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CR Tests Passat, Fusion, Sonata, Impala, & Charger

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The current issue of Consumer Reports tests family sedans. They tested multiple versions of the Passat, Fusion/Milan, Sonata, Impala (Monte Carlo was also tested but the review is on the CR website only), and Charger. This is their ranking of all family sedans over $25,000:

1. Acura TL (recommended)

2. VW Passat 3.6

3. Toyota Avalon XLS (recommended)

4. Honda Accord Hybrid V6 (recommended)

5. VW Passat 2.0T

6. Toyota Camry XLE V6 (recommended)

7. Honda Accord EX V6 (recommended)

8. Ford Fusion SEL V6

9. Mercury Milan Premier V6

10. Acura TSX (recommended)

11. Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT 4 (recommended)

12. Nissan maxima 3.5 SE (recommended)

13. Nissan Altima 3.5 SE (recommended)

14. Ford Five Hundred SEL FWD (recommended)

15. Mazda6 s V6

16. Chrysler 300C V8

17. Mitsubishi Galant GTS V6 (recommended)

18. Chevrolet impala 3LT V6 (recommended)

19. Chrysler 300 Touring V6 (recommended)

20. Dodge Charger R/T V8

21. Dodge Charger SXT V6

22. Buick LaCrosse CXL (recommended)

23. Pontiac Grand Prix GT

Family Sedans Under $25,000:

24. Honda Accord EX 4-cylinder (recommended)

25. Hyundai Sonata GLS V6

26. Toyota Camry LE 4-cylinder (recommended)

27. Hyundai Sonata GLS 4-cylinder

28. VW Jetta 2.5

29. Ford Fusion SE 4-cylinder

30. Mercury Milan Base 4-cylinder

31. Mazda6 i 4-cylinder (recommended)

32. Toyota Prius (recommended)

33. Chevrolet Malibu Base 4-cylinder

34. Chevrolet Malibu LS V6

35. Nissan Altima 2.5S 4-cylinder (recommended)

36. Mitsubishi Galant ES 4-cylinder (recommended)

37. Pontiac G6 Base V6 (recommended)

Some excerpts:

VW Passat: The latest Volkwagen Passat is at the high-priced end of the family sedan category. It is roomier, more powerful, and gets better fuel economy than the previous Passat, which was one of our top-rated family sedans. Like the old Passat, this car is refined and has a high-quality interior and agile handling. However, the interior quality and ride comfort have slightly diminished. Crash-test results from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety are impressive, as is the standard safety equipment. The Passat ranks at the top of the family sedan category, but reliability remains to be seen; the previous version had mixed reliability.

Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan: The Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan are new midsized sedans that are very agile and satisfying to drive.

These sedans rate even higher in our testing than the Mazda6 sedan on which they're based. They have a sporty feel; the V6 and automatic transmission make a smooth and responsive powertrain. The four-cylinder is a bit coarse. The interior is well made and space is generous. These new models do not yet have reliability data.

Hyundai Sonata: The redesigned Sonata mimics the top-selling Toyota Camry, but costs less. Like the Camry, it has a comfortable, quiet interior, but is less agile. It offers up-to-date standard safety gear including side-curtain air bags and electronic stability control.

The Sonata is bigger, more powerful, and more refined than the car it replaces. The V6 is quick, and the four-cylinder engine is economical and refined. While handling is predictable, it's far from sporty. Reliability for the new Sonata is unknown.

Chevrolet Impala: The Chevrolet Impala is freshened for 2006. It has new styling, engine upgrades, better rear seating, and an improved interior. These improvements keep this large sedan competitive, but there are better choices.

The ride and handling are sound, but lag behind many competitors. The interior is comfortable and has logical controls. Wind noise is notable and the engine isn't particularly refined. Past Impalas have been mostly above average in reliability, and we expect that to continue.

The Impala absorbs bumps and ruts as muted kicks, but frequent ride motions can make it feel unsettled. The cabin is quiet, with moderate wind noise that turns to a loud whistle on the highway. The engine is quiet, except under hard acceleration.

The Impala's handling is sound, but body lean is noticeable. The steering is fairly responsive and well-weighted but feels artificial. The Impala felt clumsy but forgiving at its handling limits. It posted a relatively slow 50 mph in our avoidance maneuver. Electronic stability control is not available.

The 242-hp 3.9-liter V6 delivers responsive performance and managed 20 mpg in mixed driving. The four-speed automatic shifts smoothly. The 303-hp, 5.3-liter V8 is quick, but spins the front tires very easily on the closely related Monte Carlo SS. It shuts down four cylinders when power demand is low, but still achieves only 17 mpg overall.

The brakes had long stopping distances in the wet. Low- and high-beam headlights reached a good distance but produced a lot of glare.

Fit and finish is much better than the previous Impala, with nice details and finely textured panels. However, there are still some panel gaps.

Not all drivers could find a comfortable driving position behind the tilt-only steering wheel. Visibility is good to the front, but the rear is blocked by wide roof pillars, head restraints, and trunk lid spoiler.

The front seats are comfortable and supportive, but the flat leather seats let you slide around too much in turns. The rear seat is not that roomy for such a large car; head and leg room are barely adequate. Both front and rear access require a high step over steep sills and ducking below the sloping roof.

Most controls are easy to use. Steering-wheel controls are particularly well-designed. However, the low thumbwheel temperature controls are hard to accurately adjust.

Dodge Charger: The Dodge Charger is a big, rear-wheel-drive sedan with a muscular design. However, those burly looks take a toll on visibility, head room, and ease of access, while the rest of the car lacks the refinement of some competitors.

