By on May 12, 2011

Despite being on something of a roll product-wise, Ford has just experienced its second run-in with Consumer Reports, which failed to give Ford’s new Explorer a coveted “recommended” rating. Why? CR explains its decision in Automotive News [sub] thusly

“The engine is a little noisy, handling is secure but lacks agility, and the driving position is flawed,” the magazine says.

“The optional ‘MyFord Touch’ control interface is over-complicated and distracting,” the magazine says, echoing ongoing complaints about Ford’s family of in-vehicle communications systems.

But there’s more.

“The six-speed automatic is not the smoothest out there and wants to hold on to higher gears too long. It was sometimes slow to downshift and overly aggressive engine braking slowed the Explorer going down hills unless we gave the gas pedal a prod.

“An optional Terrain Management system for the all-wheel-drive system lets you dial in various terrain types such as snow and sand, and it alters throttle, brake and torque split between front and rear wheels accordingly.”

Finally, the latest Explorer is too new to be recommended, the magazine says.

But here’s the kicker: as our “Crossover Report” proves, the Explorer killed the competition last month, outselling every other midsized and large CUV on the market. So, is CR right to rate products like Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Ford Flex, Acura MDX, Volkswagen Touareg, Hyundai Veracruz, Subaru Tribeca, Kia Sorento and Mazda CX-9 higher than Explorer? Or is this yet another example of CR’s well-disguised but often-noted bias against American cars? Is CR right about the Explorer, or is the market?

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127 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: Would You Recommend A Ford Explorer?...”


  • avatar
    mikey

    CR rates a VW and a Kia, higher than a Ford? No…no..no…NO bias there.

    If I’m in a car conversation with anybody that quotes CR, I instantly put them into a catagory,of those that havn’t a clue what thier talking about.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      CR quite liked, say, the Fusion. They rated the Focus as the top small car for over half a decade. They also quite liked the second-generation CTS and the GMT-900 trucks.

      Hell, they liked the Flex, Freestyle and Five Hundred, so you can’t even fault them for hating the Ford D-Platform.

      It’s neither fair nor accurate to say CR is biased, or at least that they’re “biased” in the sense the Ed is insinuating. The Explorer, frankly, really isn’t that good: MyTouch really is the answer to a question no one asked, the powertrain is below-par and the packaging is bad for a vehicle so large. Yes, it sells well. So did the Cavalier. So do Big Macs. You get the picture: the market doesn’t always—heck, often—pick the holistically superior choice.

      This is not wholly unlike how CR rates the current Corolla (which they panned), the Insight (which they tore a strip off of), the Sienna (which they were very disappointed by) or the new Jetta (which they savaged). So no, no import bias there.

      If they say a car sucks, chances are it really does suck and perhaps people who are so vociferously in disagreement might do well to examine their own prejudice in the matter.

      Normally I’m not one to call TTAC on editorial policy, but the discussion of CR in the title really does come across as baiting.

      • 0 avatar

        Here’s the deal with the “well-disguised but often-noted bias” line: I’m not saying CR is unreliable, I’m referencing a popular perception. The “well disguised” bit is reference to the extraordinary lengths CR goes to to maintain its independence (buying its own cars). Provocative? Perhaps, but it’s within the galaxy of responses I’d expect from the comments section. Besides, as much as I personally respect (and am slightly jealous of) CR, I don’t think they’re infallible.

        The facts of the matter in this case are clear: the market says one thing, CR says another. I know bad cars have sold well before and good cars have sold poorly before… I’m just curious about how people explain this phenomenon.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        To be fair I did not DRIVE a 2011 Explorer, but I did look at several and sat in two of them last week while taking a friend to go shopping for a new car at the FLM dealers in El Paso, TX. And to be honest the new Explorer is very nice LOOKING, but I don’t know how well it behaves on and off road. Having said that I saw nothing that would make me want to trade my wife’s 2008 Highlander Limited AWD for a top-of-the-line 2011 Explorer. As for all the fancy built-in gadgetry… that’s just more things to go wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        HoldenSSVSE

        They loved the G8. They even wrote a piece appealing GM to kill the Impala W-Body and take the dead Pontiac Zeta four door and slap a Chevy badge on it. The last time I looked, was still on the used car reco list.

        I know when they tested Lambada when it first came out they also gave it very high praise calling it, “the most significant SUV to come out of Detroit.”

        Biased??? Ehhhh. Are there auto reliability ratings suspect? Absolutely. And TTAC exposed that here by showing what their methodology is for projecting reliability; it’s not pretty.

      • 0 avatar
        SupaMan

        I agree with psarhjinian that the new Explorer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

        I’ve driven several and was always infuriated by how non-intuitive the MyFord Touch system worked. I wouldn’t class myself as a techie but it seems you have to be one to make sense of the system. The V6 had good power but I had to prod the throttle numerous times to get the transmission to downshift and the interior packaging IS lacking for such a large vehicle.

        I got approached by a growing family to recommend a CUV for their needs and told them to steer clear of the new Explorer and head towards Mazda (CX-9), Chevy (Traverse) or Kia (Sorento) and if they still were Ford driven to check out the Flex.

        Guess what?

        They really liked the Explorer and named it as one of their top picks.

        It just goes to show that no matter what entities like CR, Motor Trend or even TTAC says, people will buy what they want to buy. It’s a consumer driven market.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        HoldenSSVSE – While CR’s new car reliability ratings can be suspect*, their reliability ratings for used cars are fantastic. I clearly recall looking at CR’s reliability ratings when I bought my new ’07 VW GTI. Generally, it was pretty well rated, so I thought I’d be in the clear. A few years and a few dozen quality issues later, it was pretty clear that the MKV GTI was only marginally better than the MKIV, which was terrible. I went back and checked the ratings, and sure enough, the GTI now had lots of black marks in areas where I’d had problems. I’m not mad because predicting reliability is a tricky thing, afterall, but the black dots that were all over the place for the 02~05 models should have indicated to me that the potential was definitely there for my GTI to be a nightmare**. That old saying about changing spots is still applicable.

        I tend to think that their reviews are pretty spot on for your typical consumer. CR did not like the 5th gen 4Runner I bought. They didn’t like the truck-like ride. They didn’t like the handling. They didn’t like the body on frame construction. I’ll be the first to tell you that if you’re not planning on going off-road, the Highlander is a better SUV from Toyota. I go offroad, though, which is where my ambition exceeds the Highlander’s capability. The on-road handling of the 4Runner was compromised so that it had better capability off pavement. That is a compromise that I’m willing to live with. I think their review methods are sound because it looks at every car from the same perspective. Other mags will tell me about the sporty or offroad value. CR tells me what it would be like to live with on a daily basis.

        * Judging new car reliability is pretty difficult these days because most cars are pretty good up until the warranty is out. There aren’t a lot of cars being made that have transmissions and engines puking at 50k miles. Historical data and extrapolation is all you really have to go on and that is a risk because every maker has a few duds.
        ** I still miss that car. It was so much fun to drive. I’ll choose trouble free, go anywhere motoring of my 4Runner any day of the week, though.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        Point in FACT!
        I purchased a few things based upon the CR rating and since then have wiped them from my trusted sources.
        Their LG refrigerator has cost me hundreds in repairs.
        Likewise, smaller purchases such as camcorders and such faired a little better…but not much.

        Their rating on the Goodyear Triple Tread forced me into Michelin replacements at just 20K miles.
        Now THAT was costly. However, I could not take the poor wear on my Trailblazer or the noise on my Mazda3 Hatch.
        What would YOU call how CR cost me these problems???
        I call it poor and biased and the reason they are wiped from my resource base.

        They simply do not know what they are talking about with reliability!!!

    • 0 avatar
      dartman

      I dont blame you Mikey, thear nuthin but a bunch of pointy-hedded ituleckshuls that like to make fun of right thinkin peeples spelin and gramer and such…plus thear reel bad at jumpin two cunclewshuns abowt peeple without rilly nowin nuthin abowt them!

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      “If I’m in a car conversation with anybody that quotes CR, I instantly put them into a [catagory],of those that [havn’t] a clue what [thier] talking about.”

      UAW members are a category by itself.

