Call me a sucker for beauty, but if something looks great, I can overlook its flaws. Take pro-style ranges. They’re big and bold and wrapped in shiny stainless steel, with beefy knobs and heavy grates that can’t be ignored and make everything else look chintzy. And yet, based on Consumer Reports' tests and a recent survey, I can see the heartbreak coming. Even so, a pro-style range is at the top of my wish list.
They’re not the best performers in our tests (some are downright awful). And a recent survey of almost 2,800 of our online subscribers found pro-style ranges broke more often, took longer to repair, and cost more to fix. (Note to self: Start collecting take-out menus.) But to my eye, a pro-style range is a thing of beauty and, now that 30-inch models are available, would fit perfectly in my small kitchen.
The KitchenAid KDRS407VSS pro-style is a dual-fuel range, pairing a gas cooktop with an electric oven, and it's the only 30-inch model that Consumer Reports has recommended. It has four burners—three are high-power and quickly brought water to a boil. On low heat the KitchenAid was impressive at gently heating sauces and melting chocolate.
The oven turned out evenly baked cookies and cakes, and its self-cleaning feature did a fine job removing the goopy mess we had applied. The convection feature could save me time, once I got the hang of it. But here’s the deal: The oven is small and mediocre at broiling (good-bye, steaks, hello, tofu?). And at $3,500, it’s a range that is likely to remain at the top of my wish list for years to come.
Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, Deputy Editor, Home & Garden
A French-door refrigerator that fits a small kitchen
Though I’d never say no to a case of fine champagne, I’d prefer a French-door refrigerator to keep my bottle of bubbly chilled. I love the fact that the food compartment is on the top at eye level. But most French-door models are 36 or 33 inches wide; I only have room for 30 inches. So when I saw two smaller-looking French-door fridges—the Whirlpool WRF560SEYM, $1,800, and KitchenAid KFFS20EYMS, $1,900—in the hallway outside our test chambers, I scrounged up a tape measure to confirm their dimensions. Yes, they’ll fit!
Both have filtered-water dispensers and full-width temperature-controlled drawers, and are Energy Star qualified. So they’ll use about one-third less energy than my current 10-year-old top-freezer refrigerator, according to the Energy Star calculator. That helps take some of the sting out of their price tags. It's going to be a tough choice. Both models got the same score in our tests. They're energy efficient, quiet, and offer fine temperature performance, but don't offer as many convenience features as larger models.
Bob Markovich, Editor, Home & Garden
A riding mower that drives like a muscle car
I may be Home & Garden Editor at Consumer Reports, but my wish lists typically involve cars like the menacing black '68 Dodge Charger the bad guys crashed and burned in the original “Bullit.” That’s why the new John Deere X310 lawn tractor caught my eye at our Florida mower tests last spring.
The Deere X310 is one of the first mowers with car-like power steering for easier turns. A supportive, high-backed seat and a foot-pedal drive system that lets you shift speeds smoothly and infinitely also say “car” rather than “tractor.” And though the 19-horsepower Deere has six fewer cylinders and some 400 horses less than a Hemi Charger, it accelerates briskly to its roughly 6-mph top speed while thoroughly mulching and bagging its cuts. Other pluses of this 42-inch tractor include effortless blade engagement via a switch instead of a lever and the ability to mow, mulch, or bag without having to change blades.
Like other lawn tractors, the John Deere X310 can also save me some shoveling this winter with an optional 44-inch snow blade (about $540). That and the fact that I’m wishing, rather than buying, help blunt this lawn tractor’s $4,000 price—which still buys a decent-running used car—and the fact that we found other lawn tractors that performed comparably for less than half that amount.
Normally I would scoff at the prospect of spending $425 on a toilet. In fact, such a basic and essential “appliance” is something I prefer to take for granted. However, if price was no object, the Kohler Highline Classic K-3493 would be my choice to replace my den toilet.
It wasn’t our highest-rated toilet, but that was largely due to the noise that all pressure-assist toilets seem to make, hence the reason I wouldn’t put it in my master bath. In all other aspects, the Kohler makes a loud (in a good way) statement. Using less water than the standard 1.6 gallons per flush, this is one formidable commode! Who wouldn’t want a toilet that can easily dispatch baby wipes, plenty of the standard fare, your kids’ deceased pets, and possibly even unwanted house guests? OK, we didn’t test for all that, but the Kohler seemed able to gulp down whatever we threw at it in one flush!
