We often say this here at Autoblog — maybe we don't say it often enough — but there truly aren't many mediocre-to-terrible cars on the road anymore. Most cars are pretty good, and many-to-most are downright appealing, with fascinating new vehicles coming out all the time. That sense is borne out in the 2021 edition of the J.D. Power APEAL study. This year's most-appealing vehicle brands, as determined by owners: Porsche in the luxury class, and Dodge among mainstream brands.
The survey is a different approach than the one used for the Initial Quality Study that came out a couple of weeks back, as the two surveys are meant to complement one another. In APEAL (Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout), Power attempts to get at the emotional appeal/excitement of a vehicle by asking new owners to rate 37 attributes, such as the feeling they get when they hit the accelerator. The responses are tallied, and the brands are all scored on a 1,000-point scale. Though they are different studies, it's interesting that many of the results end up similarly, with Dodge and Ram sitting pretty and Chrysler, which shares a lot of commonality with its Stellantis siblings (minus the Pacifica/Voyager minivans, which tells you where the problems lie), falling to the bottom.
Porsche and Dodge both racked up the same score — 882 — to top their respective categories. Genesis and Land Rover are tied a mere three points behind Porsche. And look at Lincoln, there in the No. 4 spot. (Charts below.) But to make our point about most cars having appeal, the last-place finisher in the luxury brands, Infiniti, is scored just 40 points behind Porsche, out of 1,000.
In the mainstream models, Ram is just point behind Dodge, and Nissan lands in third place, thanks to Maxima. More on that in a second.
As our James Riswick noted in an opinion piece yesterday, mainstream brands are catching up to the luxury marques, and Power's data now bear that out. The average APEAL score for premium brands is 864, compared with 845 for mass market brands. That gap is narrowing each year.
APEAL ranks brands, but in terms of individual vehicles, these models ranked high in both the studies: BMW X4, BMW X6, BMW X7, Cadillac CT5, Chevrolet Corvette, Genesis G80, Kia Telluride and Nissan Maxima. In fact, the Maxima was the highest-scoring single model in both studies. Who knew?
And once again, Tesla is officially missing in the study because it won't grant permission to survey its owners in 15 states. At first, it's hard to understand what's up with that — why Tesla wouldn't want to play ball — because among the owners that were surveyed, the brand scored 893. In other words, it would have been No. 1, had that been a statistically relevant number. But then Tesla would score near the very bottom of the Initial Quality Study if it were officially included, so perhaps they just aren't interested in participating.
At this point, it would be easiest just to show the rankings. And to point you to the J.D. Power report itself, which contains considerably more information about the brands, specific models and methodology. The report also has graphics additional to these: