Consumer Reports Slams New Ford Explorer

When you see one negative comparison test on a new model from, say, Motor Trend, you can often write it off to a single occurrence. When a more conservative publication like Consumer Reports grades the same vehicle in the same way as an enthusiast publication, you have to start to wonder.

Today, Consumer Reports released new test results on a slew of models, including three newly redesigned midsize SUVs: the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Volkswagen Touareg TDI and Ford Explorer. The first two were rated “excellent” and came in third and fourth place for new SUVs. The Explorer? It earned 17th place out of 19 contenders in the field.

These results are part of the magazine’s road test results, not its subscriber-sourced reliability ratings.

I recently reviewed the Explorer and liked its performance, but I found the interior hard to live with for folks with young families, and the MyFord Touch multimedia interface is still cumbersome. I don’t think I’d rank it below the Hyundai Veracruz and Subaru Tribeca — two models in need of some updating — like Consumer Reports does, but it wouldn’t top the new Touareg in my book, either.

By David Thomas | May 10, 2011 | Comments (40)



No surprise there. Cr is quickly turning on ford after praising them for last few years to prove they weren't biased against american cars. Cr has already said they will never recommend any ford with myford touch, even though its optional. This appears to be the end of the honeymoon with ford. I doubt they care because the explorer is flying off dealer lots. Highlander is also ran at this point and sales reflect that. Btw, the highlander wasn't redesigned, it just got a new front end. Its a cosmetic update, nothing more.


Here we go again, Sheth.
No number or proof to back up the BS claims.

Matt C

I drive roughly 200 miles a day around the D/FW area and I saw my first new Explorer yesterday, but I see the "cosmetic" new Highlander all the time. I love Ford, but their SUV's suck!

Sheth is pretty much right. The Explorer is selling really well, fifth fastest seller in April on our Movers and Losers list this a.m.

Highlander is also mostly a cosmetic upgrade, but a well rounded performer if not stellar.

Matt C


What are the actual numbers being sold between the two? Not that it really matters, but if Toyota is keeping a higher inventory, but selling more than Ford, then the days on the lot number in the other article is moot.

The only reason I bring that up is Ford hasn't had the chance to ramp up production on their new vehicle, while Toyota is still producing the same basic SUV with a new face.


I would choose our 2008 Highlander Limited AWD over anything else on the market in that class. The Highlander does everything competently and has had none of the issues that plagued Ford, GM and Chrysler offerings in that class. People often slam CR for being anti-American when all they do is publish a ranking of what they think MOST Americans would prefer/like. Maybe Ford should have done a better job on the new Explorer. Maybe Ford should have reverse-engineered more of the qualities and features that make the Highlander so attractive and endearing to American buyers.


The new Explorer is everything that they is roomy, well finished, but a bore to drive and riddled with terrible controls. the driving position is pretty bad because of the center console, kick panel, and wheel position.



Not sure what part you are missing but explorer is selling very well. Consumer reports has no idea what consumers want to buy, their ratings are arbitrary and they don't even explain how they derive test scores. Ford is the number 1 selling brand in the us and toyota has been losing share over the last year. Ford passed toyota for 2nd places in sales in 2010. Toyota sold 8900 highlanders last month and 34k this year. Ford sold 12500 explorers last month and 42k for the year outpacing all other 3 row crossovers. Traverse outsold highlander as well and has been for some time. The explorer is a hit with consumers and it offers far more features than the highlander.

Hope matt is satisfied with that.

Matt C,
New face or no, they have to have the same new model- year production ramp up.
April #s
Ford Explorer: 12,593 units
Toyota Highlander: 8,893 units
Honda Pilot: 9,488
Chevy Traverse: 9,666

Explorer looks to be best seller of its size by roughly 30%.



Traverse is 3 years old and has sold 36k units, better than highlander. It may rank lower in cr's ratings, but its still outselling the traverse just like the explorer. All things being equal, imports always get higher scores in consumer reports.


I like the Tribeca but for CR to compare it to the Explorer is like comparing a Civic to the new Taurus--one is tiny and basic, nice but tiny. The other is large and luxurious by comparison. Completely different price points too. This CR article doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

As far as MyTouch goes--it was designed by Microsoft so of course it's going to be clunky and disappointing. Ford should get Apple involved on the redo.


