As Consumer Reports prepares to release its 2015 Autos Spotlight, which includes our highly anticipated Top Picks and Car Brand Report Cards, we asked our Facebook followers to name the best car on the market today.
The guidelines were simple: Choose a vehicle that is currently available in the United States that you’d want to live with as a daily driver.
The followers' initial open-ended submissions defined the field. We then asked people to “vote” on the five most popular models: Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, Subaru Outback, Tesla Model S, and Toyota Highlander. From these, the Subaru Outback won, garnering a quarter of the votes.
We’re proud to say that our Facebook followers took this challenge seriously, selecting vehicles that meet the stringent criteria to be Consumer Reports recommended. In other words, these are all good, safe, and reliable models.
There were a number of comments asking where the American cars were. To remind, these models were submitted by readers—not selected Consumer Reports. And among these finalists, the Honda CR-V (Ohio), Subaru Outback (Indiana), Toyota Highlander (Indiana), and Tesla Model S (California) are made in America.
Winner: Subaru Outback (25 percent)
The redesigned Subaru Outback hits a sweet spot, with refined manners, benchmark safety scores, available advanced safety equipment, easy-to-use infotainment system, and ample passenger and cargo space. Factor in standard all-wheel drive and respectable fuel economy, and you have an SUV alternative that the people feel is a true winner. Several commenters wrote that they love theirs, and Robin Siegel explained that “It's practical, goes through most anything, and can haul as much as I've ever wanted while keeping it out of the weather.” The Outback won last year with our inaugural People’s Pick contest, and this repeat performance shows that its standing was no fluke.
Second place: Subaru Forester (24 percent)
In the crowded, and popular, small SUV segment, the Subaru Forester stands tall. Literally. Its positives include large windows, big doors, an excellent driving position, and unusually spacious rear seating. In our tests, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder and continuously variable transmission averaged an impressive 26 mpg overall. Plus, the Forester has an excellent rating for predicted reliability, owner satisfaction, owner costs, and accident avoidance. And it gets top marks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) across its suite of crash tests. Commenter Celinda Woodworth Figgins captured the essence, writing, “I just bought a Forrester this past fall. I am extremely happy with it!”
Third place: Toyota Highlander (23 percent)
Now in its third generation, the redesigned Highlander remains a functional and family-friendly choice, with frugal gas mileage, consistently good reliability, and pleasant manners. A wide third row allows seating for eight, or seven with optional second-row captain's chairs. The 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine and the smooth 3.5-liter V6 are matched to a six-speed automatic. The Hybrid version takes the smooth, powerful V6 from the regular Highlander and adds a hybrid battery pack and three electric motors. In our tests, the AWD V6 averaged 20 mpg overall; the Hybrid version got 25 mpg. The Highlander stands as one of our top-rated midsized SUVs, and it was a smart choice by this year’s voters.
Honorable mention: Honda CR-V (17 percent)
This has been quite the year for the freshened Honda CR-V, with the small SUV garnering industry accolades and healthy sales numbers. This latest recognition reflects a general awareness and respect for this practical, dependable model. Rear-seat room and cargo space are generous, even relative to this commodious class. And it has a history of better-than-average predicted reliability and owner satisfaction, with excellent owner costs. The 2015 update brought a raft of new electronic safety features, added equipment, and most significantly, a new 185-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine matched with the CR-V's first continuously variable transmission (CVT). As one commenter simply put it, “We have one, and it is nice, with good gas mileage.” 'Nuff said.
Honorable mention: Tesla Model S (10 percent)
A technological tour de force, the Tesla Model S sets the benchmark for innovation and overall performance, scoring a near-perfect 99 out of 100 points in Consumer Reports road tests. The sporty four-door luxury car does everything well, with spacious accommodations, elegant interior, thrilling acceleration, pinpoint handling, and a comfortable ride. Being electric means freeing owners from the volatility of gas prices and providing the convenience of home charging. With its optional 85-kWh battery (the largest available), it can travel between 180 and 225 miles per charge, and it can be fully charged in as little as five hours on a dedicated Tesla connector. Plus, as we’ve routinely experienced with our own Model S, the car continues to improve even after it is bought, thanks to periodic over-the-air upgrades that add refinements and features. Facebook commenter Robert Pike wrote of his Tesla, "I couldn't be happier. It is quiet, it's safe, it's sexy, and if you plan your trips tright, you can save a big bundle on fuel costs." The Model S is truly a special car and well deserving of this recognition.
The people have had their say, making five smart choices. Soon it will be our turn.
Consumer Reports will release its 2015 Top Picks at 12:45 p.m. ET on Tuesday, February 24, at: consumerreports.org/AutosSpotlight.
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