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Ford Authority

2021 Ford Explorer Should Be Avoided, Says Consumer Reports

In recent months, Consumer Reports has bestowed a lot of love on the Ford Edge, naming it one of the most reliable mid-size crossovers, one of the best and most affordable used vehicles for teenagers, one of the best SUVs available for less than $40,000, one of the best mid-size crossovers with standard safety features for under $35k, and a top 10 best SUV on sale today. However, the 2021 Ford Explorer didn’t fare quite as well, making Consumer Reports‘ most recent list of two- and three-row SUVs to avoid.

CR recommends avoiding the 2021 Ford Explorer in the mid-size three-row crossover segment, calling it a “middling SUV in a category with some strong competitors,” even though it was just redesigned for the 2020 model year. CR notes that the Explorer’s base 2.3L EcoBoost I-4 doesn’t offer a fuel economy advantage over its V6-powered competition, and found the 10-speed automatic transmission to be a bit rough when changing gears.

Outside of those quibbles, Consumer Reports found the 2021 Explorer’s ride quality to be a bit stiff, and its research has uncovered that the model offers “well below-average predicted reliability.” Of course, it isn’t all bad, and there are some positive attributes to point out. The latest Explorer provides a roomy and quiet interior and sportier handling than its foes, the latter of which is a trade-off for the stiffer ride.

The 2021 Explorer also comes equipped with a host of standard safety features including Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) with Pedestrian Detection, and Blind Spot Warning (BSW). Unfortunately, those qualities aren’t quite enough to persuade Consumer Reports to recommend the Explorer, and it finds the 2021 Kia Telluride to be a more compelling option thanks to its superior ride quality, strong powertrain, predicted reliability, and solid value.

We’ll have more on the 2021 Explorer soon, so be sure and subscribe to Ford Authority for more Ford Explorer news and non-stop Ford news coverage.

Brett's lost track of all the Fords he's owned over the years and how much he's spent modifying them, but his current money pits include an S550 Mustang and 13th gen F-150.

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Comments

  1. crabbymilton

    No surprise there. Remember that the first police versions were so bad that they had to delay deliveries until they were fixed. It’s too bad because they are a nice vehicle along with the LINCOLN version.

    Reply
    1. Davido49

      They’ve done ALOT to remediate things since ’21 & police LOVE the Explorer Interceptor models. They were backordered all of ’22 in fact. Escape Hybrid versions also have gotten completely different reviews than standard Escape models as has the Eacape w/ Fords excellent corporate Gen2 – 2.0L GTDI engine (250hp).

      Reply
  2. Crabbymilton

    I would rather have a V6 in something like that just because they are still slightly smoother than a 4. But having said that, I had a ‘21 EXPLORER as a service rental for a day. That turbo 4 did surprise me since it was pretty smooth and not lacking for power. Yes I still prefer a 6 but not for 10k more.

    Reply
    1. Davido49

      Modern GTDI engine designs are impressive & proven.. at least in Fords case. Ford’s on Gen2 now w/all these engines. Sure you can get a 6cyl ..for much less than 10k more but is it necessary? The Gen2 – 2.0L is a very smooth, efficent & powerful engine. Our ’22 Edge AWD has it & we love it. Mated to an 8spd transmission its got tons of torque /low end. Yet cruises @75mpg on hwy under 2000rpm. Def not stressed in any way. Returns 22-23mpg city/ 27-28mpg hwy. In an AWD midsized SUV! CR highly recommends the new Edge on the other hand. Reviews are a tool but personal feel when driving along w/past experience means alot as well. We have a ’20 Ranger 4wd we enjoy alot. The Gen2- 2.3L mated to a 10spd tranny has gotten “best in class” in every review/test out there for good reason. JD Power says the new Gen Ranger is most reliable & best all around midsized truck in its class. I believe it. We drove a few before buying & Ranger just felt more solid & sporty while bein very comfortable w/lots of tech others like Colorado or Tacoma didn’t offer.