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      I don’t always agree with their reliability survey results, but I find their reviews are generally helpful. They may not care about the same things I care about, but they do point out things like rear visibility and so on that I may not consider as much, and they generally seem to do a better but not perfect job about being objective than a lot of other car review sources.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      Ed, when you write it like that it means that you’re stating the bias as a fact and not just referencing commonly held beliefs.
      Having read through far too many Consumer Reports reviews of cars that I personally checked out myself I’d say that their reviews aren’t really biased towards any manufacturer but they have a tendency to prioritize things weirdly. A lot of stuff that I would count as serious issues with a car get discounted by CR as not being a big deal while they complain over things I find perfectly acceptable or even likable. So their reviews are unfortunately very subjective in the sense that they have their weird preferences for what they feel a car “should” be like but they’ve never really shown a manufacturer bias.

      And anyways, the supposed bias that people so often whine about is actually in regards to the reliability surveys, which isn’t even up to the CR reviewers. For years the domestics did awfully in those surveys but in all honesty those late 80′s and 90′s cars were pretty crummy compared to the competition.

      So while I don’t always find myself agreeing with their overall conclusions about a car from their reviews, they’re still interesting to read if only as one more point of data for a car you’re considering. If you pay attention to the pros and cons in all the reviews you get a good idea of what to look at when you’re checking out the car yourself. Some of the stuff they call cons you might not care about or you might even like, but it’s still nice to know ahead of time what stuff you might find problematic.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Nothing against Ford, since I own one, but the new Explorer will make a good school bus for upper middle class kids. I saw several on the roads in Houston this week and it is much easier on the eyes than the Traverse.

    Seriously, CR has a point regarding the newness of the Explorer. Ford takes a while to get programming right on its electronically controlled transmissions.

    Maybe Nullo can chime in, but I hope that the MyFordTouch Series 2 isn’t mandatory. I drove a V6 Fusion rental without it and I was quite pleased with the car.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      MyFord Touch isn’t mandatory, no. It isn’t available on the base model, and is an option on the XLT, it comes standard on the Limited.

      CR’s criticisms of the system are, at least in my opinion, off base. Yes, it can be complicated, but it’s only as complicated as you want to make it. If you are a gadget freak and want to use every feature, there is a learning curve. IF you just want to change the temperature and the radio station, those are easily done and intuitive.

      I do have a problem with CR appointing themselves judges of what is distracting or not. The voice recognition is adaptive – it gets better the longer you have the vehicle, and the five-way controls on the steering wheel become second nature once you’ve had the vehicle for a week or so.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Nullo: I’ve now had three chances with the system. CR is right, it (MyTouch) really is a bad idea in that it tries to adapt an interface paradigm that’s just not suited for vehicle control.

        This isn’t a matter of opinion: other marques have designed systems that don’t require acclimatization, and don’t put layers of abstraction in front of the user.

        That “you get used to it” is not a good thing. People “got used” to iDrive and COMAND, and they stank, too.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        The difference compared to iDrive is that it remained difficult and byzantine even after you learned how to use it. MyFord Touch gets easier the more time you spend with it. The first time you use a certain function, you might find how to turn it on via the longest route, but once you are familiar with all of the short cuts built in, it gets much easier.

        The problem with the system is it does throw a lot at you at once, and it can be confusing and a bit intimidating for those who aren’t technically inclined. For someone who actually owns the vehicle though, and who isn’t just playing around with it on a test drive or a quick review, it becomes easy to use and very powerful. I make a point to show off the capabilities and how easy they are to get to on every test drive, and people are genuinely impressed. Delivering a vehicle with the system can take over an hour of just going over how to use the electronics, and in many cases I schedule a follow up review session the next week. Yes, it does a lot, yes, it can seem over complicated at first, but when you take the time, it becomes very rewarding.

      • 0 avatar
        EricTheOracle

        I live in Minnesota and drove the new Explorer last winter. It was cold outside and so was the car. Imagine my annoyance when I realized that in order to change the environmental controls and make the my touch work, I would be required to remove my glove. In about 10 seconds I went from highly interested in the Ford’s Explorer to disinterested in Ford’s Explorer. People in Texas can have at it.

      • 0 avatar
        HoldenSSVSE

        I agree with psarhjinian. I’ve had it in a couple of rentals. The processor can’t keep up, or there are some other issues as there is latency in functions. A steering wheel with 18 buttons (when you count the two five ways) is just too darn much.

        I did find over my second round I got use to it; but I’ve used other telematic systems that didn’t require this level of a learning curve.

      • 0 avatar
        Forty2

        I had a brand-new Ford Edge for a week from Avis last month and it was probably on the fifth day that I figured out how to switch playlists on my iPod via MyTouch without crashing the porky beast.

        NOT intuitive. This system probably shouldn’t be available in rental cars given the short usage timeframe.

        I give em credit for not requiring a proprietary USB cable to connect an iPod/iFone/etc unlike Hyundai.

      • 0 avatar
        tekdemon

        The interface looks really laggy and cluttered though…not really optimal for something you’re meant to be able to adjust while driving-traditional controls are basically instantaneous in response so they really have to do something about that.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      MyFord Touch gets easier the more time you spend with it.

      It shouldn’t. A system, especially in consumer space, shouldn’t require acclimatization.

      Here’s another example: the iPad and the BlackBerry Playbook. If you’ve used, say, an iPad, it’s immediately useful. My two-year old figured it out, as did my technophobic father. There’s practically no learning curve because everything works how you expect. The Playbook, nice as it is, isn’t immediately obvious: how you move through windows and select programs requires search and several steps.

      I trialled both for several customers: not one preferred the Playbook. They tried to be clever and different and it didn’t work because it deviated from best-practice. Is the Playbook more versatile and more powerful? Sure. Will you warm up to it? Of course. Should you have to? Heck no.

      MyTouch is the same: yes, it’s powerful, and yes, it’s interesting, but it does badly what a few knobs and context-sensitive buttons do better. It’s the Playbook to, say, Chrysler’s iPad (and to extend the metaphor, iDrive is Windows CE).

      A touchscreen is a good interface when the device you’re working with has your total focus, and even then the UI is critical. It’s absolutely the wrong choice when you’re travelling at speed and required to split your attention. OnStar, for all it’s faults, gets this right: all you do is press one button and the agent on the other end of the line takes care of everything else.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Motor Trend has a white hot passion for the Detroit brands, but even they admitted that the new Explorer is the worst vehicle in its segment in a May 2011 comparison test. In the same test they said the Dodge Durango was a few tweaks from best in class.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      The Motor Trend test can be safely ignored – they even admit in the review that it was a pre-production vehicle they tested. The MyFord Touch cutting out was an issue with early software versions – now fixed, and I haven’t experienced any of the trim rattling or suspension clunk that they mention from the pre-production prototype they tested.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        “Considering its great width, one would think the Explorer would be spacious. But like the Taurus it’s based on, it just isn’t.” Not a pre-production glitch, but a major one for a bulky SUV.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        CJ –

        And not an accurate statement either. The Explorer is larger than the Durango (as well as the Mazda CX-9) in all of the interior measurements, and incredibly close to the the interior measurements of the GM Lambdas (slightly bigger in some, slightly smaller in others). The second row is much roomier than any of the direct competitors, and the way the doors bow out leaves a lot of room for girthy drivers up front.

        I’ve sold a number of Explorers to customers downsizing from Expeditions, and a comment I hear again and again is ‘wow, this is almost as big inside’. The third row is smaller than the Expedition, but how often does anyone have adults in the third row of their vehicle?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Looking at the charts, the Explorer had the least 1st and 2nd row headroom and the least interior volume behind the 1st row seats of any vehicle in the test. Behind the 2nd row of seats, it had 1.5 cu ft more room than the Highlander, but the Highlander dedicated 16 cu ft more room to the 2nd row of seats, which seems more important. I can understand why they subjectively rated it the most cramped based on sitting in the Taurus. The lack of glazed area made that car feel like a cramped cave to me, and I’m 6’2″. I can’t imagine many short people buy them, no matter how safe they’re supposed to feel because they can’t see the threatening world around them.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        Interesting. I was going off of the Edmunds numbers (I find their car comparison tool to be pretty easy to use) which comes up with different figures than MT has in their chart, at least for the headroom. My first thought was maybe the MT people had one with a moonroof, but that doesn’t seem to be the case from the photos in the review.

