Over the years, we have heard a lot of gripes about unreliable luxury
Lamborghini's LM002 "had the durability of a potato chip," one car-
industry analyst remarked. Your typical Land Rover, one reader wrote,
is "as reliable as a drunken house painter."
And there are entire Web sites dedicated to jokes about Lucas, the
company which used to supply mediocre electrical components to Jaguar,
giving the automaker's build quality a miserable reputation that has
endured for decades ("Q. Why do the English drink warm beers? A.
Because they have Lucas refrigerators").
In other words, if you buy a luxury car, don't expect it to be trouble-
In Pictures: 2007's Most Reliable Luxury Cars
But some brands, particularly Japanese luxury automakers, are known
for immaculate manufacturing. At the start of this year, half of the
market's 16 most-reliable luxury cars -- the models which earn
Consumer Reports' highest marks for predicted reliability and/or J.D.
Power's highest marks for manufacturing quality -- were Japanese,
including Toyota Motor's (nyse: TM - news - people ) $61,000 Lexus LS
flagship sedan, which the carmaker just overhauled.
The new LS is the fourth generation of the car since Lexus introduced
the line in 1989, and it has garnered more awards for quality than any
other luxury car, says Lexus. It has also won J.D. Power's Vehicle
Dependability Index study every year it has been eligible.
Lexus builds five of the 16 most-reliable luxury cars. Its slogan used
to be "the relentless pursuit of perfection," and it wasn't just lip
While the company has world-renowned manufacturing methods, "the
pursuit of perfection" is implanted so vigorously into Toyota's
corporate culture that Lexus engineers its trademark reliability into
cars before they ever hit the factories. The company's designers and
engineers have mastered the science behind the creation of reliable
vehicles, and they don't need to wait to see how their technology and
engineering will hold up on the actual cars, at least not to the
extent that other manufacturers do (to test things out, other
automakers need to build more pre-production prototypes than Lexus
Given Toyota's merits, we were surprised to find that several other
luxury cars compare favorably with Lexus' models, despite being issued
by companies that are hardly Toyota-like.
DaimlerChrysler's (nyse: DCX - news - people ) Mercedes-Benz
subsidiary, for example, has had reliability issues resulting in
massive recalls and dreadful Consumer Reports ratings. However, J.D.
Power has given two of the carmaker's vehicles (the SL and SLK
convertibles) its highest marks for manufacturing quality. Power
reports that SL and SLK owners, within 90 days of taking delivery of
their new cars, are seeing very few problems with features,
accessories, interior components and body quality. Could Mercedes
finally be tackling its quality-control issues?
We're asking the same question of other German cars this year. In
general, they are known for having technology that is prone to failure
because of its complexity. Yet we were surprised to see cars by
Mercedes, BMW and Porsche on our list this year.
Our list is made of new-model cars. A car is on our list if it has the
highest marks for reliability from Consumer Reports and/or J.D. Power.
Both use one-to-five scales for evaluating quality and reliability. A
"top marks" indicates a "five" from Power or Consumer Reports, or
both. The vast majority of luxury cars are not on our list.
What's more, not every luxury car has reliability ratings. If a car
was new or overhauled for calendar-year 2006, don't expect to see it
here. For example, Consumer Reports has not issued reliability
predictions for Cadillac's Escalade and Acura's MDX, two SUVs that
were overhauled last year. New cars like these need to be on the
market longer in order for customers to report problems the vehicles
may be having. And such blue-blooded cars as Maybach and Bentley
models tend not to have reliability ratings from Power and Consumer
Reports because the vehicles' volumes are too low to make for
Power bases its overall manufacturing quality score on "problems that
have caused a complete breakdown or malfunction of any component,
feature, or item--i.e., components that stop working or trim pieces
that break or come loose." Both Power and Consumer Reports base their
quality and reliability ratings on owner responses to their surveys.
Consumer Reports asks owners if they have had trouble with their cars'
engines, electrical systems, paint, audio systems and other
Rest assured, it's possible to find luxury and reliability in one
vehicle. And that's no joke.