By Suzanne Kane
In its annual report of the Best of the Best, Consumer Reports magazine also gives a rundown of the Worst of the Worst. These are the worst used cars, crossovers, SUVs and trucks out there in terms of reliability – at least according to data compiled by Consumer Reports. The full list is a lot more than 10, but we’ve looked at the bunch and grouped these 10 together. True, they’re not all cars (a crossover here and there, but that’s like a car in most consumer’s minds, anyway), but they’re all on Consumer Reports’ list of worst. So, here goes. And, no, we’re not picking on an automaker just because they have 2 (or 3) models on the list. It is what it is, folks.
For each model, listed alphabetically, we’ll give you a brief rundown of the vehicle. Consumer Reports doesn’t mention specific years for the Worst of the Worst list. Their data takes into consideration the years 1999 through 2008. We’ve also added insights from other sources, such as Edmunds.com.
* Audi A6 allroad quattro– Based on the A6 Avant, Audi introduced the allroad quattro in 2001. A crossover that seemed to be somewhere between a station wagon and SUV, the A6 allroad quattro was a luxury vehicle that offered a height-adjustable suspension to increase ground clearance. In 2004, the all-wheel drive (AWD) luxury vehicle had a turbocharged 250-hp 2.7-liter V-6 engine in the 2T wagon, or a 300-hp 4.2-liter V-8 in the 4.2 wagon. According to data from Automotive Information Systems, the 2001 A6 allroad quattro had significant steering and suspension problems, while the 2003 model had moderate engine problems.
* – Audi’s luxury flagship sedan, the A8 debuted in 1997. It featured extensive use of aluminum which gave it a weight advantage over competitors. An extended wheelbase A8L arrived in 2000. The second-generation A8 debuted in the 2004 model year, with an enhanced 310-hp 4.2-liter V-8 engine. An all-new A8 L model arrived in 2004 model year, powered by a 330-hp 4.2-liter V-8, and advanced aluminum air spring suspension, shock absorber control and quattro permanent AWD. The 2006 model experienced significant brake problems, according to Automotive Information Systems data.
* – When it debuted in the 2004 model year, the Chrysler Pacifica was one of the first large crossover wagons. Available only in Base and Limited trims at first, the midsize wagon was powered by a 210-hp 3.8-liter V-6. Numerous repair problems plagued Pacifica for the 2004 model. A 250-hp 3.5-liter V-6 was added in 2005 and a 250-hp 4.0-liter V-6 bowed in 2007. Editors at Edmunds.com say to avoid the 3.8-liter engine. Consumer Reports doesn’t specify particular problems for Pacifica, but it does appear on their list as having multiple years of much worse than average reliability for the years 1999 through 2008.
* Chrysler Sebring Convertible – Chrysler launched the Sebring Convertible in 1996, a year after the introduction of the new Sebring midsize coupe. It was powered by a 163-hp 2.5-liter V-6 engine. The second-generation bowed in 2001, with a reworked convertible model powered by a 200-hp 2.7-liter V-6 engine. Editors at Edmunds.com say that over time, the Sebring’s drivetrain was unrefined, ride quality was harsh, and interior materials and build quality were well below average. Consumer Reports comments that among 10-year old vehicles, the 2008 Convertible was the most unreliable, with 59 problems per 100 vehicles.
* – Mazda introduced its all-new rotary-powered 4-seat sports car RX-8 for the 2004 model year. It was powered by a 1.3-liter engine that delivered 197 horsepower (automatic) and 238 horsepower (manual). It featured small rear-hinged doors for rear-seat access. Minimal changes occurred through 2008 model year, while the 2009 model received a redesigned front and new interior changes. RX-8 models for 2004 through 2006 experienced significant engine problems, according to Automotive Information Systems. Other minor problems for 2004 models include those with air conditioning, cold-start difficulties, and driver’s seat memory function (2004-2005). Editors at Edmunds.com advise consumers to avoid the 4-speed automatic transmission in 2004 models.
* – General Motors’ first crossover vehicle, the midsize Pontiac Aztek was only produced for the 2001 to 2005 model years. This was a cross between a minivan and a sport utility vehicle that you either loved or hated. Editors at Edmunds.com panned it for its weak engine (185-hp 3.4-liter V-6), and ungainly handling. The 2001 model was available in Base or GT, FWD or AWD. By 2005, only Base was available. The V-6 engine got 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway or combined 19 mpg in EPA fuel economy.
* (V6) – Debuting for the 2005 model year, the midsize Pontiac G6 replaced the Grand Am. The first year, G6 was only available as a sedan, with coupe and convertible arriving in 2006. Powered mostly by V-6 engines, horsepower ranged from the 252-hp 3.5-liter V-6, to 222-hp 3.9-liter V-6 (convertible). In 2006, GTP coupes/sedans got a 240-hp V-6 (227 in GTP convertible). Editors at Consumer Guide note problems with electrical, engine noise, fuel gauge and water leak in 2005-2006 models.
* – The German automaker based the Volkswagen Cabrio on the mid-1990s FWD Golf hatchback and Jetta sedan. It replaced the old Rabbit-based Cabriolet. With only a single 115-hp 4-cylinder engine and standard 5-speed manual transmission (automatic optional), Cabrio had standard dual airbags and anti-lock brakes (ABS) and a manually-operated soft top. Consumer Guide reported problems with 1995-1997 Cabrios in the area of automatic transmission, dashboard lights, hard starting, door locks and transmission noise. Cabrio achieved EPA fuel economy of 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway or combined 24 mpg. Cabrio was produced only from 1995-2002.
* (turbo) – It hasn’t been redesigned in a dozen years since its 1998 debut, but the Volkswagen New Beetle still shoulders on. Turbo and TDI-powered models have come and gone in the New Beetle, which was based on the old VW Golf platform. Since Consumer Reports specifies turbo in the worst models, we’ll concentrate on turbo engines in the New Beetle. In 1999, a 150-hp 1.8-liter 4-cylinder turbo model was offered, and in 2002 the Turbo S boasted 180 horsepower and an exclusive 6-speed manual transmission. In 2006, VW dropped the 1.8-liter turbodiesel and replaced it with a 100-hp 1.9-liter TDI. In J.D. Power and Associates reliability ratings, the New Beetle had moderate engine problems for 2002 to 2004 and 2006.
* (V6, FWD, 2000 AWD) – Volkswagen Passat entered its fourth generation (1998-2005) with a 190-hp 2.8-liter 30-valve V-6 engine and FWD. A V-6 wagon was added to the coupe and sedan lineup in 2000, along with AWD. The fifth generation began in 2006 and included a 247-hp 3.2-liter V-6 engine. Reliability reports for the Passat show significant engine problems in 2002, 2004 and 2006, with moderate engine problems in 2003 and 2004. Moderate brake and accessory problems were evident in 2002 Passats, and accessory problems in 2003-2004. Consumer Reports notes that the Passat V-6 AWD (from 2000 on) had multiple years of problems.