      • 0 avatar
        HoldenSSVSE

        In NulloModo’s defense when Motor Trend did a comparo of a V6 Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger, the Camaro they used in the test was a Hertz rent-a-car, never lost GPS slapped into it and all, with IIRC over 20K miles on the clock. Not exactly the fairest of the fair and left me scratching my head on why was it the only Camaro they could get was a rental car, and then they admit that they proceed to beat on it. Wonder if they are on the do not rent list now at Hertz?

      • 0 avatar
        faygo

        not correct. Lieberman was very clear in the blog post about the issues they had with the Explorer they tested – the Explorer would still have finished last in the test had it not had any of the issues attributable to being a pre-production unit.

        I’ve driven a few Explorers for a few days and while it’s not a vehicle I’d want, I can see how it appeals – it’s very safe feeling and attractive enough looking for it’s segment. MyFord Touch is far from perfect at this point, but as long as the crashing/re-booting issues are eliminated, people will get used to it. some Luddites will stay away, but you can’t please everyone, all the time.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      It’s not uncommon for magazine reviews to be based on a different tested vehicle than the one used for photography. IWO, they didn’t necessarily test the one they photographed.

      • 0 avatar
        aspade

        I don’t think the magazines test passenger dimensions at all, they just copy the numbers out of the manufacturer’s brochure. In the past the MT website has been quite sloppy with figures transposed between vehicles, etc. I wouldn’t put much credit in it.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Their criticism of the transmission is certainly specific, one would assume it’s legit. On the other hand, a two ton SUV lacks agility? Color me shocked.

    Was part of their comment about the Terrain Management omitted? There’s no judgment there at all, they just mention that it exists.

    • 0 avatar
      texan01

      Ford transmissions have been notoriously poorly programmed for years. Slow to downshift, slow to upshift if you have commanded a kickdown and let off. My 95 Explorer has done that for years.

  • avatar
    obbop

    That grille must convey the proper “bling level” and “street creds.”

  • avatar

    McDonalds doesn’t make the tastiest hamburgers but that doesn’t keep them from being the biggest selling hamburger peddler in the land.

    CR rates all products the same way, as products. Some washing machines are easier to use and wash clothes better than others. They use the same approach with cars which enthusiasts may find hard to understand. But we need to realize that most people buying cars out there are buying them as a product no different than a washing machine. So did Ford make the best washing machine compared to Kia and Toyota? No, it doesn’t sound like it.

    I’ve actually driven the new Explorer and their findings seem to be on target. It’s made out of old bones, the transmission is tuned for fuel consumption uber alles to the detriment of even commuting dynamics, it’s ponderous to turn and the packaging for the rear row leaves something to be desired, even compared to older people haulers like GM’s Lambdas.

    CR’s perspective is a practical one and it has just as much relevance, if not more, than most enthusiast reviewers do. People buy things like the Explorer to haul their families and that’s pretty important. I’m glad that the do-no-wrong bailout boostering or any brand favoritism isn’t coloring their production evaluations like it seems to have done in magazines and online the past few years.

    Ford’s image is on a roll, but they still have plenty of mediocre products on the market. For every good vehicle Ford makes Chrysler and GM both have good offerings as well. It doesn’t surprise me to learn the Durango is a much better vehicle but due to Chrysler’s bailout image many will probably pass it up.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      If you consider your car a washing machine, and don’t care about interior quality and luxury and cutting edge high tech features, I can see your point that others in this segment do boring but simple better.

      Thankfully for Ford (and myself) a lot of people seem to very much prefer a bit of style, some great technology features, and the luxury-grade interior that Ford is putting into the Explorer.

      Back in college when I worked for an electronics store CR would routinely rate GE and odd brands like Sanyo TVs ahead of the models from Sony, Panasonic, or JVC. They stated ease of use and reliability as primary factors, despite the Sony, JVC and Panasonic sets having far better picture quality than anything else in the comparison. CR has a great knack for picking middling but predictable products with no weaknesses, but no real strengths, over more interesting products that excel in certain areas but might have a couple drawbacks.

      At least for me, I’ll take the interesting option with a couple shortcomings if the areas where it’s better matter to me, and apparently based on the sales data, the US public agrees when it comes to the Explorer.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        Speaking of Sanyo, I once had a Sanyo color TV that was branded as a Sears that my parents bought in 1977 brand new and I ended up with it in 1988 and was STILL using it when I finally upgraded to a then new Toshiba 20″ stereo color TV in 1996, my first TV bought new.

        That old 19″ Sears set was reliable, maintained a good picture until the early 1990′s when the picture began to degrade, but was slowly loosing its brightness by the late 80′s however.

        It remained in my old bedroom for about 2 more years before it finally went away and had been bleeding in the reds and had horrible scan lines across the top, but still worked! :-)

        As for the Explorer, I’d have to really look at it and perhaps test drive one before I’d recommend it heartily for anyone looking for that type of vehicle and I’ve heard even on C/Net that the Ford My Touch system is complicated and requires much too much touching of the screen and thus a potential for distractions to the driver, which Brian, the host of the car tech segments didn’t feel was a good move.

        That said, I had been impressed by the first gen models when I discovered you can, with the rear seat folded, that a love seat fits inside nicely with the hatch fully closed (I should know, I worked for a short while at a furniture store and part of my duties were taking the furniture purchases to the customer’s car of choice).

        I’m not even sure I’d even recommend the Ranger truck even though I own a well used, but still runs well 2nd gen Ranger with over 233K miles on the clock as word is they cheapened the truck in many respects and it I think has less mileage than the earlier iterations but again, would have to check them out more closely to know more.

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        5 years from now that already pokey “high tech” MyTouch interface is going to look and feel absolutely paleolithic. Toys are fine, but when you are driving a vehicle designed for toting Denver and Madison to soccer practice, what value does it add?

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        Ciddy –

        I’ve got a JVC D-Series 32″ set in my bedroom that was built I think back in ’98, still a great picture, and for my money one of the best analog tube TVs ever built (the Sony Wegas and analog XBRs were great too, but way out of my budget at the time). Nothing wrong with reliable, and I’m sure Sanyo has made some solid products, my point was just that CR always seems to take the safe route with recommendations, choosing a product that might score all Bs over something that gets half As and half Cs. As to which might better really depends on the person buying and what their intentions are.

        The criticisms I’ve seen about MyFord Touch mostly just show me that people are reviewing it without understanding how to use it. The name is awful – having Touch in the same makes everyone assume that the touch screen should be the primary input method, when really it’s the voice commands that shine. The touch screen allows you to do stuff when parked or stopped to fine tune certain settings, but 90% of anything you would want to do can be accomplished with a simple voice command, with no distraction at all. I should make a YouTube video primer to show off how easy it is to use.

        Ubermensch –

        The average new car buyer keeps their vehicle around three or four years, and most used car buyers are OK with the tech in the vehicle no longer being cutting edge, they know that you give up certain things for the savings on price. As to how it helps picking up Suzy and Timmy – parents use Navigation systems all the time, and MyFord Touch is by far the easiest to use for inputting a destination in natural language, finding a restaurant, starbucks, ATM, or other point of interest, again by name with one or two commands, and it even shows the next turn right up by the speedometer, so no having to look away from the road to see what’s coming up. The built in Wi-Fi hot spot feature makes it easy on a long trip for one kid to surf the web on a netbook or iPad and the other one to play a game vs his buddy at home on his PSP or Nintendo DS. The voice commands for the audio system let dad pull up and shuffle through all of his Sinatra music on his iPod with a single command without having to look away from the road, or mom tune to Radio Margaritaville on Sirius without having to touch a dial or remember what station number it is. The Sync phone features allow you to call anyone in your phone book with a single simple command, or to automatically send all calls to voicemail so you won’t be distracted if you are driving in an unfamiliar area. The real time traffic let’s dad find the best way to get to a meeting he’s running late to, and Sync TDI let’s him hear the highlites of the Master’s Tournament on the way. Mom can find the lowest fuel prices in town, and have the nav system route her to the lowest priced station if she’s in a new area. If a song comes on the radio that the driver loves, just hit the ‘tag’ button while your iPod is connected and the next time you dock your iPod/iPhone/whatever at home it pulls up a link where you can buy it on iTunes. All of this stuff is just scratching the surface of what the system can do, but yes, it offers a lot of utility and convenience for the average family on the go.

