The luxury segment has many impeccable options from Europe, befitting their high price tags. Many people love European luxury cars for combining gorgeous styling, luxury, comfort, good ride quality, and practicality with the best on-road performance in speed and handling. Carmakers like BMW, Audi, Mercedes, and Porsche are some of the best in the business.
But why are some European luxury cars so unreliable and prone to breaking down constantly? Well, most high-end offerings boast all the latest gadgets, gizmos, and high-performance parts ahead of more affordable models. And that’s all well and good until something goes wrong. These cutting-edge features are very advanced yet complicated and over-engineered, making them the most likely to go wrong in a luxury car, leading to frequent breakdowns.
Reliability plays the most significant part in a car’s long-term ownership cost. While many people are well aware of the most reliable and unreliable luxury car brands, they face an uphill task trying to narrow down to the most reliable and unreliable European luxury car models. Using information from WithClutch and RepairPal, we analyzed data on cars’ frequency and severity of maintenance and unscheduled repairs, the cost to replace or fix broken parts, and a car’s overall reliability, to bring you the 10 European luxury cars that break down constantly.
10 Audi S4 — Frequency Score Over Three Years (2.670)
Unlike most sports sedans in its class, the Audi S4 gears towards comfort and luxury without sacrificing performance. Unfortunately, newer models have a poor reputation for unreliability. RepairPal gives the S4 a 2.0 out of 5.0 reliability rating, which is below average.
According to the WithClutch study, an Audi S4 requires major maintenance at a frequency of 2.67 times in 3 years. This is about twice the industry average (1.3 for 3 years), meaning S4 owners take their cars to the repair shop an average of 0.9 times annually. These unscheduled repairs are also costly, averaging $1,164 per year. The most common problem S4 owners experience is overheating from a failed thermostat, which costs about $1,034-$1,196 to replace.
9 Audi Q7 — Frequency Score Over Three Years (2.700)
The Audi Q7 is one of the best full-size SUVs on the market. Wrapped in posh luxury and premium interior materials, the Q7 is definitely worth your attention if you are looking for a high-performance luxury SUV.
While WithClutch gives this European luxury SUV a decent 61/100 reliability rating, its frequency for regular maintenance is 2.7 in three years, which makes it substantially worse than average. And like most luxury SUVs, the Audi Q7 has expensive running costs, with an annual repair cost of $1,185. Engine misfires during a cold start were the most reported issue, costing owners about $1,390 to get it fixed.
8 Volkswagen Tiguan — Frequency Score Over Three Years (2.760)
Rarely do you find a compact crossover that’s roomy, sporty, fun to drive, and luxurious altogether, unless it’s a Volkswagen Tiguan. On top of that, it is more economical than other premium-badged alternatives like the Volvo XC40 and BMW X1. It’s no wonder the Tiguan is Volkswagen’s best-selling model worldwide.
Surprisingly, according to different reliability surveys, the Tiguan’s reliability is a big red flag. It got a reliability rating of 43/100 from WithClutch, and the 2022 model made it into Consumer Reports’ list of the most unreliable cars. Compared to its peers, the Tiguan is twice as likely to require unscheduled repairs, with a frequency score over three years of 2.760. While these repairs are cheaper to fix, according to RepairPal, the frequency at which they occur makes them expensive in the long run.
7 BMW X6 — Frequency Score Over Three Years (2.910)
BMW boasts several luxury SUVs, and the X6 is one of its top offerings. One of the best family SUVs, the BMW X6 sports powerful engines, a cozy interior, and a refined ride. However, the dramatically sloping roof line compromises its practicality.
With a reliability rating of 2.0 out of 5.0 on RepairPal, the BMW X6 ranks 16th out of 19 in its category. WithClutch gives it 24.8/100 in reliability, which is woeful and explains why X6 owners take their cars to repair shops for unscheduled repairs an average of 2.910 times in three years, which is approximately once a year. For reference, the industry average is 0.4 times for all cars and 0.7 times for full-size luxury SUVs.
