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'Thirsty 30': New cars burn too much oil

2015-07-01 11:03

THE THIRSTY 30: Consumer Reports found that some new cars require a top-up of oil as often as once a month. Image: Shutterstock

DETROIT, Michigan - New cars aren't supposed to need more oil between oil changes but Consumer Reports in the US claims to have found that some engines - mainly Audi, BMW and Subaru - require a top-up of just less than a litre as often as once a month.

Car owners, in an annual survey of significant numbers, reported what the magazine considered excessive oil-consumption. Consumer Reports focused on 2010-14 models and called on automakers to make repairs under the powertrain warranty or to extend warranties.


Mark Rechtin, the magazine's cars-content team leader, said: "Companies should be willing to step up and take responsibility for their products."

Owners of newer cars, he said, shouldn't have to carry oil around and worry about adding it.

Rechtin said: "Most cars have oil-level warning lights but failing to pay attention to that light can cause engine damage."

The magazine's survey  didn't find any link between oil consumption and other engine problems but id find that cars that burn oil early in their life consume proportionately more as they aged.

Rechtin said: "It's normal for cars to burn a little oil as they age toward 160 000km but for a late-model car to burn nearly a litre between oil changes is not acceptable."

Do you believe your car's engine-oil consumption excessive? Tell us about it in an email, remembering to include the brand, model and year of manufacture.

The magazine focused on survey data from 498 000 owners of 2010-14 models and found that 98% did not have to add oil between changes.

However, Rechtin added, even if the problem happened to only 2% of owners that means 1.5-million cars from the five model years.


Several engines from three manufacturers were the main offenders, according to the magazine:

Audi's 2.0 turbocharged four-cylinder and 3.0 V6
BMW's 4.8 V8 and 4.4 twin-turbo V8
Subaru's 3.6 six-cylinder and 2.0 and 2.5 four-cylinder
(though the Subarus burned less oil than the others).

Affected models included:

Audi's A3, A4, A5, A6 and Q5
BMW's 5, 6, and 7 Series and X5
Subaru's Outback, Legacy, Forester and Impreza.


The magazine said standards for certain Audi and BMW cars say that it's reasonable to burn nearly a litre of oil every 1000km or so. Subaru considers a litre every 1600km acceptable.

Audi US spokesman Bradley Stertz said a class action lawsuit against Audi over oil consumption by the 2.0 turbocharged four-cylinder engines was close to being settled without the company admitting liability or wrongdoing. The settlement affects 2009 A4, 2010 A4 and A5, and 2011 A4, A5 and Q5 models.

Stertz added that the automaker had not been able to identify an abnormal number of oil consumption complaints.

Read: Readers reply to oil top-up controversy

BMW said oil consumption was normal on all engines and consumption within specifications did not mean excessive engine wear. It said some regular BMW engines could consume as much as a litre every 1200km and M Series performance engines as much as 2.25 litres/1600km under certain conditions.

The automaker added that it had a service campaign to check and possibly replace some parts in the 4.4 V8.

Subaru US spokesman Michael McHale said oil consumption could vary depending on how a vehicle was used: "The vast majority of Subarus perform within specifications and the company's vehicles have improved from 2010 through the current models."


According to Consumer Reports: "According to data from Consumer Reports’ 2014 Annual Auto Survey of owners of 498 900 vehicles (from 2010 to 2014 model years), these 30 models have much higher rates of oil consumption overall than the average for their model years."

Read Consumer Reports' survey below:

Read more on:    audi  |  subaru  |  bmw  |  usa  |  auto industry  |  new models

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