      • 0 avatar

        Far and away my biggest problem with the Explorer is MyTouch, which is completely unnecessary and even though I am in my late 20s I found it very hard to use at a glance on my drive. I cannot imagine my wife fiddling with it while trying to drive in traffic at the same time with kids in the back. Why on Earth would they do this other than as extra tinsel polish?

        The biggest reason other than the RWD layout that I prefer the new Durango (or Grand Cherokee) to the Explorer is that psuedo-smartphone stuff like that can be left off in favor of simple knobs and buttons that everyone can operate at a glance and you don’t have to wait for the car to think a microsecond or press them again before they react.

        Ford may go on to sell more Explorers than any other competitor in the segment, but that doesn’t mean it’s really the best vehicle in the class. That goes back to my McDonalds comparison. I think reviving the name on a CUV and styling it like an Explorer was shrewd and I appreciate the interior, but I’ll take one of the easier to operate and better packaged SUV/CUVs over it.

      • 0 avatar
        rudiger

        I understand completely about CR rating GE and other, similiar crap highly. One of my favorite CR recommendations was decades ago when telephone answering machines were in their infancy. CR’s recommendation was for no less than a battery-powered Radio Shack device. Based solely on that recommendation, I bought one. Needless to say, it was a steaming pile o’ crap which was soon replaced by a much better Panasonic device which lasted for years.

        The moral of the story is that CR’s recommendations should always be taken with a grain of salt. While they’re probably right about the Explorer, for many, it’s probably okay.

        Worth mentioning, in particular, is their dislike for the touch screen and other techno-crap like Sync. That’s all gimmickery designed for marketing ads and commercials. That kind of stuff quickly wears out its novelty in actual use, but still works well for sales, sort of like BMW’s iDrive.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        NulloModo: “If you consider your car a washing machine, and don’t care about interior quality and luxury and cutting edge high tech features, I can see your point that others in this segment do boring but simple better.”

        I have a hard time understanding your logic. Why treating a car like an appliance would indicate not caring about quality/luxury/tech?

        There are many high quality and high tech appliance out there. Open your eyes. The Explorer may not suck, but it doesn’t mean it’s desirable either. The best it can be is a quality appliance (the “quality” part is to be proven over time).

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        Very interesting side topic!

        My wife bought a Malaysian TV of some sort back in 1991. 19″ model with a VCR. 20+ years it is still doing perfect duty at a car lot. Although I rarely watch anything on TV.

        Back in 2002/2003 I broke down and got my wife an $89 Apex 27″ TV, $20 DVD player with metal innards, a $30 VCR, and a $40 something-another that enables all three of them to communicate with each other.

        I refuse to buy anything else electronics related. You can get good TV’s for free today on Freecycle. Other than a replacement computer, which will likely either be a hand me down or a surplus one that I recently bought from a bank auction for $20, I pretty much have electronics costs all sewn up.

        Oh, one other thing. Everyone in the family uses the same computer in an open room near the kitchen. Eventually the kids may get their own personal phone/computer or such. But they will have to pay for it. Call me a Scrooge but I’d rather have them value their money and work… and see whether all the shiny things out there are really worth it.

  • avatar
    M 1

    “Would You Recommend A Ford Explorer?”

    AH HA HA HA HA HA! Oh wait, you were serious?

    How many of those junk-ass Ford autos lost reverse, anyway? Is there an official tally?

  • avatar

    given the problems I have had with my 08 Enclave I would go for the Explorer. three transmissions, fuel pump, entire steering system, catayltic converter, floor console, and now the water pump and timing chain cover leaking. add in how many high output 3.6 engines blow timing chains and I plan on a Ford in my future.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!?!?!?!?!?

      What are they gonna say at the Buick dealership when you roll up in a Ford?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      The Enclave transmission was a joint development with Ford in case you were curious.

      • 0 avatar
        rnc

        No the design was joint (mostly GM), the development from that point was completely seperate. I worked for a company that did a great deal of the development on the GM version. GM outsourced every piece possible as cheaply as possible, while Ford kept the whole process in house.

    • 0 avatar
      GarbageMotorsCo.

      I know WAY WAY too many people who have had issues with their Lamdas, including engines replaced due to the rash of faulty camshafts that would break within a few thousand miles of new. Also, water leaks and electrical problems galore.

      The Acadia is one of the handsomest utes on the market but the quality is no better than “Old GM” even if they’d like us to believe things have changed with the bailouts and their second “ROAD TO REDEMPTION” campaigns.

      The Explorer is a nice evolution form the older ones but the quality appears to be lacking as well. Shame, it’s a looker.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Given the high price of an Enclave, why not just go for an MDX or RX? If you give Detroit another chance, you risk becoming a fool.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      We considered both the Enclave and Acadia in 2008 but still ended up buying the 2008 Jap-built Highlander Limited AWD. There were rumors and alleged premature breakdowns on the Enclave and Acadia forums and some of the research tools indicated that both suffered from nit-noy engineering problems, covered under warranty, but I never pursued learning more about it because my wife had told me that the Highlander was her choice. Now, three years later, I have heard first-hand experiences from owners in my area who ask me if our Highlander has given us any problems, and most importantly, if there have been any warranty claims. I tell them the truth. Our Highlander has not been back to the dealership for anything since my wife drove it off the lot. I do all my own oil and filter changes and have not had to replace anything in over 50K trouble-free miles. I do believe that these people may be considering trading their Acadias and Enclaves for Highlanders. I know one guy with an Aspen traded his for a 2010 Highlander.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        Have you had any recalls on it? Quick search shows 6 different ones. But don’t think that the Highlander is without fault. There are plenty of problems. Just go look at forums for the vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        highdesertcat: “no issues in 50k miles, very happy!”
        steven: “you’re wrong; read the forums! they are junk!”

        First, there isn’t a forum out there that is completely lacking breakdown complaints. Judging a car’s reliability based on the forums is pretty ridiculous because most people don’t really post on the forums until there is a problem. That is particularly true for non-enthus models like large CUVs.

        Second, the data doesn’t lie. Go on over to truedelta and look at the Highlander versus the Enclave and Acadia. The 2008 Highlander has 15 repair trips to the dealer per year per 100 cars. The 2008 Enclave is 93 repair trips to the dealer per year per 100 cars. The 2008 Acadia is on 93 as well.

      • 0 avatar
        tekdemon

        I’ve seen you call your Toyotas “Jap” built repeatedly…you do realize that this is a racial slur though? Your posts are otherwise pretty informative otherwise but that’s pretty off-putting to read.

    • 0 avatar
      amadorgmowner

      Ouch,Buickman! Sorry to hear of your 2008 Enclave’s chronic problems. My wife’s 2010 Enclave has had zero problems in two years. Needless to say if I was your employer at the Buick dealer and you showed up in an Explorer, you wouldn’t work for me anymore. Maybe you should change your title to “Fordman” and go to work at a Ford dealer.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    Would TTAC care to provide some evidence of CRs “well-disguised but often-noted bias against American cars?”

    Lots of terrible cars sell very well, that doesn’t make them any better cars and isn’t any indication that those that don’t like them are “biased.”

    But I guess I must be one of those that haven’t a clue about what they are talking about. Also, immediately discounting an opionion based on what you may think of its source apparently doesn’t show any bias.

    Fair disclosure, I am a CR subscriber and don’t often agree with their car reviews but I have yet to find any evidence of bias against American cars, of which they recommend numerous models. I read CR reviews when I want an idea of what a car is like to live with on a day to day basis. On the other hand there are some real car enthusists that test cars. If you are a subscriber you can watch videos of their antics on the test track of BMW and Cadillac models. They clearly show an affinity for a good burnout or power slide.

