10 Most Satisfying Cars
The models that bring their owners joy
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Choosing the perfect car can involve significant research, as you look at pricing, features, and safety. A savvy shopper will also factor in a model’s reliability and even its owner satisfaction, that survey-based measure of how pleased car buyers are with the vehicle they own. Being armed with this broad collection of data, backed up with a personal test-drive, should help shoppers identify the model that meets all their needs and makes them happy.
To learn about satisfaction, CR has collected survey data from our annual survey on more than half a million vehicles. Our subscribers provide great insights into their satisfaction by answering one simple question: If they had it to do all over again, would they definitely buy or lease the same model? In addition, respondents also rate their cars in six categories: driving experience, comfort, value, styling, audio, and climate systems.
From this data, we find that the vehicles that lived up to their promises—and their owners’ expectations—are rated as the most satisfying.
Tesla Model S
This sleek, fully electric four-door luxury car seats five, or seven with the optional rear-facing jump seats. With its standard 75-kWh battery we found the Tesla could cover 235 miles on a single charge. The car can be charged in about six hours on a dedicated Tesla connector or it can be topped off for free at public Superchargers. Performance is exceptional, with quiet and thrilling acceleration, pinpoint handling, and a firm yet comfortable ride—particularly with the standard 19-inch tires and air suspension. The hatchback design aids versatility and the front trunk is a bonus. A huge iPad-like center touch screen interfaces with most functions but proves distracting. Other drawbacks include tight access, restricted visibility, and range limitations, especially in cold weather. All-wheel drive is now standard, and active safety features are available.
The 911's iconic shape hides a thoroughly modern sports car, delivering performance and relative refinement. All of the engines have been updated, with the base model getting a 370-hp six and the Carrera S a 420-hp six, both matched with a seven-speed manual. The 911 is quick, with sublime handling that makes you feel directly connected to the machine. The exhaust note is terrific, and driving the automated manual is almost as thrilling as the stick shift. The 911 isn't particularly taxing on long trips, thanks to its relatively supple ride and subdued noise levels, but the low-slung cabin makes access a challenge. The interior is beautifully crafted, but the numerous buttons and switches can be daunting at first.
The sharp-edged Corvette has abundant power from its 455-hp, 6.2-liter V8 and an interior worthy of the price. A seven-speed manual is standard, with an eight-speed automatic optional. Drivers with a thirst for more power can opt for the 650-hp Z06. The car's all-aluminum construction optimizes weight savings and strength. Whether in coupe or convertible form, acceleration is blisteringly quick and handling is pinpoint. With the adjustable driving modes the car can be a fairly refined cruiser or track-ready race car. The seats deliver support and comfort. But you can't ignore the low-slung cabin, which requires almost acrobatic skills to access; the vague manual shifter; and the omnipresent tire noise. The 460-hp Grand Sport version adds a number of the Z06's aerodynamic components.
Based on the accomplished MKZ, the Continental is Lincoln's high-tech flagship sedan. The base engine is a lackluster 3.7-liter V6. The 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6, however, packs a lot of punch. The top level gets a 400-hp, 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive optional. The ride is very comfortable, and the cabin is super-quiet. Handling is responsive, but the car is intended to be a relaxed cruiser. The cabin is nicely finished and very roomy, particularly in the back. The standard front seats look unusual and compromise support. We're no fans of the push-button gear selector and the electronic buttons that are used instead of an interior door handle. In terms of pricing, the Continental competes with luxury midsized sedans.
The Ford SuperDuty truck has always had a single-minded focus: Handle heavy loads and tough jobs. The redesigned 2017 model builds on that legacy by reducing the beast's overall weight and going heavy on refinement and technology. Of all HD trucks tested recently, the F-250 is a unanimous favorite among our staff. The
F-350 notches that workhorse capability up a notch, and it clearly delivers, based on the standout satisfaction among owners.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
The fourth-generation Miata remains true to Mazda's original formula of a lightweight, rear-wheel-drive roadster. Although 155 hp from the 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine doesn't sound impressive, the Miata quickly scoots along while returning a miserly small-car fuel economy. Shifting the delightfully accurate six-speed manual shifter is a joy; we'd skip the optional automatic, though it works fine. Quick and precise steering delivers sublime back-road handling, even though some body roll is noticeable. High levels of noise, thin and unsupportive seats, and a stiff ride all grow fatiguing during highway travel. Cabin space is snug, and the optional dial-controlled infotainment system takes time to master. Flipping the convertible top open or closed is a breeze.
In our tests the Prius returned 52 mpg overall, a significant improvement over the previous generation's 44 mpg. On top of that, the new car also handles more responsively and rides more comfortably. Colorful digital gauges dominate the dashboard with abundant fuel-economy information. The touch-screen infotainment system is fairly straightforward. The sensible Prius has always been about efficiency and low running costs. The car can drive solely on electric, up to about 25 mph typically, and the engine is now quieter when it kicks in. However, the seats are rather chintzy, tire noise is noticeable, and cabin access is not as easy because of the car's lower stance. A plug-in version, the Prius Prime, can go about 23 miles on electric power, and takes five hours to charge on 120V. Forward-collision warning with automatic braking is standard.
Tesla Model X
The electric-powered Model X is more showy than practical. It features rear doors that open up and out of the way, giving easy access to the rear seats. But these massive doors take their time to open and close. The huge windshield extends up and over the front-seat occupants, making the cabin feel airy and futuristic. Buyers can opt for five-, six-, or seven-passenger seating configurations, but unlike every other SUV, the second row doesn't fold if you have the two captain's chairs, which compromises utility. Like the S, the Model X is very quick and handles well. Ride comfort and noise isolation aren't as good as in the S, however. The 90-kWh version we tested had a realistic 230-mile range.
The all-new fifth-generation Odyssey packs in more refinement, quietness, fuel economy, and an improved infotainment system. Its interior flexibility has improved, too, with the ability to slide the second-row outboard seats sideways. Several connectivity and storage features keep the entire family happy. The 280 hp 3.5-liter V6 engine supplies ample power and is teamed with a fairly unobtrusive nine-speed automatic transmission. The top trims, Touring and Elite, get a slicker 10-speed transmission. The engine is smooth, punchy, and quiet, but there is no all-wheel-drive option. The ride is very comfortable, the cabin is quiet, and handling is sound. However, the push-button gear selector is a nuisance to use when parking. An optional 8-inch infotainment touch screen is easier to use than the previous offering, but it can still be distracting.
The look may be old school, yet the Challenger is a modern, thrilling barnstormer. It's too heavy and wide for pinpoint handling on narrow roads, but it's balanced and enjoyable on an open track. The V8 sound is heartwarming. Ride comfort, noise isolation, and the stiff shifter and clutch detract, and the view out is dreadful. The rear seat is relatively roomy, but access is awkward. Performance packages include a 485-hp, 6.4-liter V8; a 707-hp, 6.2-liter supercharged V8 in the Hellcat; and a 808-hp, 6.2-liter V8 in the Demon. A six-speed manual and an eight-speed automatic are available. We prefer the 5.7-liter V8 over the base V6. Safety tech includes blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning, and forward-collision warning. A GT trim, with all-wheel drive and a V6 engine, is also available.
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