J.D. Power Lists Most Dependable SUVs Over 3 Years in Study

Published March 25, 2017 by Elizabeth Jeneault

We all want our sports utility vehicle to be dependable. We certainly don’t want to waste precious time sitting in a repair shop. After all, SUV owners are all about adventure and being out on the road. In fact, J.D. Power research says that aside from exterior and interior styling, vehicle dependability is the most important consideration for people when choosing a new car, truck or SUV. Because people are so interested in dependability, the global marketing company conducts a dependability study each year. J.D. Power asks more than 35,000 original owners of three-year-old vehicles how dependable their vehicles have been during the prior 12 months. That means cars, trucks, minivans and SUVs from the 2014 model year were looked at. The study determines overall dependability by examining the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles. The study covers 177 specific problems grouped into eight major vehicle categories. Those categories are exterior, engine/transmission, audio/communication/entertainment/navigation, interior, the driving experience, features/controls/displays, heating/ventilation/air conditioning and seats. The marketing company says one of the major findings from this year’s study is that customers don’t necessarily have to shop the luxury brands to get a dependable vehicle.

“While many expensive and niche vehicles do have excellent quality, the fact is that most consumers are shopping in the high-volume mainstream segments. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a very dependable vehicle,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of J.D. Power’s global automotive division.

Let’s now take a look at what 2014 SUV models made the list.

Small SUV: 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan

Considering Volkswagen’s crushing diesel emissions scandal and the negative impact it has had on its brand, it’s hard to believe the Tiguan would be named the most dependable small SUV. But it beat out the 2014 Buick Encore and 2014 Hyundai Tucson to grab the top spot. That means haters have less room to talk.

For the 2014 model year, VW added more standard equipment including automatic climate control to all versions of the Tiguan. The sporty R-Line trim was also added to the lineup. The SE trim, meanwhile, gained leatherette seating and heated front seats while the SEL trim received a Fender premium sound system.

Compact SUV: 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser

The 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser beat out the 2014 Chevrolet Equinox and 2014 GMC Terrain to rank the highest in dependability in the compact SUV segment. The vehicle is no longer being manufactured, however, so you won’t be able to get your hands on one. While it was built to compete with the Jeep Wrangler, it didn’t end up performing as well as Toyota had hoped. That’s likely the reason 2014 was the final production year for the FJ Cruiser.

The vehicle was based on the Toyota 4Runner platform, so it had solid roots. For 2014, Toyota improved the FJ Cruiser’s suspension and added a new exterior color option. A special Trail Teams Ultimate Edition was also introduced. The vehicle was pulled from the North American market after the 2014 model year and Toyota completely ceased production of it in 2016.

Compact Premium SUV: 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class claimed the top spot in the compact premium SUV segment. It earned the dependability award over the 2014 Acura RDX and 2014 Volvo XC60. While the vehicle received a significant update for 2013, the 2014 model year did not receive changes. It’s important to note that the GLK-Class is now known as the GLC-Class.

Midsize SUV: 2014 Toyota Venza

The second Toyota SUV to make the J.D. Power dependability list is also no longer in production. The 2014 Toyota Venza earned the dependability title over the 2014 Ford Edge and 2014 Honda Pilot.

For the 2014 model year, Toyota added more standard equipment to the Venza’s XLE and Limited trims. They both received power-folding side mirrors while the Limited got standard front and rear park-assist sensors. Minor tweaks to exterior and interior color combinations were also made to the vehicle.

Again, you won’t be able to get your hands on this vehicle. That’s because 2015 marked the last model year for the Venza.

Midsize Premium SUV: 2014 Lexus RX

2014 Lexus RX 450h

The 2014 Lexus RX earned the dependability title over another Lexus vehicle, the 2014 GX, and the 2014 Porsche Cayenne. The RX has been a solid performer for Lexus.

For 2014, Siri Eyes Free capability was added to the RX. Other additions included a new forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking system for the Pre-Collision system and an available 115-volt power outlet for the rear seat.

Large SUV: 2014 Chevrolet Tahoe

By no surprise, the 2014 Chevrolet Tahoe took home the award in the large SUV segment. It beat out the 2014 GMC Yukon and 2014 Ford Expedition to do so. After the 2014 model year, the Tahoe was completely redesigned. So even without the improvements it later received, it still came out on top. Now in its fourth generation, the vehicle continues to be a solid performer. For example, more than 100,000 Tahoes were sold in the U.S. in 2016.

Why The Study Can Help

Overall, the study found that the two highest-performing brands in terms of vehicle dependability are Lexus and Porsche. In third place was Toyota, up from fourth place in 2014.

J.D. Power suggests that when customers go to purchase a vehicle, they take a look at the study. It’s important to avoid vehicles that have issues in the areas you care a lot about. By looking specifically at the study’s eight major vehicle categories of problems, you’re able to do so.

The research company says the longer you plan to keep your vehicle, the more dependability should factor into your decision. It may be best to look for SUVs that have long, consistent records of few problems. After all, you don't want to run into problems every time you go off-roading or on a long family trip. 

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