    I wonder how many here who deride CR have actually subscribed?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      There would be plenty of evidence, but evil CR is careful to keep their bias ‘well-disguised.’ You just need the secret decoder prism.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      CR’s auto ratings are a bit perplexing.

      They really seem to love their Nissan/Infiniti products tho, where the aging Sentra and Altima get a lot more love (ranked no.2 and no.1 respectively) than anywhere else.

      The CR reviewers do take into account handling/the “fun factor”, but just don’t weigh it as heavily as more enthusiast-oriented publications (not surprisingly, Toyota/Lexus vehicles got the most “awards” for being the least fun vehicles in their respective segments).

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        Exactly, and I don’t fault them for this. It’s a more pragmatic way of looking at cars. They will weigh the fun factor higher in cars that are performance oriented like sports cars and performance sedans. Toyotas and Hondas are A to B so they look closely at the more mundane aspects of these cars more closely, which makes sense.

    • 0 avatar
      pdieten

      The bias claims started because CR figured out before most of Middle America did that the quality of American cars wasn’t holding up compared to the Japanese competition back in the ’80s. This was when only major metros in the middle of the country had just one Toyota and one Honda dealership, so many people hadn’t even seen a Japanese car let alone driven one.

      That aside, the GM X-cars got CR’s highest ratings, based only on their drivability, until they found out they were poorly engineered and poorly built POSes.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      CR rated the new Jetta (built in NAFTA, but generally not considered an “American car”) very low as well.

      On the other hand, the bad reviews don’t exactly seem to have hurt the Jetta sales.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I’ll abstain from the bashing Consumer Reports. They are simply one opinion of many in this business.

    But personally, I am not a fan of any of these grossly overweight vehicles that cost thousands more than a Camry and yet can’t ride nearly as well.

    It’s a waste of steel and space. But as long as folks want them, it’s not my role to stop the throng of mediocrity.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    Depends on the buyer.

    If they are looking for an SUV to get off the beaten path, absolutely not. No low range, no real 4WD system (center diff lock/transfer case), and the front air dam looks as if it won’t clear a parking barrier. Toyota 4Runner and (if the buyer is feeling lucky with reliability) the Jeep Grand Cherokee would be my vote.

    If the buyer is looking to have a high seating position and 3 rows of seating haul their kids around, I’d really have no recommendation. Pick the one you like the interior and exterior of the most. They’re all tall station wagons with reactive 4WD systems. They are all so similar that you’re more than likely going to be happy with whatever your gut was telling you to pick.

  • avatar
    enzl

    I root for all of these machines.

    Let the great unwashed subsidize great cars.

    CXs allow MXs, Explorers mean frequent Mustang upgrades, and so on… I shrug my shoulders and stifle a giggle every time someone insists they REALLY need these types of products.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      I don’t cheer for these machines becuase they continue to displace wagons in the market. I have an acquantance that claims he needs a BMW X5 because he wants good fuel economy and has 2 kids. I just roll my eyes when he shows me their $50k+ price tags…USED. I keep trying to tell him he would be better served with a Flex or Minivan, but his ego won’t let him buy something so plebeian.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    While it is “new” model much of the mechanicals are based on the Taurus/Flex so it should be about as reliable in those areas. Just because CR can’t figure out how to work the My Touch doesn’t mean the person willing to spend the extra money for it won’t. The buying public apparently has decided by voting with it’s proverbial wallet so I say you could probably do much worse if you’re in the market for this type of vehicle. For me no thanks I’ll hang on to my BOF V8 powered version cause I do use it to tow well over 5K on occasion, and would choose the Flex if I wanted a uni-body AWD wagon. At least in part for the available V6 EcoBoost rather than the still not here 4cyl EcoBoost in the Explorer. Which is where they got it wrong the Flex should have the 4cyl and the Explorer should get the V6.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      From what I saw of MyTouch in that video I would say it needs work. There is no excuse for a display that reacts that slowly in the days of 6 core processors and gigabytes of RAM. Looks like Microsoft’s handywork, and being in IT, I would know.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        MyFord Touch isn’t perfect. It is occasionally slow to react, and the screen does show a lot of information at once.

        At the same time, it also offers features far beyond any other factory offered in-car infotainment system on the market, and the shortcomings are easy to avoid once you are familiar with the system.

        Designing a system that will be able to function for many years despite being subjected to 150 degree heat and 95% humidity from a black on black car parked towards the sun in the FL summer to a solid month of below freezing temperatures in the ND winter plus not get jumbled from the shock of driver over speed bumps, rumble strips, curbs or gravel roads means that a lot of the most cutting edge tech doesn’t have a place. Plus there are power requirements and ambient heat to worry about – no one wants to hear a cooling fan cycling on and off under their dash.

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        Make no mistake, I’m no luddite, but IMHO MyTouch is not necessary and I have yet to see how it makes operating a car any easier. I will say it looks much better than BMWs iDrive but there again it was an answer to a question nobody asked. From what little experience I have had with it, I think SYNC is the best system to come along in ages, I don’t see what MyTouch brings to the party other than gee-wizzery.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      “much of the mechanicals are based on the Taurus/Flex so it should be about as reliable in those areas”

      That depends on whether those mechanicals are equally stressed in the Explorer. For things like steering wheels, it’s not an issue. For engines / transmissions pulling extra weight, maybe it’ll have an impact.

  • avatar
    FreezingD

    I’ve done my time in SUV land with an 02 Explorer that lost its transmission at 48K… I have a real hard time remembering why I thought the family needed it in the first place. Now the minivan serves as a much better 8 person hauler and my old pickup truck works perfectly for hauling and towing stuff.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    “handling is secure but lacks agility, and the driving position is flawed,” – These quotes describe 90% of crossover vehicles sold in the USA. Don’t know what CR is whining about.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Would TTAC care to provide some evidence of CRs “well-disguised but often-noted bias against American cars?”

    Here here. I’m a huge CR fan, if only for their reliability ratings, ease of use, etc. Their opinion is just one of several I strongly rely on regarding any purchase, let alone something as expensive as a vehicle. Karesh and TrueDelta have also played into strong consideration in recent years.

    While the fan mags were all clamoring for new ideas and home team boostering (COY = AMC Encore. Really???), CR was the only group asking owner opinions and quantifying important data. Yes, they’ve never really been enthusiasts, and that’s not the opinion I’m looking for from them. But let’s look at 20 years ago – Chevy is shoveling the Corsica, Ford the Tempo, and Honda the Accord. When you’re spending that much money (all roughly equally priced), why the hell would you buy an inferior product?

    In fact, because of CR’s many years of research, I guarantee that’s the major reason the domestics cranked up their game to where they’re contenders. FF to today, and with all the whining about VW’s reliability, CR’s research verifies the myriad of complaints.

    I’m a huge Ford fan, but yes, I’m disappointed the Explorer wasn’t more fully cooked as I’ve heard in several reviews (I do think the Taurus X was brilliant, but apparently I’m a small minority…).

    I also love BMWs. Thanks to CR, I know getting into that relationship is going to be an expensive one. Is it worth it? That would be up to the individual consumer.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    I’d love to but I can’t recommend a first year redesign. There’s new 2010 Eddie Bauer Explorer 4.0 RWD sitting a my local Ford dealer right now. They’re probably willing to deal and sell it for the price of an XLT. Although it would get 4 MPG less, the 4.0 Explorer has basically been around since the Clinton Administration and unlikely to have issues.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      There is almost nothing on a 2010 Explorer shared with an 01 or older version. Sure it’s got a 8.8″ ring, pinion differential and a few of the engine parts like the like fasteners may interchange between the OHV 4.0 and the SOHC 4.0 but other than that it is one of the few cases where an “all new” vehicle was pretty much all new.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I hate to say it, but I think CR is right on the money in their opinion of the new Explorer.

  • avatar
    Roundel

    I would take a new Durango if I needed three rows, and a Grand Cherokee if I didn’t.
    They just seem to be better overall packages. And that includes not having a BSOD on my dashboard when I want to switch radio stations.
    I love the premise of Myfordtouch, but its a HOT mess.