The ride is unyielding, and the steering is overly light. The Hemi V8 in the R/T version sounds tough and is very quick. However, it returned only 17 mpg in mixed driving. We have no reliability data for this new model.

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Hyundai Sonata: Reliability for the new Sonata is unknown.

Chevrolet Impala: Past Impalas have been mostly above average in reliability, and we expect that to continue.

Why...... is...... there...... no...... past reliability...... info...... for......

the......

HYUNDAI?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Past hyundais have had dreadful, awful, far-below-industry-average reliability- but there's no mention of that here! Why? Whywhywhywhywhywhywhywhywhywhy? Why?

CR seems to think an unfavorable past model speaks volumes for a redesigned, current one. Is this past info being ommitted as a conscious decision or an oversight?

Hm-mmm; I smell the smelly smell of something that smells.... smelly.

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CR is always "selective" on who they give a free ride as far as new model reliablility. Case in point:

Last year they did the luxury segment.

The Infiniti M45 won, and even though it is an all new model, they gave the car a positive reliability rating because "it was an Infiniti", while the STS was give "unproven" eventhough it is on a platform that is used by the CTS and SRX and built in the same highly rated factory.

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Well in the Hyundai's case it is a brand new Sonata built in their new Alabama plant, so the establishing reliability to be unknown isn't unreasonable.

However, CR could use a more clear way to predict reliability.

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Their ratings seem about right... the new Passat is a solid entry, the Fusion/Milan are great to drive, the Accord is well-rounded, and the Sonata is excellent for its price.

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CR is a useful magazine for buying cars, as it gives a consumer an IDEA of how reliable a car is. However, the magazine should not be seen as the gospel by its readers and writers.

Consumer Reports' methods and perspective for testing cars pales in comparison to other automotive magazines. They also need to start reporting how many replies they got from owners...

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How does it make any sense to put the Passat in there twice?

Once for the trip to the dealer to be serviced, and another report a month later when it comes out of the dealer after being serviced.

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Why...... is...... there...... no...... past reliability...... info...... for......

the......

HYUNDAI?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Past hyundais have had dreadful, awful, far-below-industry-average reliability- but there's no mention of that here! Why? Whywhywhywhywhywhywhywhywhywhy? Why?

CR seems to think an unfavorable past model speaks volumes for a redesigned, current one. Is this past info being ommitted as a conscious decision or an oversight?

Hm-mmm; I smell the smelly smell of something that smells.... smelly.

Maybe because Impala is mostly a heavy reskin of an existing model? Therefore they are making a more solid claim on its reliability.

BTW....I don't think the last Sonata was known to be a particular piece-of-garbage....they were pretty solid reliability-wise from what I've heard. It's really only the very early Hyundais (and Kias) that were known for poor quality.

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...."Low- and high-beam headlights reached a good distance but produced a lot of glare"....

...."However, there are still some panel gaps"....

Boy they're sure stretching out there.

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I have to partly agree with there rankings even though VWs of the past several years have proven to be not very reliable. I drove a 06 Passat automatic 2 liter and it was quite an impressive car to drive and the interior was very nice overall. The Fusion is a solid entry as is the Sonota, the Impala is indeed improved but could still use some further improvement and the Charger is just a bit quirky with that rear end styling and treatment and the interior is kind of sterile. In all fariness they should have pitted more like sized cars such as the 500 and perhaps even a base Avalon instead of the Fusion and Passat.

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Like the old Passat, this car is refined and has a high-quality interior and agile handling. However, the interior quality and ride comfort have slightly diminished.

Consumer Reports: "Contradicting ourselves in back to back sentences since 1979"

Seriously, VW and quality in the same sentence... Yeah right.

but the flat leather seats let you slide around too much in turns.

Then get cloth.

The Impala seems like it was really held back by it's dated architecture.

They bagged the Charger probably just because of it's "unsophisticated, undoubtedly americana" heritage and it's "billy bob driver's personna"

Why...... is...... there...... no...... past reliability...... info...... for......

the......

HYUNDAI?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Because then people would be wise to the lie... Remember, the media is trying to FIX the Koreaan's perception, not destroy and hinder it like with Detroit's.

Besides, the quality rankings and CR in general were devised as a tool to be used against domestics in the first place, not imports.

CR is a useful magazine for buying cars, as it gives a consumer an IDEA of how reliable a car is. However, the magazine should not be seen as the gospel by its readers and writers.

Consumer Reports' methods and perspective for testing cars pales in comparison to other automotive magazines. They also need to start reporting how many replies they got from owners...

3 problems with that:

1) CR is not a relaible source of info because it is a culture of subscribers who are like minded in nature and therefore have been refined to provide the same results, except MORE positive every year.

2) The (lack of) size of their sample of surveys makes the ratings irrelevant and null and void. (Can reliability of hundreds of different models of cars accurately be determined by 900,000 surveys in a market of 17 million sales?--I think not)

3) Most people do take them to be the bible of automobilia. (At least around here)

BTW....I don't think the last Sonata was known to be a particular piece-of-garbage....they were pretty solid reliability-wise from what I've heard. It's really only the very early Hyundais (and Kias) that were known for poor quality.

Oh... You mean like how the only Detroit cars to ACTUALLY be known for poor quality and efficiency are the ones from 30 years ago...

BUT, the difference is that we still suffer that "Correlation" on a daily basis, whereas the Hyundai's from 10 years ago do not.

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