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Who makes the best cars?

Lexus tops our brand report cards with overall excellence

Consumer Reports magazine: April 2013

When it comes to making cars, Lexus pushes all of the right buttons: Its lux­ury models are quiet, comfortable, and fuel efficient, and they’re among the most reliable. That’s quite a feat for a brand whose cars are brimming with technology, such as hybrid drivetrains and complicated infotainment systems. All of that earned Lexus the highest overall score, 79, in our 2013 brand report cards.

Just off Lexus’ pace are two smaller makes, Subaru and Mazda, with scores of 76. They don’t usually get much attention, but both build solid cars with good handling, fuel economy, and versatility at relatively affordable prices. Toyota and Acura round out the top five, with scores of 74.

This year we took a different look at who makes the best cars by grading each automaker’s individual brands. Rather than calculating a single score for Toyota, for ­example, our analysis looked at Toyota, Lexus, and Scion models separately. We think that brings our scores more in line with the way people shop for cars.

We calculate each brand’s overall score using an equally weighted composite of our road-test and reliability scores for each of its models that we’ve tested and for which our subscribers provided reliability data in our Annual Auto Survey. To be included, each brand needs at least three models for which we have test and reliability data. That’s why we didn’t include Fiat, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Ram, or Smart: Each had too few models for which we had adequate reliability data. Several sell fewer than three models.

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