  • avatar
    Ion

    Though it is very nice inside one, I’d think I’d rather recommend the Flex or the Escape. Most Explorer buyers never need a vehicle that size so the Escape would suite them fine and if they did need seating for 7 the Flex is a better deal.

  • avatar
    anchke

    I think METHOD is the point here. CR tells you how it is going to test and rate a vehicle, then does so, then reports the reults, often with charts and graphs, take ‘em or leave ‘em. The CR method is skewed to measurables, not subjective considerations, which differs from impressionistic methods used in other quarters. It’s a bit like choosing the best baseball team by analyzing box scores.

    I think those who object to the CR method have a point in their unflattering comparisons to testing vacuum cleaners. Granted, people don’t have an emotional connection to their appliances, but for some the car is a statement of who they are, for better or worse. The problem is that the CR method doesn’t sync with such personal considerations since they are basically unmeasurable. However, CR states this up front and at times tries to fudge it a bit.

    I find the CR method to be generally helpful, since I recognize their method has some inherent bias. But if you’re buying a car, I’d say you need to treat it as a major financial decision with some “I like” angles to it, do your homework without over reliance on a single source, and know how to take a test drive. I think there are better coices in the class than the Explorer, but I’d say the Explorer isn’t a clearly terrible choice depending on what you want and how much you pay.

    Candidly, one problem is that there are too many choices out there right now and many consumers are just overwhelmed.

    • 0 avatar
      SV

      You’ve covered pretty much everything I wanted to say. CR is great covering the objective stuff, but don’t take subjective measures into account very much.

      For example, will the Consumer Reports class benchmark Hyundai Elantra continue its reign once the new Focus completes testing? I have little doubt: like most Hyundais, Toyotas and Hondas it’s designed, almost specifically it seems, to excel in their tests, with good packaging, safe handling/braking/acceleration, and generally easy to use controls. Things like the fact that it allegedly feels like a tin can over bumps (according to multiple more “wishy-washy” enthusiast reviews) doesn’t factor into CR’s rankings at all. Meanwhile the Focus is quieter, feels like a bank vault and has much more nuanced steering feel, but I predict it won’t rank as highly as the Hyundai because it’s not as roomy in the back and the controls aren’t quite as easy to decipher at first glance. Which car would I take? The Ford, any day of the week.

      The point is CR is a great place to start but don’t cross a car off the list if it’s not top-rated, or even if it’s 10 or 15 points off the class leader. It may have subjective qualities the top pick utterly lacks.

    • 0 avatar
      StatisticalDolphin

      anchke said:

      “Granted, people don’t have an emotional connection to their appliances…”

      In general this is accurate. But I am quite fond of my robot vacuum cleaner. And if those robot sushi makers ever make it to the US consumer market I will be ecstatic.

      WRT CR, I have a deep and intense ownership relationship with a vehicle that CR gives one of its lowest overall ratings. Paradoxically, it is also one of the most reliable in their annual survey. The conspiracy minded might conjure the idea that it was designed, in part, with the goal of keeping the Soccer Folk away. Sometimes a low CR rating can be blessing.

  • avatar
    bucksnort

    Years ago, CR dinged a Corvette because it didn’t have a back seat.

    They use a weighting times rating scoring system. It’s easy to bias either the criteria weights or the ratings on the criteria. One can produce any score desired on any vehicle.

    CR is useful for safety stats and some of the individual green dot versus red dot criteria ratings. Other than that, their opinions are meaningless.

    • 0 avatar
      jerseydevil

      Ha, see? And I would “ding” corvettes cause they are ugly.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      “Years ago, CR dinged a Corvette because it didn’t have a back seat.”

      That’s a valid point. Many cars in this class have a back seat (a very small one maybe). 911, SC, …

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Car and Driver still does the same thing to Corvettes in comparison tests with Porsches and M3s. Their scoring tables have a slot for ‘rear seat room,’ and the Corvette gets zero points, the car with the most in the test gets 5 points. Even if the biggest back seat is smaller than the smallest person who could legally sit in it without a child seat that won’t fit.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    I’m not a big fan of CR in general, as I’ve said many times before. I think my biggest gripe is that they tend to gloss over or ignore the technical details that give certain vehicles advantages in situations that the run of the mill ‘my car is an appliance’ driver might not appreciate. The result is glorifying the most bland and middle-of-the-road of automotive options just because in their innocuousness they’ll never cause any offense.

    I’m sure the Highlander is a perfectly reasonable vehicle choice, and that it will offer many miles of reliably headache-free service to a potential owner. The interior is well laid out, if plain, the passenger room is acceptable, and the cargo room is versatile. The engine has enough power and doesn’t make its presence known audibly in the cabin. Overall it does everything pretty well. It’s also incredibly boring, doesn’t offer anything unique in the segment, and while it isn’t subpar in any quantitative way, it isn’t best in class in any particular way either.

    MyFord touch isn’t the easiest system to use for the first time, but it is incredibly powerful once you learn how. Photoshop isn’t easy to use right off the bat either, but it’s the industry standard because once you learn it, it does far more than the basic easy to pick up software that comes free with your digital camera.

    The 2011 Explorer isn’t innocuous, and maybe it isn’t for everyone, but it does offer personality. I like the meaty snarl of the 3.5 Duratec at full throttle, the pretty lights and LCDs that come with MyFord touch, the premium feel of the interior components and high-tech feel of the touch controls. I like having a car that I can control via voice and that learns my speech patterns the more I use it. I like the driving position that feels like the command seat of a roadgoing tank, the meaty pillars implying that I’m sitting in an indestructible cage.

    On a more pragmatic side, the Explorer does offer more usability features and technology than anything else in the class. Show me another mainstream SUV or CUV that lets you get blind spot monitoring, side-shooting radar while backing up, adaptive radar based cruise control, collision warning that alerts me and helps me stop faster if I come up too fast on the vehicle in front of me, a backup camera that highlights objects I might not instantly see, inflatable rear seatbelts, trailer sway control that helps keep my trailer from getting wonky even if I load-balance it poorly while driving like an idiot in heavy crosswinds, curve control that keeps me from taking a corner too fast and submitting to understeer or flipping, self-parallel parking ability, a power liftgate with an adjustable maximum height so I won’t damage it in a low garage, free online self diagnostics, a built in 110 volt outlet, WiFi hotspot capability, 2 USB ports plus a SD card slot and AV in jacks, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I’m likely forgetting.

    Is the Explorer the best vehicle in the class for every driver? Of course not, I don’t think any single vehicle in any segment can ever be called the best for everyone. Are you doing yourself a huge disservice if you are shopping in this segment and don’t at least take one for a drive to see if it makes sense for you? Absolutely.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      @Nullo, Photoshop really isn’t a good comparison point: it was developed for graphics professionals, and my mother (quite possibly even yours) would have a hard time using it even after considerable familiarization. A car, on the other hand, has to be usable by everyone, and preferably immediately.

      I have no experience with Ford MyTouch, but I sure hope it’s not like Photoshop.

    • 0 avatar
      Wagen

      ” I like … the pretty lights and LCDs that come with MyFord touch … I like the driving position that feels like the command seat of a roadgoing tank, the meaty pillars implying that I’m sitting in an indestructible cage.”

      To each their own. I’d like for my next vehicle to be the antithesis of these things. A simple, well designed, instantly legible and communicative instrument panel and control layout with a minimum of unnecessary buttons, a driving position that lets the car communicate the road to me via the seat of my pants, and a large greenhouse with thin pillars that give good visibility and sightlines.

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    The new Explorer has very thick D-pillars.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    A friend of mine has a Ford Edge that has had many problems since it was bought new about a year ago, and he got a new Explorer as a loaner, and the first shock I had was how much it cost. The sticker was over $50K!! It was pretty loaded, but sheesh. It looks ok, and drove better than the last Explorer I drove, about 3-4 years ago. Brakes were hugely improved too. If I would be buying one, I would pass on a lot of the gadgetry and hopefully get it closer to 40K than 50K.

