Consumer Reports has named the Tesla Motors Model S electric car the best vehicle on the road.
The magazine on Tuesday called the luxury sports sedan its top pick of all 2014 model-year cars. This was the first time since 2010 that Consumer Reports named a top overall pick. The last was the Lexus LS 460L.
The Consumer Reports staff was wowed by the $89,650 Tesla, said Jake Fisher, CR's automotive test director. He said it could have won in several segments, including green car and luxury car.
"This electric luxury vehicle offers blistering acceleration, razor-sharp handling, a compliant ride and a versatile cabin with room for a small third-row seat," the magazine said. "This technological tour de force, while pricey, is brimming with innovation and offers a 225-mile driving range."
The Model S, which went on sale in 2012, got the highest score ever recorded in Consumer Reports' auto testing last spring. But the magazine didn't have enough data from subscribers to rank its reliability.
Spokesman Doug Love said the magazine now has enough data to give the Model S a "good" reliability rating. More than 600 Model S owners submitted responses in the magazine's latest reliability survey.
For the second year, Lexus, Toyota's luxury brand, earned the top overall score in the magazine's Brand Report Cards. Honda's Acura luxury division took second place and Audi was third.
Japanese automakers dominated the list, taking seven of the top 10 spots. Lexus was the only brand to achieve an excellent average overall reliability score.
According to Consumer Reports, the intent of the report cards is to show which brands are producing the best all-around vehicles. Overall scores are calculated using road-test scores and scores for predicted reliability. Reliability scores come from information provided by the magazine's 1.1 million subscribers during its annual reliability survey.
Scores ranged from the 79 points earned by Lexus to Jeep's 50. Following Lexus were Acura (75) and Audi (74), Volkswagen's upscale division.
The magazine's editors noted that Audi moved up from eighth place last year to third this year because its cars have "beautifully finished interiors," "responsive handling" and a "range of fuel-sipping engines."
Audi's new models earned the automaker the highest average road-test score.
"We've seen Audi making really great cars for a while, and we've seen the reliability improve," Fisher said. "You put that together and they come in third."
Rounding out the top 10 were Subaru (72), Toyota (72), Mazda (71), Honda (70), Infiniti (69), Mercedes-Benz (68) and BMW (60).
The top-performing U.S. brands were Buick (63), GMC (63) and Chrysler (62). They occupied the middle of the pack, and Ford and Jeep were tied for the lowest score: 50. Rounding out the bottom five slots were Dodge (53), Cadillac (54) and Chevrolet (56).
Only five of the 17 Ford models tested are recommended by the magazine. Much of the reluctance to recommend individual Ford vehicles stemmed from problems with the MyFord Touch infotainment system.
"Ford outscored Toyota and was even with Honda on road test scores, but reliability is killing Ford and a lot of that is from MyFord Touch," said Rik Paul, Consumer Reports' automotive editor.
Ford will stop using Microsoft Windows in the next generation of its infotainment system, to be offered in 2016. Instead, the automaker will work with Blackberry's QNX operating system. Other automakers who use the QNX system do well in electronics reliability.
For a brand to qualify for inclusion in the report, Consumer Reports requires road-test and reliability data from at least three of its nameplates. Fiat, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mini, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Ram, Scion, Smart and Tesla were not included in the 2014 rankings.
Contributing: AP, Los Angeles Times, New York Times