Consumer Reports' appliance testing runs the gamut, from entry-level units that might be right for a rental apartment to the high-end models you see in glossy design magazines. Some low-priced appliances actually outperform the priciest competition in our tests. But let's face it—no one is going to put a $400 coil-top electric range in their designer kitchen, even if it does simmer better than pro-style ranges in our tests. Luxury appliances are as much about style and name recognition as they are about performance. Here are 10 favorites from our Ratings that have the requisite cachet—but also the ability to get the job done.
The sleek, integrated look of a built-in refrigerator is choice for many luxury kitchens. Sub-Zero is one of, if not the, most recognized names in built-in refrigeration. The company's founder Westye F. Bakke, is credited with designing the first built-in back in 1943, and he founded the Sub-Zero Freezer Company two years later in Madison, WI. In Consumer Reports' refrigerator tests, the Sub-Zero BI42S, $8,000, delivered super temperature control and its dual evaporators help maintain freshness. The unit comes in stainless steel or integrated panels to match the surrounding cabinetry.
In 2000, Wolf and Sub-Zero merged to form one of the most formidable names in pro-style appliances. Wolf handles the cooking appliances, and its ranges have become synonymous with commercial-grade, with their trademark red knobs and distinctive name plate. "Pro-style ranges don't function like conventional ranges, so they take some getting used to," says Consumer Reports market analyst (and professional chef) Michael DiLauro, who put in a Wolf range when he recently remodeled his kitchen.
In our latest tests, the 30-inch-wide Wolf DF304, $6,400, was a top scorer, and it comes with dual-stacked burners, continuous cast iron grates, and convection fans in the oven. If you're looking for a 36-inch-wide pro-style range, consider the KitchenAid KDRU763VSS, $6,000, which tops that category in our pro-style range Ratings.
Miele's fully-integrated dishwashers complete the streamlined look in a high-end contemporary kitchen. From its top-tier Diamond Series, the Miele Futura Dimension G5675SCSF, $1,900, combined standout washing performance and energy efficiency in our dishwasher tests, and it has many of the features you look for in a premium appliance, including soft-close door, LED interior lights, and time-remaining display—helpful since the dishwasher is among the quietest in our tests, so much so that you might forget it's on.
Thermador is another respected name in high-end dishwashers, along with other kitchen appliances. The brand is owned by BSH Home Appliances Corporation, which also makes the Bosch dishwashers that do well in our dishwasher Ratings. So you know you're getting a quality product. The Thermador Topaz Series DWHD640JFM, $1,500, delivered outstanding washing performance in our tests and its blue light operating indicator lets you know when the dishwasher is running.
Thermador is a proven innovator in the cooking appliance category as well, as we found when we tested its 36-inch induction cooktop, the Thermador CIT36XKB, $5,000. While other induction cooktops have set elements, this model features an end-to-end electromagnetic surface, so you can put your pot or pan anywhere. If you need to move the cookware to another spot, the cooktop will transfer the programmed setting originally selected. High and low cooking were both exceptional in our tests. And the cooktop comes with the industry's first full-color touch screen induction panel.
Even if you don't drink a lot of wine, a built-in wine chiller has become a common feature in designer kitchens, so it will add to your home's value. If you do enjoy a good bottle, it's best to get a chiller that maintains uniform and stable temperature and humidity levels, like the Vinotemp VT-46TS-2Z, $1,000, from one of the biggest names in wine storage. The 46-bottle chiller has dual zones, so you can store your reds and whites at their optimal temperatures. Other features include tinted glass, touch screen controls, and a door lock.
French-door wall ovens are the latest restaurant feature to find its way into home kitchens. We tested the GE Cafe Series CT9070SHSS wall oven, $3,900, and were impressed by its solid baking, broiling, and oven capacity. It's engineered to allow for one-handed opening of both doors at one time, and the oven can be controlled wirelessly from your smartphone.
We also like Miele for its luxury-line vacuum cleaners. The Miele S 8590 Marin, $1,000, is our top-rated bagged canister vacuum, combining exceptional bare floor cleaning with very good carpet cleaning. Its features include suction control, retractable cord, and a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Among bagged uprights, the Miele S 7210 Twist, $475, and the Miele S 7260 Cat & Dog, $715, are two standouts from our vacuum cleaner tests that are also full-featured.
Like Q-tip and Kleenex, KitchenAid has become synonymous with the product it created—even though the KitchenAid brand is now on a lot more than stand mixers, which it invented back in 1919. The KitchenAid Professional 6500 Design Series stand mixer, $550, is probably the most eye-catching model, with its glass bowl and familiar color palette, including candy apple red, frosted pearl white, and slate gray. In terms of performance, the KitchenAid offers superb mixing, kneading, and whipping, and its optional attachments include a pasta maker and meat grinder.
Here's a case where the most expensive is also the best. The Vitamix Professional Series 750, $650, tops our Ratings of several dozen blenders, thanks to its ability to handle a wide range of blending tasks, including smoothies, whole-fruit juices, sauces, soups, and more. Vitamix has established a reputation for excellence. It sailed through our stand mixer durability tests, and the user reviews on our site are practically perfect, earning 4.9 stars out of a possible 5.
—Daniel DiClerico (@dandiclerico on Twitter)