      Reply
  3. Gary bruce kempf

    Though the years I bought items that consumer reports have suggested and everyone was a disappointment 😞 A TV almost burnt my house down and it wasn’t even on. Consumer Reports are like Motor Trend its their opinions nothing more nothing less.😊

    Reply
    1. chad

      Yeah. I don’t trust them. How they rank things seem off and the fact that they rated any GM brand that high is a mystery and they don’t really provide a explanation of why they rated whatever so high or low. In my opinion do your own research on each individual vehicle (not just the brand) cause consumer reports doesn’t know what they’re talking about anymore and there’s lots of evidence that supports my claim including their list of most reliable vehicles and with most of them any of the owners can tell you that those vehicles suck

      Reply
      1. Davido49

        They aren’t what they used to be thats for sure! JD Power is far more consistent ive found. We own a new Gen ’20 Ranger (rated best in class) & ’22 Edge AWD (CR raves bout them also) after carefully considering many other vehicles & we test drove different brands. We made the right choices for sure. Can’t just read these “for profit” rating organizations & buy expensive vehicles from that alone.

        Reply
    2. MustangJim

      Agree, Consumer reports bases their reporting on their subscribers. I would hardly call that an enthusiast base when it comes to cars. Thats why we see articles stateing that people are dissapointed with the snow traction of their high performance SUV’s. They have summer tires!

      Reply
      1. Davido49

        Yes exactly & well said. Many things to consider along w/actually *test driving* different brands in the class of vehicle your considering! That will tell ya alot.

        Reply
    3. Davido49

      It’s not what it used to be! I think JD Power is more reputable. Though everyone should test drive a few models in any class of vehicle they are considering. That’s why we bought a new ’20 Ranger over Colorado or Tacoma. Both good trucks ..but not as good as the Ranger ..every review/test out there claimed. From a powertrain perspective or tech / comfort pt of view the Ranger was way ahead. We are still very happy 3yrs later.

      Reply
  4. Mark

    They just need to trash that 10 speed. Not that good, going to cost them a fortune one day cause I guarantee that there’s going to be at least one lawsuit. In my opinion 8 speeds perform the best in smaller vehicles and from what I heard the 10 speed used in the Bronco (which is same one used in Explorer) is just too busy and isn’t that great

    Reply
    1. Bill

      I suggest driving a ten speed before passing judgment on it.

      Reply
      1. Davido49

        Most ppl just read & don’t own or even drive the vehicles they critique! Lol. The 10spd is a very stout & smooth transmission . Was some programming issues very early on. Been fixed awhile ago. Worked great in the ’20 Ranger I owned. Have 8spd unit in my ’22 Edge AWD an it’s super smooth. Both vehicles are rated as best in class.

        Reply
    2. Tom

      My 10 speed Ranger is great. Shifts well & is very smooth. Really don’t know what you don’t like about it.

      Reply
      1. commbubba19

        10R80 in Ranger. 10R60 in Explorer/Bronco

        Reply
      2. Davido49

        The 10spd in new Gen Rangers get rave reviews mated to the 2.3L GTDI engine. It comes dwn programming. It’s a stout transmission & has to be as its used in F150 & Mustang! My ’22 Edge AWD has the 8spd unit . It’s smooth & precise.

        Reply
    3. Davido49

      The 10spd works terrific in the new F150s, Ranger & Mustang as well as some Bronco variants. It’s a stout unit. Comes dwn to programming w/the particular engine/platform its mated to. Ford also uses an 8spd in many vehicles as well. My ’22 Edge AWD has an 8spd & its super smooth.

      Reply
  5. TS

    I say Consumer Reports should be avoided.

    Reply
    1. Bill

      Absolutely agree with you

      Reply
  6. Richard

    I quit following Consumer Reports because the reliability ratings are determined from surveying their own subscribers. They have trashed the Explorer so long that these subscribers quit buying it, so the sample size is too small resulting in skewed results.

    Reply
  7. Fred Thompson

    I took delivery of a 2021 XLT with Sport Package and I really think Consumer’s Report is way off base. This is my fifth Explorer and each was an improvement over the last.

    Reply
    1. Bill

      You nailed it

      Reply
    2. Davido49

      Exactly 💯 . Well said & true.

      Reply
  8. Larry merritt

    Love my new King Ranch Explorer, super and most comfortable seats! Good job Ford .

    Reply
    1. MustangJim

      Love my 21 XLT , also with Sport Appearnce package and the 10 speed is smooth as silk

      Reply
  9. Future Explorer timberline owner

    I’m going to buy the Explorer timberline regardless since Consumer Reports seems to be off lately and if it is that bad (which we all know it’s not) the warranty basically covers everything. Almost every vehicle is reliable these days. The only brands I’d steer far away from is Hyundai/Kia and GM and the 4 cylinder Stellantis products.