Sheth, I don't care what people choose to buy or drive. It's all about choice. We looked at a variety of SUV/CUVs when we went shopping in 2008, and the Jap-built Highlander we bought bested all of them. It is subjective to be sure, but it worked for us. My point about CR, they merely list a ranking of vehicles according to their finding, no matter how derived. It serves as an excellent starting point for most people who do any kind of research beforehand. Your own biases are coming through loud and clear, and just because Ford sells a lot of vehicles does not make them trouble-free or appealing to anyone and everyone. Like I said, given the choice today, I'd still choose the Highlander over the Ford Explorer. The Highlander truly is a great vehicle, in spite of the lower sales numbers you cite as Ford's claim to fame. The Ford vehicles we owned over the years were rolling disasters! I urge everyone in the market to compare like vehicles across different brands to see what they think is best. That's what we did in earnest and the Highlander was the clear winner. I did the same for my 2011 pickup truck and the Tundra SR5 DC 5.7 was the clear winner as well. We had never owned a foreign brand before 2008.


I don't get CR anymore - stopped subscribing because of their ridiculously liberal views that they weren't even trying to hide anymore. So, I'm curious - what was their reason for saying they would never recommend a Ford vehicle with My Ford Touch? Usually with them, it's a safety issue that makes them pull a recommendation - not just "they don't like it." I've read elsewhere that My Ford Touch may be unsafe because it is so clunky you have to take your eyes off the road repeatedly to get it to do what you want. Was that their gripe?


Nobody is claiming the Highlander isn't an appealing vehicle but sales and appeal are absolutely related so how can you insinuate that the Highlander is somehow more appealing? Because it scored higher in a CR test?

BTW you promote comparing like vehicles before making a purchase. Have you compared the Explorer in person with a test drive before saying that you'd rather have your 2008?

Matt C

@ Dave,

Thanks for the strait numbers. I'm glad to see Ford selling well. While I haven't rode in or driven the new Explorer yet, I still think they have been coasting in the SUV category for since the 90's. Now I wonder why I haven't been seeing them on the road in Dallas.

Yes, that's their chief complaint with it along with our chief complaint that it's overly complicated with no tradeoff for better performance or features than the previous Ford system still found in the Flex and Fusion.


When I look at Explorer's rear Mini-esque lights I want to throw-up.


Dump Explorer,bring back an off road friendly Bronco,and be done with it.


I own 2 imports (Toyota/Lexus) and 1 domestic (Dodge), but I am very happy to see Ford doing so well, CR review or no. People who compare the new Explorer with Fords from the 90's or even 00's are apparently oblivious to the major changes in fit/finish and reliability of the new crop of Ford vehicles.

And, before anyone asks, how do I know this? Lots of reading- see JD Powers- and, yes, test drives (with friends/relatives purchasing vehicles). And why don't I buy one then? My newest vehicle is 14 years old, and I don't plan to buy a new vehicle for a long while.

In any case, yes the Explorer could use some work on the areas CR complained about, and yes I think Ford will step up and make the changes needed. But I do thikn the new Explorer is a game-changing vehicle for Ford, and IMHO it is as good as or better than the current Highlander overall.


Reading a car review could be helpful but test driving it its more accurate. I went few week ago to test drive the new Jetta and Mazda 3i and s and the mazda 3 beated the jetta it drive so much nicier and the interior look so good thought i did like jetta's interior, the mazda won for me so i would say go and test drive the vehicle after you read a review and then you make your own conclusion. And by the way I drive now a 2006 Honda Accord EX-L V6 and if i get the chance to buy a Ford Fusion Sport I would do so. Old Fords were crappy but im sure new ones have improved a lot, now I love my honda.


H, I recently took a friend in his 70's who's retiring his '96 Crown Vic, to El Paso in the hopes of finding him an unsold new Grand Marquis. We found one. While visiting the two Ford dealers I looked at the new Explorers. When we get ready to trade the Highlander in 2013 we will be sure to consider the new Explorer, just like we looked at the old Explorer in 2008. It will also give the new Explorer a chance to build up a track record we can compare. To be sure, our Jap-built Highlander is not the same as the US-built Highlanders. There is a difference, like in recalls and where parts are made. As to my friend and the Mercury, he was unable to reach a deal with that FLM dealer. On the way home we stopped at the Mercedes-Benz dealer and he did drive home an E350-4Matic later that evening.