    I would pass on it right now, since it’s a first year vehicle. I’ve done first year vehicles twice, first was a ’93 Grand Cherokee, and it’s very short lived replacement, a 99 Grand Cherokee, and both times were problem plagued at first, but eventually it was all sorted out. I kept the first GC almost 8 years, the second 16 months. I’ve never hated anything I’ve owned as much as that GC. Nothing really wrong with it, it just wasn’t comfortable to drive at all..

  • avatar
    aspade

    CR is useful for their objective measures. They’re the only place to go for consistent mileage testing on actual roads. Their interior space measurements seem much closer to reality than the brochure numbers. Their reliability survey is better than the alternative, which is nothing. That’s worth the subscription right there when you’re car shopping.

    Which is a good thing because the rest of it is garbage. Dumbing complex appraisals to red/black dots which aren’t even consistent between the score card and the text of the review (and that’s if they’re elaborated on at all) is not helpful. Making a numerical score out of that and declaring one car 3 points better than another (that you tested a year ago or more) enters the realm of outright ridiculous.

    As far as the Explorer, I don’t know because I haven’t driven one. But I do know that CR’s downrating doesn’t mean a great deal to me, and sales success among a public that recently bought 300,000 Cobalts and Ions means even less.

  • avatar
    Prado

    The Explorer is killing the competition in sales because it is a class leader in what matters most for these large crossover SUVs. Style and Image. It is a classy and masculine design. After all, why does anyone buy a large 3 row Crossover over a Minivan which does just about everything better. Style and Image.

  • avatar
    SV

    I was really disappointed by the Explorer’s CR score; I was expecting it to be a few points off the otherwise similar Flex (which CR likes alot) due to the packaging compromising shape and MyFord Touch ruining the controls and displays score, but I was certainly not expecting a 12 point drop. Apparently along with being a bit less practical than the Flex the Explorer loses a bit of refinement as well.

    Although CR’s complaints about visibility and the driving position can’t be fixed without a full redesign, the controls can be greatly simplified by simply opting for a base model, the transmission will probably get a software update that refines it considerably (is this not the same gearbox Ford has been using for several years now? Why does it even have problems?), and the suspension could be retuned to improve handling while keeping ride quality mostly intact (again, I’m surprised at the lack of agility considering past Ford D3 cars). I think if Ford could fix those things that can be easily fixed the Explorer would break into the 70s in CR’s rankings and thus be solidly competitive. As it is, it’s still an option I’d point out to someone looking for this type of car, I’d just recommend test driving its competitors first.

  • avatar
    ronin

    The narrow interior and cramped shoulder/hip room seating for such a large vehicle is to me the biggest drawback of this model and its forbears, the Taurus X, the Freestyle, the Five Hundred, as well as its cousin the Flex.

    I walk all around it with wonder, and try to figure out how they managed to squeeze such narrow space around such a big exterior. This is the genius of Ford. Even the Panther exhibited this genetic trait, the Hapsburg Lip of Dearborn.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    The market is ALWAYS right. Doesn’t matter if you and everyone else disagrees, whatever is popular, is popular. It could be price, colour, design, politics or day of the week. If it’s selling boatloads over the competition, it’s a winner.

    • 0 avatar
      obbop

      “If it’s selling boatloads over the competition, it’s a winner.”

      Your use of logical, rational thinking prohibits you from ever running for any political office within the USA; immediate disbarment if a lawyer and forbidden from employment within any government-based bureaucracy.

  • avatar

    I’ve had a 2nd and 3rd gen Explorers and have put a quarter-million miles on them. They were reliable friends. I looked closely at the new Explorer as a track day support vehicle (to haul tires and tools, not to tow) and won’t look at it again. It’s simply too big – every new Explorer has gotten bigger and bigger and heavier. The 3rd row seat is useless to me, it should be an option delete. And the styling is clumsy and ugly.
    From a publishing standpoint, I really resent how Ford went to great propaganda lengths (right down to interviews with engineers) to claim a weight loss for this new Explorer, when according to their own specs it’s only 100 pounds less. That negates much of the point of going to the new platform. Reality is they went to engineering lengths to keep weight out of the platform, once it balloned. They couldn’t get enough out. I think it’s the wrong platform and that the right size for an Explorer is the same size as the original. If you really want something the same size as a Yukon, buy a Yukon.

    -Jeff
    DrivingEnthusiast.net

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      Curb weight on the Tahoe/Yukon is 5600 lb versus 4500 lb for the new Explore. Your last sentence brings up a good point.

      That said, my guess is that the buying decision for this largish vehicle will be made mostly by feminine drivers. Hence, my reference above to the school bus for upper middle class kids.

      In my book, the mini-van still rules for passenger use. They are just as bloaty as the new Explorer, but much easier to load and unload third row passengers. For towing even 3,000 lb or use on dirt roads – give me a Tahoe/Yukon.

      Finally, with regards to the Explorer getting larger and moving from a RWD to FWD platform – Ford no longer has a ready made parts bin for another RWD drive Ranger. What we see here is Ford getting more mileage out its D3 platform, plain and simple.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    I never buy anything without consulting CR. I may not follow their advice always, but i find their reports to be accurate and informative. Their perspective is unique, often exposing the kings nakedness. Much like ummm.. .this site.

    I visit CR’s auto test page as religiously as I do this one – which is to say usually daily. I like what they have to say. Bias? I dont get it. They like the Mustang GT. HAHA So do I.

    Would you buy a product simply cause they sell alot of them? People bought alot of pet rocks. I didnt buy one of them either.

  • avatar
    uncleAl

    Think about this – would you use a buggy windows based pc to control your thermostat, lights, tv, stereo, refrigerator, washer, dryer, microwave, stove, coffee brewer, door locks, fire/burglar alarm, etc.?
    Didn’t think so. (just touch here, and here, and here, and then here, and when you hear the tone touch 1 for fire, 2 for police, 3 for ambulance, and when you hear the next tone touch 911 to be placed in the hold pattern for emergency response.) Dash mounted infotainment is just as bad as texting while driving, multiple screens to adjust simple controls.

    In a few years the used explorers will be perfect for cash for clunkers just like they were in the last one. Wasn’t the explorer the most often traded under that program?

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    If it has a factory temperature gage for the transmission that
    I can monitor while towing then possibly. It still has to show me that even if I regularly tow loads in the 3-5K range with it, I can still expect at least 125-150K out of the transmission and the rest of the drive train w/proper care and maintenance.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I’m not surprised at there findings. My-link is overly confusing for many buyers and as mentioned is an answer for a question nobody asked. Fords 3.5 has always been a rather noisy bugger of an engine and it is a little better in this 290 HP variant. The modern 6 speed automatic that everybody insists needs to be in everything, has it’s shifting issues and can be slow to up-shift or down-shift in many cases. Ford also seems to have an issue with interior room as do many other companies. The Taurus is a perfect example. The front seat feels positively cramped and hemmed in and head room is lacking. The lower slung shape and absurdly over-sized center console are the culprits here. The Explorer isn’t as bad but it does seem less roomy than competing vehicles. Electric steering has replaced conventional hydraulic and not every company has dialed it in to provide much of any feedback. It’s pretty dull and lifeless and in the case of GM and Toyota hasn’t been overly reliable in the long run. Other modern day annoyances- the overly thick A-pilars that obstruct vision, tiny gun slit windows, lack of side door protection and trim that invites loads of door dings and tiny stubby rear over hangs with tiny trunk openings or a total case of stupid styling trends that make no sense to functionality.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    4/2011
    Consumer Report New Employee Introduction Meeting

    Welcome new employees to Consumer Report! I have been working with this distinguished publication for thirty years and I believe you will find our Consumer Report family to be just as an exciting place for you to attain your career as I had all those years ago!

    Consumer Report is famous for it’s unbiased, direct and honest evaluations of products sold within the United States. We accomplished this by ensuring that any interesting aspects, emotional appeal, rationale, or non-objective characteristics are not taken into consideration when evaluating and testing consumer products.

    Whether we are discussing snow cone machines or Ferraris, we use the same exacting standards. You will be testing hot dogs, jock straps, cat beds, baby bottle warmers, cell phones all the way up to such products as diabetic testing devices and luxury automobiles. It doesn’t matter what the product is, we utilize the same exacting non-emotional standards as has been set by this publication all those years ago.