    Reply
    1. Davido49

      You will be very happy w/the vehicle! Enjoy.

      Reply
  10. James

    Consumer Reports is ridiculous. They keep offering me a free subscription and I don’t even want it. Every time I read their magazine they tell me how unreliable the American automobiles are and how much better the Japanese vehicles are. I don’t buy Japanese vehicles, but all of my vehicles both Ford and General Motor products have been very reliable, even the ones consumer reports advises against.

    Reply
    1. MustangJim

      Agree James, The least reliable cars I have bought we’re either German or Japanese. Went back to buying only Ford, and never looked back

      Reply
      1. Davido49

        Likewise. All we own! We buy them new always. Never let us dwn.

        Reply
  11. David Miller

    I have a ‘21 Explorer ST. It’s a nice cruising vehicle for road trips wirh lots of power. The interior is nice, the ride comfortable, and no mechanical problems.

    Reply
    1. Bill

      Exactly, they haven’t a clue. Too bad so many people put stock in their opinion.

      Reply
  12. Njia

    CR seems to be written by people who have no knowledge of the products they review. Every recommendation of theirs that I ever followed led to a poor experience with a product, from televisions to refrigerators to washing machines. Never again.

    Reply
    1. Bill

      I agree with you. They should stick to appliances

      Reply
    2. Alexander Wade

      they operate on a very low budget so they can’t afford qualified the reviewers or even real engineers

      Reply
      1. Davido49

        I too think thats the case as well. JD Power seems far more consistent & relevant !

        Reply
  13. Bill

    My 2021 Explorer is already doing 30 plus mpg what is Cr talking about?

    Reply
  14. Matt

    Been in my 2021 Explorer ST since February. Honestly, I love it. It’s a lease, so I’m not wedded to it at all and would complain if there was something off base. But for the $700 a month I pay for it, there is no other suv on the market that would come close.

    Reply
  15. Bill H

    CR has hated Ford forever. Perfect example was years ago when they rated the Explorer “Much Worse than Average” but the IDENTICAL Mazda Navajo (off the same assembly line) as ” Much Better than Average”.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Holberg

      You are absolutely right, Bill. They’ve always had a thing against Ford. I remember one year they gave a good review of a Lincoln SUV, but put a picture of a loser competitor next to it.

      Reply
      1. Davido49

        Maybe Ford isn’t paying them on the side ..type thing!? Wouldn’t surprise me at all.

        Reply
    2. MustangJim

      Absolutely… Look.. they rate the Edge well, but the Escape not so. IF they we’re non judgemental toward Ford, they would simply say that the 1.5 performs well but can be a little rough as its a 3cyl.. If performance is wanted opt for the 2.0. There is no competition in my opinion that can better the 2.0 and it is reliable. CR and the media are so biased against domestic cars, and I think especially Ford

      Reply
      1. Davido49

        Yes, they say the Gen2 – 2.0L GTDI engine in Escape is far better & always rate the Escape Hybrid very well. Strange for sure! I don’t read there reviews often or base my purchases on them. Do love my ’22 Edge AWD which they adore. They are trashing the Honda Pilot now. Whatever.

        Reply
  16. Seth

    What they need to do is bring back the Crown Victoria new and improved!

    Reply
    1. crabbymilton

      That would be nice to say the least. That way they would have a platform for a new CONTINENTAL. Look, not everyone wants a crossover or SUV. That’s why FORD is losing out to other builders.

      Reply
      1. Davido49

        Ford is doing very well considering the parts supply constraint issues. Sedans aren’t selling & neither are high end sedans. Cadillac has some of nicest /best rated luxury sedans out there & still having trouble moving them off lots. I suggest you check those out. V-series are incredible.

        Reply
  17. dluxdlitz

    I purposely don’t follow CR because they continuously misrepresent any car that’s not a Toyota. In the past, I’ve always bought German cars because the Americans were just not there yet. CR absolutely HATES anything from Germany regardless of how good it is. Their opinions mean nothing to me me except for a toaster maybe. My next car will be a Lincoln since Ford has really upped their game…regardless of what CR says!

    Reply
  18. Tom

    They also test can openers. Enough said.

    Reply
  19. MIKE BARANOWSKI

    I agree CR does a better job rating can openers but, I am responsible for a fleet of Fords and they never fail to fail !
    The new Explorer is a half baked wet dream. Everyone has been back for warrantied work. Typical over hyped vehicle. The way they hype the Bronco you would think it is a flying car!!!!

