European luxury brands are the most successful when it comes to delighting their customers, a survey by J.D. Power and Associates reveals.

But domestic luxury brands Cadillac and Lincoln also crack the top 10 spots in the latest Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study that polls new-vehicle buyers in the first 90 days of ownership.

Porsche tops the APEAL list, scoring 869 points out of a possible 1,000, easily surpassing the industry average of 779. Jaguar (859) ranks second, followed by Cadillac (852), Audi (846), BMW (844) and Mercedes (841).

Only one European brand, Smart (767), fails to exceed the industry average, even though its Fortwo model is top-ranked in the subcompact car category.

Japanese brands don’t register on the list until the seventh and eighth spots, with Lexus (837) and Infiniti (828). Rounding out the top 10 are Land Rover (822) and Lincoln (820).

Among those below the industry average are Honda and Mazda (both at 778), Scion (772), Pontiac (769), Nissan (768) and Mitsubishi (767).

The worst performer is Suzuki (715), followed by Jeep (727) Subaru (738), Kia (748), Saab (754), Toyota (756) and Chrysler (757).

The APEAL Study surveys buyers about how gratifying it is to own and drive their vehicles, based on more than 90 vehicle attributes. J.D. Power collected responses from more than 80,900 purchasers between February and May 2009 for the report.

The company says overall auto makers are improving when it comes to designing vehicles that meet or exceed consumer expectations, with the industry average APEAL score having risen to 779 from 770 a year ago.

It attributes the rise to less anxiety over fuel economy now that gas prices have eased, buyers are switching to more efficient models and auto makers continue to develop new vehicles boasting better mileage than their predecessors.

In looking at the best performers in each vehicle segment, J.D. Power says Volkswagen secured the top spot in four. In the large-pickup sector, the Chevrolet Avalanche, Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram finished in a dead heat for first place. Other models from Detroit leading their segments were the Dodge Challenger and Ford Flex.

Brands most improved from 2008: Dodge, Pontiac, Buick and Cadillac. The three most improved models: Dodge Ram, Buick Lucerne and Ford F-150.