Consistency is key. Consumer Reports' annual analysis reveals that some brands exhibit high-level performance across their lines. Many others do not.

In our 2017 analysis of which car brands make the best vehicles, Audi takes the top position for the second year in a row, followed by Porsche, BMW, Lexus, and Subaru. Although these are the same top five as last year, Porsche and BMW rose, and Lexus and Subaru moved down.

This year Chrysler, Acura, Infiniti, and Cadillac were the most upwardly mobile. Chrysler rose seven places, and the other three brands each moved up six places compared with last year.

Some of the standout brands benefit from a tiny roster. Tesla, the highest-ranked American brand, earns its position based on just two models. Likewise, Chrysler has one of the higher average road-test scores, but that’s also based on just two models: the 300 and Pacifica (low Overall Scores keep both from being recommended). Fiat, Jeep, Mitsubishi, and Land Rover remain stubbornly stuck at the bottom of the list.

To arrive at the rankings, we averaged the Overall Scores for new cars from every major automotive brand based on the vehicles we have purchased and tested, then we ranked them. Brands with just one tested model were omitted.

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The Overall Score is the combination of our road tests, predicted reliability, owner satisfaction, and safety. For each brand we indicate the percentage of tested models that earned a recommended designation. This percentage reveals a meaningful differentiation. Only Porsche, BMW, and Mazda earned a recommendation on every model we tested. Audi, Honda, and Hyundai lead the other brands, with 86 percent of their tested lines being recommended.

From year to year we see movements in brand rankings because of changes in reliability and new road tests. Subaru dropped from second to fifth place because the previously very reliable Legacy and Outback are now rated only average, and the WRX/STI dropped to below average. Similarly, Mini dropped 11 places because the unreliable Cooper and Clubman weighed down the average Overall Score. Volkswagen tumbled eight spots because its reliability slid from average last year to below average for 2017.

Finally, the rankings do not reflect corporate behavior. Consumer Reports continues to push for consumers to be fully compensated for Audi, Porsche, Volkswagen, and other vehicles potentially affected by emissions cheating scandals.

Grading the Brands

To show how the car brands compare, we present them in rank order below based on the Overall Score. Roll your cursor over the brand name to see each brand's predicted reliability and owner satisfaction highlighted.

For further insights, a box appears during the rollover listing the selected brand's average Overall Score and road-test score.

Combined, these key factors show each brand measures up. Through this interactive, you'll see that every brand has its own combination of scores, with some being strong across the board and others having varied performance.

For example, top-ranked Audi has better-than-average predicted reliability and owner satisfaction—rather than receiving the highest scores. But the brand shines with an impressive 86-point average road-test score, contributing to the highest Overall Score of 81.

If you're reading this article on a smartphone, you will not be able to view the interactive. 

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the April 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.