    Reply
    1. Davido49

      Explorer is excellent an Bronco is best in class! By far. Customers say so. They love em & that’s what counts. Superior engineering = Superior products. Go Ford!

      Reply
  20. Mike says..

    CR comments and observations are fair game. They do warrant labeling any product an ‘avoid’. Sales numbers almost always reflect a companies product strength.

    Reply
  21. Mike says..

    S/B They DO NOT warrant….

    Reply
  22. Hisham Munshi

    I am an owner of a 2021 Explorer ST. Since day one I am having the following troubles:
    – High and very annoying interior rattles on left and right side of the roof.
    – The 2 headrest screens stopped working.
    – A weird noise under the car as if it was a truck when cruising slowly.
    – The backup camera turns to blue screen!

    And I fully agree on the too much firm ride and clunky gearbox. They should have made an adaptive suspension for a car at this price range and reprogrammed the gearing for a smoother changes.

    Reply
  23. Bill in FL.

    Hating CR doesn’t alter the issues Ford has had over the years with early production problems with almost everything but their trucks. However, my 2019 Ford Edge ST now with 24000 miles has been nearly flawless. In another year or two I will probably buy the Explorer ST once the bugs have been resolved. For the record, CR isn’t perfect but their testing of automobiles is relatively rigorous. It is geared towards reliability, safety, and value. Reliability has never been Ford’s strongest area measured by any reputable organization. Still, we loyal Ford drivers can’t always be explained.

    Reply
  24. Explorer Reputation.

    With all honesty , I have 2016 Ford Explorer limited. Bought the truck pre-owned with 36,000 miles on it. 14,000 miles later , The transmission always had a bad kick when picking up or downshifting . Had major issues from the A/C line breaking and Throttle Body ..

    Just spend 2,300 dollars ! For A/C line and throttle body.

    Oh ! And Transmission Re-build , Which luckily was still under warranty. 6,000 dollar death note.

    My Experience as a second time owner of a Ford Explorer. Do yourself the favor and stay away from this line up.

    There best seller the F-150 are meant to last , not their mid-sized SUV lines.

    Reply
  25. John

    CR is geared toward those that like to buy stuff all the time. Otherwise why would you need the magazine? I hold onto my major purchases for 10+ years. If it breaks I don’t buy it again. Easy.

    Reply
  26. Jim L

    Lots of Ford Fanboy soccer dads in the comments I see. Get a Jeep if you’re serious about off roading. If not, get a Highlander. Either is gonna serve you better than the Ford.

    Reply
    1. MustangJim

      Jim, Of course there are Ford Fans here, look at the name of the Fourum.. “Ford Authority” I would not be so inclined to go into a Toyota forum and post my opinion of their cars.

      Reply
  27. Paul

    Is there anyone left who still have trust in CR?

    Reply
  28. James

    The base engine in the explorer has a more powerful power train than the tellerude. The Kia feels underpowered and I wouldn’t buy one. The explorer feels and drives sportier like a large mustang. Seeing as the 2.3t does 0-60 in 5.6 I have no complaints. I’ve hit 5.8 myself not really trying. Plenty of power to drive the family everywhere.

    Reply
  29. Jerry U.

    Has CR ever liked Ford products? Interesting they like the Edge so much, its a dead soldier, not in the 2022 lineup. Guess they didn’t do their homework, and for years as I drove a Edge’s they put them down year after year. I currently have a 2020 Explorer XLT and in complete satisfaction with it. These are the same people that test hair dryers and electric toothbrushes.

    Reply
  30. Ba You

    CR is the marketing firm of the Asian auto industry. They are the one “authority” that has the worst opinion of any American car brand. Their opinion is biased and should be completely avoided.

    Reply
  31. Sameer

    I fond this report very biased. I tested the Kia telluride and the power it yields is absolutely subpar vs the ford explorer. I believe that while fuel economy is important. Over years it won’t make a lot of difference.

    Reply
  32. John

    Predicted reliability? It’s Hyundai/Kia that cars burning to the ground.

