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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
The current issue of Consumer Reports (June) has a piece on "Luxury Sedans" (rhymes with TDAN :D ) -- BMW 530i, Jag S-Type, MB E320, Volvo S80.

Consumer Reports has misgivings about all of them, and they talk about what's gone wrong with European reliability. All of these cars get "very good" or "excellent" ratings, but CR makes that seem almost like an afterthought. Their emphasis is that for cars of that type, they expect more -- like better reliability.

The only one of those cars that's "Recommended" is the Volvo. And when it comes down to what they really pick in that category, the answer is NONE OF THEM -- they have to go outside the cars that were considered in the article. Here's what they say:

If luxury is more important than sportiness:
Lexus LS430

If value is important:
Acura TL
Lexus ES330
Lincoln LS


(In that order.)

I'm pasting the text of the article, in case the link doesn't work for all of you. (I think you have to subscribe to be able to see it.) Also I've taken the liberty of highlighting some of the more "interesting" parts.

http://www.consumerreports.org/main...ASSORTMENT<>ast_id=389451&bmUID=1084503643945

June 2004

FLAWED GEMS

Luxury sedans: For these high-priced European models,
the devil is in the details.

Mercedes-Benz E320
BMW 530i
Jaguar S-Type
Volvo S80

All four sedans in this report performed well enough in our tests to earn an excellent or very good overall rating. Generally, they got high marks for acceleration, handling, braking, ride comfort, quietness, and seat comfort, which is what you should expect when spending $45,000 to $53,000 on a car. However, each has at least one notable weakness that you shouldn’t expect in this price range.

The Mercedes-Benz E320, which was redesigned for 2003, had the highest overall score in this group and is ranked among the top luxury sedans we’ve tested (see the Ratings). It delivers a supremely comfortable ride, agile handling, quick acceleration, and a quiet cabin. According to our 2003 subscriber survey, however, the first-year reliability of the redesigned E-Class has been much worse than average. It was one of nine models among sedans that received the lowest rating in predicted reliability. This prevents us from recommending the E320.

Scoring very close to the Mercedes was the BMW 530i, which received a major redesign for 2004. The previous generation was very impressive and was our best car tested in the 2002 and 2003 April reports. The new 530i improves on the last version in some areas. With a new six-speed automatic transmission, the car provides about the same acceleration from a standing stop, but slightly better fuel economy in city driving. It also provides more rear-seat room and trunk space.

But the 530i’s biggest drawback is its needlessly complicated multifunction iDrive control system. This consolidates audio, communications, climate, and navigation (if equipped) functions into a single multicontrol knob and onscreen menu system. Although the system is easier to use than a similar one in the 745Li we tested for the November 2003 report, it takes considerable time to learn how to use the system well. Even after spending a lot of time with the car, we found the iDrive to be tedious and distracting. Overall, the previous-generation 530i scored better than this one, despite its smaller interior space.

We don’t have reliability information yet on this new 530i version. Previous models had average or better reliability. The larger, costlier BMW 7 Series, which was redesigned in 2002, doesn’t have a good record. It was the most troublesome model in our reliability survey.

For nearly the same price as the six-cylinder E320 or 530i, the Jaguar S-Type is available with a 294-hp, 4.2-liter V8, which provided the quickest acceleration in this group. While rated very good overall, we found that the Jag is not as agile, comfortable, spacious, or quiet as the Mercedes-Benz and BMW. But, like the E320, the S-Type has had much-worse-than-average reliability, which prevents us from recommending it.

The Volvo S80 has been around since 1998 and does not compete well with more recently introduced competitors. The line received a few tweaks for 2004, among them a five-cylinder, all-wheel-drive version. We chose the top-of-the-line front-wheel-drive T6, with a turbocharged 268-hp, 2.9-liter inline six-cylinder engine.

At $46,810, it was the least expensive car in the group. The T6 also performed well enough in our tests to rate very good; it accelerates effortlessly, handles securely, and has a roomy, comfortable cabin. But the S80’s main drawback is a stiff ride that’s notably below par for a luxury car. The S80 had average reliability in our last survey, which allows us to recommend it. But among the luxury cars we’ve recently tested, it ranks near the bottom.

---------------------------------------

European Reliability: What’s going wrong?

Relatively few newer European models fared well in our 2003 reliability survey. Many of the problems were in the cars’ electrical systems and power equipment and accessories, as was the case with the Mercedes-Benz E320.

