Consumer Reports Reveals 'Thirsty 30' List of Oil-Guzzling Late-Model Cars

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BMWs, Audis, Subarus top list of 2010-14 models that have higher-than-average rate of oil consumption.

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While it’s normal for cars to burn a little oil as they age toward 100,000 miles and beyond, we believe that for a late-model car to burn a quart or more of oil between changes is unacceptable.

An in-depth new analysis of data from Consumer Reports’ 2014 Annual Auto Survey revealed that several auto manufacturers are building engines – available in a number of widely sold models – that require frequently topping off engine oil between recommended oil changes.

Consumer Reports reviewed the survey data of owners of 498,900 vehicles from 2010 to 2014 model years, many of which are still under their powertrain warranty. Several engines emerged as the main offenders: Audi’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder and 3.0-liter V6, BMW’s 4.8 liter V8 and twin-turbocharged 4.4 liter V8, and to a lesser extent Subaru’s 3.6 liter six-cylinder and 2.0- and 2.5-liter four-cylinders.

Those engines are in many models that made CR’s “Thirsty 30” list of vehicles that have much higher rates of oil consumption overall than the average for their model years. Among them are the Audi A3, A4, A5, A6, and Q5; BMW 5, 6, and 7 Series, and X5; and Subaru Forester, Impreza, Legacy, and Outback.

“While it’s normal for cars to burn a little oil as they age toward 100,000 miles and beyond, we believe that for a late-model car to burn a quart or more of oil between changes is unacceptable,” said Mark Rechtin, Consumer Reports’ Cars Content Development Team Leader. “It’s also our strong opinion that any engine that burns oil between changes should be repaired under the powertrain warranty.”

The full report, including the entire “Thirsty 30” list, can be found online at, and in the August 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

Audi, BMW, and Subaru stuck firmly to the statement that oil consumption is a normal part of a car’s operation. Subaru considers a quart burned every 1,000 to 1,200 miles to be acceptable. Certain Audi and BMW cars’ standards state that a quart burned 600 to 700 miles is reasonable.

Not all engines suffer from this problem. In fact, Consumer Reports data shows that 98 percent of 2010-2014 cars do not require any topping off of engine oil between changes. But the remaining two percent that do burn oil excessively represents more than 1.5 million vehicles on the road. Several automakers are fighting class-action lawsuits regarding this problem.

Consumer Reports data does not show a direct connection between increased oil consumption and other engine problems. But CR’s survey data concerning 10 model years shows that if a car burns oil early in its life, it will burn even more as it ages. In tracking oil consumption by model year, engine families show increased consumption with each successive year on the road.

About Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports is the world’s largest and most trusted nonprofit, consumer organization working to improve the lives of consumers by driving marketplace change. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has achieved substantial gains for consumers on health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other issues. The organization has advanced important policies to cut hospital-acquired infections, prohibit predatory lending practices and combat dangerous toxins in food. Consumer Reports tests and rates thousands of products and services in its 50-plus labs, state-of-the-art auto test center and consumer research center. Consumers Union, a division of Consumer Reports, works for pro-consumer laws and regulations in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace. With more than eight million subscribers to its flagship magazine, website and other publications, Consumer Reports accepts no advertising, payment or other support from the companies whose products it evaluates.

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James McQueen
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