Lukewarm reviews from Consumer Reports for three Detroit-made cars

Nov 20, 2012

Consumer Reports says it won't put three Detroit cars on its influential "recommended" list - the Dodge Dart, a compact car from Chrysler, the Lincoln MKS, Ford's refreshed luxury sedan , and the Cadillac XTS.

Consumer Reports:  Dart "stalls out on its powertrains."

This is especially bad news for Chrysler, according to Mark Phelan, auto critic for the Detroit Free Press.

"Consumer Reports is incredibly important," says Phelan.  "It's the first and most trusted independent source that a lot of buyers use, so a poor rating from them really hurts.  It's particularly troublesome for Chrysler, because this is the first vehicle that was fully developed with Fiat engineering.  The Dart is the first true product of the new Chrysler Corporation."

Phelan was surprised at the rating.  He himself liked the car, quite a bit, and his review for the Freep was positive.

"I think the Dart is certainly at the higher end of the class of compact cars that are out there - the features that are available, the fuel economy, the overall ride quality and handling, I thought it was quite a competitive little car."

Michelle Krebs is an analyst with Edmunds.com.  She finds it understandable that the Dart didn't get a "recommended buy" from the magazine.

"Dart is a good start for Chrysler," she says, "but it hasn't earned credibility yet, since the automaker has not been competing in the small car segment for years -- since the Dodge Neon.  Plus, the Dart competes in a very tough category with the likes of the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla (and) Honda Civic."

Consumer Reports: Cadillac XTS "hampered by CUE entertainment system."

Consumer Reports says while the Cadillac XTS is "wonderfully luxurious, with a very spacious and well-appointed cabin," testers found its CUE entertainment system convoluted and frustrating.

Krebs, again, isn't surprised by that.  "Electronics and fancy infotainment systems are biting all manufacturers," she says. 

Phelan says nobody wants a mediocre rating from Consumer Reports, but this isn't a terrible blow for Cadillac.  He says the XTS is more of an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary car. 

The revolution could come next year, with the ATS. 

"It's got the BMW-3  series dead in its sights," says Phelan.  "I've driven the ATS a fair amount, and I have to say I think it's  very successful little car.  That is indicative of where Cadillac intends to move the whole brand."

Consumer Reports: Lincoln MKS "lowest rated luxury sedan in class."

Consumer Reports especially didn't like the refreshed MKS, citing a "cramped driving position, ungainly handling, uncomposed ride, and limited visibility."

Phelan says the refreshed vehicle is a placeholder for the company. 

"MKS's purpose is to give people who love Lincoln a vehicle they can buy and not be embarrassed by..."

"MKS's purpose is to give people who love Lincoln a vehicle they can buy and not be embarrassed by," he says, "until Ford gets around to coming up with a new product line for Lincoln. "

Lincoln will launch its new MKZ early next year. 

Ford could announce a new name for the Lincoln brand as early as next week.   

Automotive News reported earlier this year that Lincoln will become "Lincoln Motor Company."  

That was Lincoln's name when Ford acquired the company in 1922.