I love that it did a great job of keeping the bowl clean, moving flushed stuff down the waste pipe. It also has a sleek look with an exterior that is easy to clean and a conventional handle on the side of the tank so that I don’t have to give a how-to seminar for visitors.
It might not be glamorous, but I want this throne as my own. It’s nice to have a wish list item that can get rid of all the coal I’m likely to find in my stocking.
Ed Perratore, Senior Editor, Home & Garden
A coffeemaker that’s a cult classic
Coffeemakers have been one of my “beats” for years, not because I’m a testing engineer or taste expert but because I care more than most about my daily fuel. And to my own wish list I’d add the Technivorm Moccamaster KBT-741 . . . with conditions.
You might not have heard of the Technivorm, and you won’t find it among recommended models in our Ratings. But do an online search and you’ll find that coffee aficionados speak of this handmade, $265 drip machine with a tone I can only describe as reverential.
The Technivorm didn’t score higher in our tests because it’s not as intuitive and easy to use as other coffeemakers and has poor carafe handling. Among other drawbacks, the two-part brew stop has to be positioned just right for brewing to pause when you remove the carafe. And you need to experiment to learn just how much water is needed for a given cup size—despite reservoir markings.
So why do I want this coffeemaker? Because of all the coffeemakers we’ve tested, this one seems to be about more than achieving the prime temperature and duration considered vital for great brewing. During a weekend I borrowed the machine from our labs, the first cup I made from freshly ground beans didn’t just amaze me—whatever other items my breakfast included, I forgot about them instantly.
Still, there is something to be said for convenience. So what I’d want, sacrilege aside, is the stellar brewing of the Technivorm matched with the convenience of the Black & Decker CM4000S, a recommended model. It didn’t match the Technivorm in brewing prowess, but it has a helpful digital display, automatic prompts for cleaning the machine, and a brew-stop feature that’s usable by someone who hasn’t yet had the first coffee of the day.
Peter Sawchuk, Project Leader, Home & Garden
A Little Wonder that would be a big help clearing leaves
I have lots of trees around my house and come fall I am literally waist deep in leaves. It takes many hours of effort to clear the fall leaves from my yard. So my wish is for a powerful blower to get this job done faster. Enter the Little Wonder LB160H wheeled blower. It can literally blow leaves into the next county. This is perfect for what I need . . . however with a price tag of $800 it’s a big investment.
That said, since I have been granted one wish, I might as well kick it up a notch. Even though the pneumatic tires help this 117-pound power blower roll easily, I’ll opt for the self-propelled Little Wonder LB400S-SP for a tidy $2,600.
Pat Slaven, Program Leader, Appliances
A high-tech sewing machine that fools even the quilting judges
I’d love to get a Bernina Aurora 450 sewing machine (with the optional embroidery unit and stitch regulator), the replacement for the Bernina Aurora 440QE sewing machine that we tested a few years ago. The stitch regulator makes quilting so easy; no more dings by quilting judges for “uneven” stitch length.
The machine is still a workhorse that can hem denim jeans in a flash. The embroidery unit is addictive: Suddenly it’s way too easy to customize everything with a design or a name. But the software can be a bit touchy if you don't have the most current operating system. Yes, at $3,600, it’s expensive. But my sewing and quilting friends would be the proverbial green with envy. That alone makes the machine worth it!
Karin Weisburgh, Senior Market Analyst, Safety & Health
A top-rated wine chiller filled with top-rated wine
I wish I had a wine chiller filled with Consumer Reports' top-rated wines. The wines should comprise an assortment of reds and whites from around the world. Here's my gotta-have-it list of 15 wines (all top-rated) priced at a total of $240 for stocking my new wine chiller:
Crios Cabernet (Argentina), Crios Malbec (Argentina), Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot (Washington state), Oyster Bay Pinot Noir (New Zealand), G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut Champagne (France), Yellow Tail Moscato (Australia), Chalk Hill Chardonnay (Australia), Pillar Box red blend (Australia), Black Swan Pinot Grigio (Australia), Dancing Bull Zinfandel (California), Hogue late-harvest Riesling (Washington state), Chateau Grande Cassagne Rose (France), Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand), Mollydooker The Boxer Shiraz (Australia), and DeBortoli Emeri pink sparkling wine (Australia).
Optimally, the chiller should have easy-gliding pullout racks and be well lighted. I would also prefer that the chiller be built into my kitchen, since wine is such an integral part of my meal planning. In our tests of wine chillers, the Electrolux E124WC65GS was excellent at long-term storage and it fits all my requirements. But at $1,500, I know I’ll need to be extra nice to receive this gift!
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