated electronics systems or other problems. Sadly, that’s what people have gotten with Range Rover (and its Sport model variant, too).
7. Tesla Model X
If you swing for the fences, sometimes the ball only reaches the warning track, several feet shy of a home run (a “loud out,” they call it). You might say that’s what happened with Tesla Model X. This electric SUV had more ambition in one vehicle than most automakers display in their entire lineup. Unfortunately, Tesla could not deliver on the promise.
Even when it worked out some kinks in the falcon-wing doors, Model X still had issues with body integrity and its overall finish. Consumer Reports ranked it the least reliable vehicle — car, SUV, or truck — on the U.S. market.
8. Fiat 500X
It wasn’t all bad news for American automakers. Fiat-Chrysler, a brand that’s been bloodied by reliability studies in the past, made something of a comeback this time around. Chrysler jumped up 10 places on the back of the new Pacifica, and even the beleaguered Jeep brand showed positive movement.
Nonetheless, Fiat continued to struggle in Consumer Reports testing, with 500X at the bottom of the barrel among subcompact SUVs. Vibrations, excess cabin noise, and poor fuel economy await buyers of this model.
9. Jaguar F-Pace
In many ways, Land Rover-Jaguar is the Fiat-Chrysler of luxury automakers: the one with numerous defective models in every dependability survey. That trend continued with the Jaguar F-Pace, the performance brand’s first SUV. Between a “slow” and “fussy” touchscreen, a subpar AC system, and issues with the drive system, F-Pace seemed unprepared for its debut.
10. GMC Yukon XL
Both before and after its 2015 redesign, the Suburban-Yukon XL-Escalade triad has gotten terrible reliability ratings. Owners complained about power equipment, interior controls, and general body integrity. As for Consumer Reports testers, they pointed to deficiencies in this massive SUV’s emergency handling, ranking it last among eight large SUVs. Yukon XL was the only big utility model to score below 20 for reliability.
11. Mercedes-Benz GLC
Ahead of 2018, consumers saw a slew of new compact SUVs from luxury automakers, and nearly all of them debuted with poor reliability scores. Consumer Reports called out Mercedes GLC’s brake system, suspension, and power controls while naming it one of the 10 worst of the year. The same applied to the GLC Coupe. Testers loved the drive experience and overall Benz product, but they couldn’t recommend any GLC due to these defects.
12. Cadillac Escalade
The Cadillac Escalade has all the trappings of an overpriced vehicle. For starters, it’s based on the Chevy Suburban that starts at about $20,000 less. Once you factor in problems with the transmission system and climate control (as reported by owners), you get the feeling you should save your $75,000. Unless you need to haul an army and tow its artillery, find something less problematic.
13. Volvo XC90
If you had to pick one truly disappointing model on this list, we’d choose Volvo XC90. This luxury SUV debuted with gorgeous styling and a powertrain worth celebrating but failed to follow through. Owners reported issues with the vehicle’s electrical system and power equipment, but most unnerving of all was the trouble with its brake system. For a brand predicated on high-level safety, that’s unacceptable.
14. Porsche Cayenne
As recently as 2014, Consumer Reports ranked Porsche Cayenne among the industry’s elite for luxury SUV reliability. Those ratings plummeted in the subsequent years until finally Cayenne became one of the worst. Porsche’s legendary powertrains still hold sway, but issues with interior controls and electronics took this model off the recommended list. If you spend $60,000 and up on a luxury vehicle, you deserve better.
15. Land Rover Discovery
Like the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, and Land Rover Discovery Sport, this luxury SUV line got torched in the reliability survey for 2018. Issues with the Land Rover Discovery made it four Consumer Reports-tested models with well below-average scores. Issues with subpar headlights, transmission, and emergency handling forced this model among the segment’s worst performers.
Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!