A common explanation is that these expensive vehicles are very complex, sometimes showcasing the newest and, therefore, unproven technologies. With features such as adaptive cruise control and integrated multifunction controls, these vehicles are loaded with gadgets that can cause problems. Rival Japanese luxury cars from Acura, Infiniti, and Lexus, however, are just as feature-laden, and in general they are exceptionally trouble-free.

What is the underlying problem? Automotive analyst Mike Wall of the consultancy CSM Worldwide told us: “European managements have taken quality for granted. They face cost pressures and don’t always appreciate what happens when you whittle costs out. The Japanese--Honda and Toyota--tend to stay loyal to proven technologies and they don’t jump as quickly at the Next Big Thing.”

Our BMW 530i had to go back to the dealership because the iDrive system stopped working in cold weather and a warning message said that the passenger air bag was not operational. We had to wait several days for parts. Those are the type of problems that do not augur well for a new $53,000 car.
 

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I glanced at the same article last night. I thought it was interesting....
 

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I read the article in CR at a friend's house.
 

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The Voice of Reason
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Mine was delivered to my door last week....

I think the writers at Consumer Reports are, in a word, bonkers to actually recommend the S80! The car is sooooo complex that it's a maintenance nightmare. I'm pleased to see that they were also annoyed by the BMW iDrive (this month's R&T also did a comparison test including the 530i "...people don't buy cars in this class to be irritated. They have computers at home for that.") The Jag we all know about and MB reliability hasn't been anything to brag about since Chryser's cost accounting took over. For less $$$$ something like an Accord or a Camry as a daily driver and an old Porsche for those Sunday AM drives to the store for the Times before the police and the SUV-cellphone drivers wake up is more appealing to me. Hmmmmm.

 

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Discussion Starter #5
bob shiftright said:
.....and an old Porsche for those Sunday AM drives to the store for the Times before the police and the SUV-cellphone drivers wake up.....
:D

About them recommending the S80: Yeah, me2. I guess that was the only one that at least lived up to their required level of mediocrity.

As an amateur statistician (and that's giving me all the best of it), I would venture to guess that the recommendation of the S80 resulted from a bit of a statistical fluke. First of all, we have to realize that (as I gather) they found ALL of those cars to be way better than good enough to be "Recommended," except for reliability. In order to be considered for "Recommended," a car has to be rated at least "Average" on CR's reliability scale.

The S80 snuck in by virtue of getting an "Average." But each rating category represents a RANGE. I'd bet my string of poloponies that the S80 was in the lower end of the "Average" range -- that is, it was really "below average" but not far enough to get disqualified. It's kinda like if you have a 90 IQ, you're still in the "average" range.

In my little opinion, CR oughta do something about that. I think they shouldn't consider "Recommending" a car unless its reliability is genuinely at least average.
 

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The Voice of Reason
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....based on time wasted at the various Volvo boards .... the S80 is certainly NOT a car to own without a warranty. I've had 'em as service loaners and they're well definitely an OK car to drive, comfy seats and good ergonomics, and as a Volvo certainly safe. But I would just be terrified of owning one outside of the warranty. BTW, my own Volvo has been nearly flawless as far as the drivetrain at 141,000 miles ... the problems have been with all the stuff that's attached to the drivetrain.

:soapbox:
 

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Discussion Starter #7
bob shiftright said:
....my own Volvo has been nearly flawless as far as the drivetrain at 141,000 miles ... the problems have been with all the stuff that's attached to the drivetrain....
Sounds right.

Consumer Reports:

Many of the problems were in the cars’ electrical systems and power equipment and accessories, as was the case with the Mercedes-Benz E320.
A common explanation is that these expensive vehicles are very complex, sometimes showcasing the newest and, therefore, unproven technologies.....these vehicles are loaded with gadgets that can cause problems..... “European managements have taken quality for granted. They face cost pressures and don’t always appreciate what happens when you whittle costs out. The Japanese--Honda and Toyota--tend to stay loyal to proven technologies and they don’t jump as quickly at the Next Big Thing.”
Our BMW 530i had to go back to the dealership because the iDrive system stopped working in cold weather and a warning message said that the passenger air bag was not operational. We had to wait several days for parts.
 

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The Voice of Reason
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My Volvo is on it's third or fourth cabin temperature sensor and they all say "Made in Japan".

I've replaced Volvo electrical parts from all over the world but it's clearly not as simple a problem as CR thinks. (Or Audi, Land Rover, BMW/Mini, Mecedes, Saab, Volvo, VW, Porsche and Jaguar think.)

I think I've mentioned before that one reason some components on a Japanese car don't ever fail vs. the Euros is that they're just not THERE in the Japanese marques.
 
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