    Reply
  33. MustangJim

    I’ve responded to a few comments here but want to ad: Yes, Ford has had some qualty issues lately. The launch of the Explorer did have unncessary problems as did the launch of the 13 Escape. Should this happen, no… it should not. But, this is not just a Ford problem. Look at the transmissions in the Honda Pilot. Toyota has had problems also. Me, I wait a year or two from product launch date to buy my Fords and I am happy with them. I always say, every dealership has a booked up service dept. in the back, and they are doing more then oil changes. No matter what kind of car.

    Reply
  34. Joe Duarte

    What shocked me about the new Explorer is the *price*. Holy cow. I couldn’t configure a decent version that didn’t cost well over $50,000. In fact, you can pay $60,000 for an Explorer now (!)

    I felt like I had missed some major inflation in the auto sector, like mid-range SUVs were $10,000 – $15,000 more expensive than they were a few years ago. But it doesn’t seem quite true, based on my quick checks. The Explorer now costs Acura MDX money, and probably more than the smaller Acura RDX.

    Good SUVs in the next smaller class are massively cheaper, so I’m pretty much going to settle into that class if everyone else is charging $55,000 for a mid-size SUV. Options like the Cherokee, Escape, Bronco Sport, CX-5, etc. make a lot more sense.

    As far as Consumer Reports, I don’t trust them with cars. I trust them with appliances. Their problem is that they think of cars like appliances. They’re not car people. Demographically and anthropologically they’re probably urban leftists, with the car culture that flows from that. They don’t love cars. They don’t even like them. They’re the kind of people who could seriously contemplate buying a Prius or a Subaru. So I don’t trust their vague assertions about how a suspension feels, or the brakes. I don’t think they know enough about cars to be reviewing them. They’re too culturally homogeneous, not enough cultural diversity in their staff. They need to hire car people.

    Reply
  35. Charles

    My wife and I love our ’21 Explorer. We also own a ’19 Honda Pilot, a ’19 Honda Ridgeline, and a ’20 BMW X3M. We both prefer the Ford for everyday driving and longer trips. Comfortable ride, comfortable interior, roomy, good infotainment system (some knobs, not all touchscreen frustration), good looks (subtle, no ‘look at me!!!’ grill which seems to be all the rage today) , good climate controls, enough power, reasonable fuel economy, parts, fuel and consumables available anywhere in the Americas. Pretty good view in traffic; ‘driving aids’ are helpful without being too intrusive. Adaptive cruise works well and can be switched over to ‘regular’ cruise control if desired. Third row folds down for additional storage space if needed. I agree that a 10-speed tranny is not needed, but every company has to do what they can to meet CAFE standards. The Explorer rides like a typical Ford in that there is some ‘give’ in the body, there’s some body roll going over train tracks, etc. It’s nowhere near as rigid as the BMW, and that’s okay. The BMW can be pretty jarring over imperfect surfaces. I compare the two only to mention that they aimed at different markets/groups. The BMW is built to go fast and clip apexes, while the Ford is built to get you to your destination in comfort. Compared to the Explorer, the Pilot is noisier, Honda infotainment is worse, Honda is less luxurious (as it should be because the Ford cost $20k more), Honda driving aids are more intrusive, Honda did not come with a gear selector beyond P/R/N/D so you can only shift gears with the gas pedal. Our Hondas are good vehicles and the presumption is that they are built to a higher quality standard, but we’ve not had any problems with either of the Hondas or the Ford. We love our Explorer.

    Reply
  36. Davido49

    It’s a base engine + the Gen2- 2.0L GTDI engine is one of if not best engine (of that design) out there. Been around 10yrs now. Gen2 came out in ’17 i believe & is completely upgraded/redesigned. Not that Gen1 was bad at all.. i had one in a ’15 Lincoln MKZ AWD that was excellent. Was just time to make tech/durability improvements on the design & bump HP/ TQ up a bit.

    Reply
  37. Davido49

    Go away troll. Nobody believes ya or cares for the lies. Keep buyin foreign don’t wonder where your job went!

    Reply
  38. Greg

    Now that it is 3 years after the CR “warning” I have to say I disagree with their assessment 100%. We have a ’21 Limited 4×4, now with 50k miles. The 2.3 turbo has plenty of power and we have seen as high as 27mpg on the interstate running north of 80mph. Other than routine maintenance the only repairs have been the rear camera recall and, just recently, we had a blis related sensor in the rear bumper have to be replaced. That’s it. We will agree that the interior plastics are not “luxurious”, but I didn’t buy a G Wagon. For CR if the vehicle isn’t from a Japanese based company they generally don’t like it.

    Reply

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