    A personal instance of mine. Originally I started testing kitchen appliances. I was the guy who checked to ensure that these products were safe. So, you guessed it, I used to stand in water jammy metal knives into toasters, my hands into blenders, radiation leaks from microwave ovens – this explains my disfigurement and the fact that I have never had children. Or a date.

    From there I graduated to testing automobiles. My first car was the Ford Pinto. Twice when I was measuring the hip width of the back seat of this car, it detonated when Maynard, the gentleman you see sitting in the wheelchair to my left, rammed this vehicle from behind using the official Consumer Report bumper basher. So, although the Ford Pinto was a vehicle we could not recommend, we did contact the US Post Office as they were at that time searching for a vehicle they could deliver our magazines and other publications in.

    After a year long hospitalization, I became the first tester of automobile air bags. Did you know that air bags inflate and deflate in the blink of an eye? That is, when they work!

    Remember the SUV roll-over controversy? Me again! I was the guy who drove them so that they would tip, roll, crash, and yes, sometimes even burst into flames upon impact. See this badge on my lapel? That is from our organization’s editors when my work ended the production of the Isuzu Trooper. This one here, is a pin given to me by Maynard when I uncovered the Ford Explorer-Firestone debacle.

    After decades, there is not a car brand on the road that I have not been personally injured in or around. Lost a finger in a Camry. Yup, these things happen. So play it safe out there, because safety is our motto here at Consumer Report!

    Best of wishes to all of you, and remember that it will be your job to ensure we track down any consumer product that could make a buyer happy, so that we can eradicate it off the shelves!

  • avatar
    nels2727

    I think the recent “bad reviews” of the new Explorer highlight an important issue for the Automotive Review industry. Vehicles have become so good that the only way to distinguish them is with little niggles that ultimately come down to personal taste. For example the Explorer’s fuel-economy programmed transmission will seem slow to an automotive journalist when compared to the one in a Mazda CX-9, but affluent carpooling mother’s likely appreciate the better fuel economy finding the 290 hp V6 offers plenty of grunt through the grocery store parking lot. It is the hair-splitting differences that separate most autos and particulalry autos in the hotly contested CUV class that have lead to the chasm between the review results at CR and MT and the sales results. If they are all so close (and they are) with total price being very similar consumers will choose the one they subjectively like the most, therefore they will likely choose the best looking car with the nicest interior. Looks are subjective, but clearly American family’s like the Ford’s styling, and TTAC reviewers have compared the interior to Audi. As a far as MT’s review of the Explorer, I read it after hearing that Angus McKenzie(the editor-in-chief) wrote a response to the comments on the review in his MT blog. The review complained of problems that may well have existed, but I found it suspicious the he felt the need to respond to the complaints. I stopped reading MT a while ago, not because I foundthem biased, but rather incompetent (I am very glad I found TTAC to fill the void). In CR’s case I fear that CR’s strict evaluation system may have outlived its usefluness rendering them incompetent as well.

    • 0 avatar

      “I think the recent “bad reviews” of the new Explorer highlight an important issue for the Automotive Review industry. Vehicles have become so good that the only way to distinguish them is with little niggles that ultimately come down to personal taste.”

      This is a very important point – the fact is, there aren’t really any “bad cars” being made in the sense of bad cars in the past. There are lots of good cars that each strike a slightly different harmony between the variables. Consumer Reports generally points out the details that will start to become more apparent and/or annoying after the initial buzz has worn off.

      I do like that they mention how cars fit different sized drivers, but in my current car (which I bought despite CR’s mediocre review) mentions of things like “hard for short drivers to push in the clutch” “hard for short drivers to close the rear hatch” don’t really matter much to me since I got my vitamins and protein and calcium as a kid. For me, a large part of whether I like a car will be in the front seat legroom. I don’t care if the Mazda has sportier steering, the Honda is more refined, the VW feels more solid, etc. Fitting in the car with ideal ergonomics will be pretty high up there on my list.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      “Vehicles have become so good that the only way to distinguish them is with little niggles that ultimately come down to personal taste.”

      I disagree. The number of test drives I’ve done in the last few years is well into the double digits and I was impressed with only a few. Even the better ones still have major flaws, like overly complex electronics, electronic throttles that are merely a request to the computer, and numb steering. Even most factory audio systems still sound terrible.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    I have to agree with the VAST majority of people in the comments. The so-called “new” Explorer is severely over rated and I would personally choose the models from Chrysler (Grand Cherokee/Durango) over the Explorer. Those vehicles are complete, finished and they have soul.

    Let’s face it…the Explorer is around simply because Ford wanted something to stick the Explorer name to. They already had a poor selling, seven seat crossover on the market…the Flex. As a result, Ford clearly cut corners with the Explorer (terrible looking exterior, drab and mediocre interior, etc).

    And as a person who has 4 computers…I’m not afraid of technology. To me, the MyFord Touchy things is America’s answer to BMW’s iDrive. Terribly complicated, doesn’t work in the cold, etc. Most of Ford’s technology is not thought out or well designed. It’s technology for technology’s sake.

    The Explorer is a half-assed product. It’s mediocre at best.

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      So by your reasoning, the Exploerer is the vehicle for you, right? You’ve described most of the GM line up perfectly and an Explorer ought to be at home in your garage.

  • avatar
    Sgt Beavis

    You know how I know you’re gay?

    Because you listen to Coldplay.

    Seriously pull this dude’s mancard…

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    For all those above bashing and praising CR, take a breath.
    There is nothing you can do about it regardless of your position. CR has attained a level where they get quoted on every car press release…right or wrong.
    I feel sorry for the general public buyer IF that is where he/she goes for the final vote on their purchase.
    CR is terrible at providing trusted information on a purchase.
    You want proof…you only have my experience with them.

    Point in FACT!
    I purchased a few things based upon the CR rating and since then have wiped them from my trusted sources.
    Their LG refrigerator has cost me hundreds in repairs.
    Likewise, smaller purchases such as camcorders and such faired a little better…but not much.

    Their rating on the Goodyear Triple Tread forced me into Michelin replacements at just 20K miles.
    Now THAT was costly. However, I could not take the poor wear on my Trailblazer or the noise on my Mazda3 Hatch.
    What would YOU call how CR cost me these problems???
    I call it poor and biased and the reason they are wiped from my resource base.

    They simply do not know what they are talking about with reliability!!!

    Their top vote for the Taurus yet poor rating on the MKS is based upon what? The extra money spent?
    That’s ridiculous since the MKS cuddles you with such added comforts and luxury ONLY those spending time in understand.

    So…, yes…they are biased here.
    And if you are biased once, where does the bias stop?
    Where does the trust go from there?

    So to end this…CR cannot be trusted as a source, so why the fuss?

  • avatar
    The Mockingbird

    I don’t have an opinion on the new Ford Explorer – I have never driven one.

    But I have joined the ranks of those with a love hate relatonship with CR. It is a very frustrating consumer magazine. My experience with it has been that it was spot on for some items I have bought, but dead wrong on others. I really can’t fathom why. It seems like they put an honest effort into pretty objective, and, on the surface, impartial testng. What gives?

    In the end, I came up with the same conclusion as anchke – their focus is on objective measures. Unfortunately, objective measures are only as good as how they are defined and how they are chosen. For example, an objective measure chosen may favour product A more than B, C and D right from the outset. That, I think is the crux of the problem I have with their reports. Sometimes, it almost seems like they have set out with a preconceived idea about what they like, put some measures into their reviews to test that and unfortunately, fullfil their prophecy.

    I haven’t given up on CR. I still look up their stats and numbers whenever I consider any big ticket item. It’s just that my previously idolised respect for them has been tarnished too many times for it to remain perched on top of that pedestal.

    Of course, it is not government legisted mandatory reading. They have done it the way they have always done it and will continue to conduct their reviews the same way. But we have a choice as to whether we read it or not, and if we do, how much faith we put on their findings. What I don’t like is how it is oft quoted as almost a “guarantee” that if it is CR recommended, it must be good. Boy, have I had my wallet burnt previosly for thinking that. On the other hand, their information have been pretty crucial in making other purchase decisions.


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