Most people that drive toyotas defend cr and that's not surprising. Cr routinely praises toyotas, even models that other sources consider also rans. Cr is a joke and the rising marketshare of the domestic brands shows cr is out of touch with reality. They are wildly inconsistent and their ratings are completely subjective. As you know imports top every single segment in their tests, even models that are dated and mediocre.

The highlander is a good crossover, but so are traverse, cx9 and explorer. The highlander may be your preference but to infer its hands down superior to all of the competition is just wrong. If you want a usable 3rd row or cargo space for a road trip with all rows in use the highlander isn't so great. Cr ignores price, styling and cool features when it rates vehicles and that's why its rankings often have no correlation to the sales charts. Real consumers like the styling, performance and tech offered by the explorer and they are buying it in droves. Cr is always against new infotainment tech because they want simplicity. Myford touch has steering wheel controls and voice control so you don't have to spend a lot of time looking away from the road. Cr is hoping they can pressure ford into dropping mft with bad reviews and I hope they fail


Uh. Who cares?

I think the CX-9 is the best of these vehicles. But who cares? Really? Go buy what you want and stop it.


Rented one this past weekend. It was okay, nothing special. I did feel a little embarassed over the effeminate styling. Overall, VERY average. You would be out of your mind to pay over $30k for this.


Sheth, we all have our preferences. Mine was Ford in the past. I don't sell Toyota but I do know what I like and what I want to spend my money on. Did you know that we drove mostly Fords and Lincolns until 2008? I have no doubt that Ford has come a long way under Alan Mulally and I wish them well. When we go shopping again in 2013, we'll check out Ford and the others, and who knows, maybe Ford will have something that I want to buy at that time. I don't subscribe to CR but I do read their findings and use write ups from Edmunds, et al, to get background. Just because you don't like CR's findings is no reason to omit them from shopping information. You disprove them by drawing your own from test-driving. CR does not take any money from anyone, no advertising dollars, they're not beholden to anyone and that spells objectivity to more people that just me. One thing that CR has gotten spot on is the reliability ratings on Fords and other cars. Maybe Ford should have made more dependable cars and trucks in the past. My F150 and our Towncar were always in need of some repair or part replacement. We had so much money tied up in them we could not afford to trade them. But strangely enough, we have not had to go back to the dealer for warranty repair on either the Highlander or the Tundra. That's my personal experience. Works for me, and many others, too. Let's wait five years to see if the new Explorer really holds up. I'm not an early adopter of Ford any more. Learned my lessons in the past.


T, I agree with you. I did not drive a new Explorer but I sat in them and checked them out. I found nothing that would make me want to trade our Highlander in for one. Our Highlander stickered at $41K+ and the Explorer I checked out stickered at $42K+, so this was not a bottom scraper. If anything, I found it underwhelming. Of course the Ford fanboys will immediately tell us that it is the best thing since toilet paper. But that is not what motivates most people to buy the second biggest purchase in their lives. People go by their own emotional involvement before plunking down their hard-earned bucks. The new Explorer is nice but I'm not willing to trade anything I have now to get one.



First of all you are contradicting yourself. You say that cr is spot on in terms of reliability ratings but then say you wouldn't take a chance on a ford due to quality. Cr has vouched for ford quality for years now. If you believe cr why would you feel owning a ford is a gamble? Cr does the least informative testing out of any magazine. Their tests a short, dry and lacking detail. They make comments that don't even explain why one vehicle ranks above another. Its hard to even tell why the top scorers earned their scores. The not accepting ad excuse is pure propaganda. Cr has never offered any evidence that other sources are offering biased info because they accept ads. In publishing editorial content is separate from the ad deparment. Magazines and web sites that accept ads routinely criticize manufacturers that by ads from them.

We've already shown that the public likes the explorer, even if you don't. To say that ford is offering attributes that consumers don't care about when making the 2nd biggest purchase of their lives is crazy as evidenced by the sales success of the explorer. The reality is cr's limited criteria for excellence ignores many factors that consumers care about- one being innovative features and technology.


