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J.D. Power Survey: Which Cars Are Best Loved by Owners?

A J.D. Power and Associates survey of which new cars are best loved by owners shows good news for Chrysler Group's Dodge brand. Dodge had winners in three categories -- up from none last year and enough to tie it with luxury stalwart BMW.

In the annual survey known as APEAL (Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout), Dodge rang up wins with its large-car Charger (pictured at left), the sporty midsize Challenger and the Durango, a midsize SUV. Coming on the heels of a strong sales year for the Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler brands, the survey results mark another big notch in the belt of Chrysler Group -- which just bought out the remains of its U.S. government stake and is now majority-controlled by Italy's Fiat.

To determine the winners, Power's analysts surveyed 73,000 people 90 days after they bought or leased a new 2011 model. Survey respondents rank their cars on styling, comfort, performance and other attributes.

Overall, recently introduced or redesigned models scored especially well in this year's survey, with new styling and high gas mileage playing key roles. That's a big departure from J.D. Power's earlier Initial Quality Survey -- which measures problems with new cars instead of points of pride. In that report, new and redesigned models took a beating, particularly because of high-tech features like the MyFord Touch voice command system. (See Ford Slammed in New J.D. Power Quality Survey.)

"There are two sides of the quality coin: things gone right and things gone wrong," says David Sargent, vice president of global vehicle research at Power. "Both are of critical importance."

Three models topped their categories in both the quality and the APEAL studies: Dodge Challenger, Ford F-150LD and Honda Ridgeline.

Here are some other highlights of the study:

Luxury brands still rule: Porsche topped the APEAL brand rankings for the seventh year in a row. The top seven finishers were all luxury brands: Porsche, Jaguar, BMW, Land Rover, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus. For full rankings, see the J.D. Power web site.

Hyundai rises: Hyundai, which finished 15th overall, showed the biggest gain from last year. The highest score of any individual model is its luxury Equus -- the first time that a model other than a BMW, Lexus or Mercedes-Benz model has that distinction.

Detroit holds its own: In addition to Dodge's strong showing, Ford took two categories, with the F-150 LD winning for large pickup and Fiesta scoring top marks for subcompact car. And the electric plug-in Chevrolet Volt (at right), which has won North American Car of the Year and other awards, topped the compact car category. Overall, Ford Motor brands Ford and Lincoln as well as GM's Buick and Cadillac all finished above the industry average; GMC, Chrysler and Chevrolet ranked just below average.

Photos courtesy of the manufacturers

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