6 Audi Q5 — Frequency Score Over Three Years (3.570)
The Audi Q5 slots between the larger Q7 and the smaller Q3 in Audi’s SUV range. One of the most popular SUVs, the Audi Q5 nails several areas like build quality, performance, styling, and everyday usability. The Audi Q5’s reliability score of 70.45/100 from WithClutch indicates that it is generally quite dependable, and its $985 average annual maintenance cost makes it a relatively inexpensive luxury SUV to maintain.
But the area the Q5 falls short is in the frequency of repairs – 3.570 over three years isn’t a good score. The good news is that most repairs don’t cost much money. The likelihood of major repairs is pretty low, with a probability of 9% against an average of 11% in the midsize luxury SUV category.
5 Audi S5 — Frequency Score Over Three Years (3.600)
The Audi S5 is a high-performance version of the A5, offered in various body styles, namely coupe, cabriolet, and fastback sedan. The S5’s real party piece is the punchy 349-hp V6 that blazes to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, placing the car within touching distance of other performance cars like the M3 and M4.
The S5, however, performs poorly regarding reliability, getting 52.35/100 from WithClutch and finishing 30th out of 31 in its class with a 2.0 out of 5.0 reliability rating on RepairPal. This is due to the severity and frequency of unscheduled repairs for the S5, which are both high. Combined, they contribute to the S5’s annual running cost of $1,164.
4 Porsche Cayenne — Frequency Score Over Three Years (3.840)
Over two decades since its introduction, the Cayenne has seen extreme success both on and off-road. One of Porsche’s most important models, the Cayenne is arguably the best SUV in its class, offering almost everything you’d want in a utility vehicle. Talk of powerful engines, a comfy cabin, or incredible towing capability, the Cayenne provides all.
But one thing the Cayenne is not, and that’s a reliable daily driver. RepairPal gave it a 1.5/5 reliability rating, finishing last in the midsize luxury SUV category, while its WithClutch reliability rating is 42/100. With an annual maintenance cost of $1,231, Cayenne owners are likely to experience a high probability of severe and expensive issues. Replacing a failed fuel pump, for example, will set you off anywhere between $1,447 -$1,599.
3 Porsche Macan — Frequency Score Over Three Years (3.870)
The Macan is another huge seller from Porsche and one of the best midsize SUVs today. Available in several trims, all models come with potent turbocharged engines, but the car’s driving demeanor and crisp handling set it above the competition.
The Macan sits at the bottom of RepairPal’s least reliable compact luxury SUVs, with a rating of 1.5/5.0. According to WithClutch, the frequency of unscheduled repairs for the Macan is 3.870 times in three years, against the industrial average of 1.3 over the same period. The probability of Macan owners experiencing severe issues is also high, at 20%, compared to the 10% average for compact luxury SUVs. Notably, it has yearly maintenance costs of $1,265.
2 Volkswagen CC — Frequency Score Over Three Years (4.170)
The German automaker discontinued the Volkswagen CC for the all-new Arteon in 2017 – a move that was long overdue, as the VW CC was riding on an aging and virtually unchanged platform. Make no mistake, though, the Volkswagen CC is still a head-turner and fun to drive.
The Volkswagen CC was the least reliable midsize car per RepairPal, with a 2.5 out of 5.0, while its WithClutchscore is a poor 28/100. Volkswagen CC owners frequent the repair shops an average of 4.170 times in three years with several reported problems, including carbon build-up, popping noise from the trunk, odor from HVAC vents, and sub-frame clunk on acceleration.
1 Porsche Panamera — Frequency Score Over Three Years (6.540)
Introduced in 2009, the Porsche Panamera drifted from Porsche’s traditional mid or rear-engine configuration. Instead, its engine sits in the front. But the Panamera’s main highlight is the sports-car-like handling characterized by incredible grip and decisive steering – something we can’t say about bigger Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi sedans.
But like many luxury cars, the Panamera has poor reliability and will milk you dry financially, according to RepairPal. It ranks 30th out of 30 in the full-size luxury car category with a rating of 0.5 out of 5.0. The frequency and severity of repairs is also high, meaning Panamera owners experience major repairs frequently. Furthermore, iSeeCars ranks the Panamera as the 9th most depreciating luxury car, losing 59.9% of its original value in five years. To sum up the Panamera’s miseries, the car has 17 known recalls between 2010 and 2023.
Sources: WithClutch, RepairPal