Wow, such brutal emotion over a mediocre car. Lol...

Matt C

@ Mike,

Welcome to the standard "The World Through the Eyes of a Domestic Homer" argument, brought to by the GM/Chrysler/Ford dealership known as Sheth.


Dear, Sheth why are you going crazy over a internet comment system about a ford explorer, you have to realize it is what it is, I like the styling of the new explorer, but the highlander is as appealing, interior wise, i think i would go with the highlanders center console, gauges in the new fords are good, but they are plain jane design wise, could be more creative, now only if you respected people opinions, I used to defend ford products a lot, but then I at the end of the day ford is not going to give me a new explorer for defending it on the internet. If Ford did make a an excellent product, people wouldnt be complaining so much.


Sheth, I think I understand now. YOU want everyone to buy your favorite Ford, right? Well, I've owned Fords for most of my life and I buy what I like best. And when I went shopping Ford didn't stack up against anything from Toyota. That's why we bought our first foreign brand vehicles ever. I will look at Ford in 2013 when we trade our Highlander and we'll see how well the track record of the new Explorer holds up. More than likely by then we'll choose an RX350 to replace our Highlander. But in the mean time I haven't seen anything that would make me want to trade our current Highlander for a 2011 Explorer, as mentioned in my previous posts. If CR annoys you, don't read it. I believe in getting as much advice as I can from as many sources as I can before I buy, which includes CR. I can tell from my own experiences with our Towncar and my F150, there's better out there, and we own two of them now. Judging from the other posts, not too many people get as fired up about the Explorer as you do, so it isn't just me.


To be honest, besides the new focus, I dont think any of the Ford vehicles stack up to Toyota models, I used to love the Fusion even though it had shortcomings, but after I have driven one, the interior just doesnt come close to the Camry's not just the Fusion, the Taurus doesnt hold anything against the Avalon. At the end of the day no matter how much I want to love Ford it is still the same old Ford, it used the same switch gears across the brand, which is saying something, they dont care about the Customer, they only care about the cost cuttings, can you believe they still dont have a handle bar over the drivers side door in the cars, why I asked a sales person, due to cost cuttings, wtf... the Taurus, center stack looks horrible with all those switches, if you look at them closely its like a 2 year old put a puzzle together. I hope Ford realizes that this touch sensitive Sh!t will never replace the buttons, specially on a center console.

Amuro Ray


"Sheth why are you going crazy over a internet comment system about a ford explore"

Because s/he's a digital ink waster.

If u search the blog here, kickingtire's senior editor has labeled him such and asked him to go away multiple times.

Don't feed the troll, folks.


Will you all give it a rest already and buy what you want to buy.

I swear the internet brings out the dumb in people where everybody forces these black and white "truths" down everybody's throat when in reality everything is gray.

AR, what is it that you say that's any better than him? It's all hot air regardless of the source.


hey, people would you focus on the article instead of using it as a reason to bash each other


The one thing that I still can't stand Ford is that why can't they move the light switch from the stupid location on the dash to the turn signal stalk?


The only reason I commented on this article was because I actually looked at and sat in two 2011 Explorers at FLM dealers in El Paso, TX, last week, while taking a friend shopping for a new car. I did not feel motivated to trade anything I have now for a 2011 Explorer. If anything, they're nice... but underwhelming.


I have a 2.5 year old Highlander that I drive 20,000 miles per year. It has a 4 cylinder engine. I get 22 in the city and 25 on the highway. The car has about 52,000 miles on it and it has never had a single problem. Recently, I test drove an Explorer, and I was glad to get back into my Highlander. I drove the 11 Explorer for about 30 minutes, and I saw the gas needle move almost 1/8th. The dash is strange. I also found the powertrain to be crude. I am keeping the Highlander. Sorry Ford, you blew this. I feel sorry for people paying the big prices for the Explorer. I purchased my highlander for 25K out the door.


So its settled, the explorer has no redeeming qualities and gets worse mileage than an anemic four cylinder powered highlander. Case closed. No wonder no one is buying the new explorer.


Most don't know this but overseas Ford actually builds the Highlander for Toyota in its plant in Pullegistan.

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