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2021 Ford Explorer Should Be Avoided, Says Consumer Reports

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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.

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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
  2. Stephen Ketterer

    Ford’s penchant for putting turbocharged 4-pots into 4,500 lb. SUVs is coming back to haunt them.

    Reply
    1. MustangJim

      I have a 2.0 EcoBoost 2015 Escape and a 2021 2.3 EcoBoost Explorer. Both have more then adequate power. When comparing the Explorer to competitors the 2.3 has more power and tourque then all the “recomended ” brands, ie: Kia, Toyota, etc.. As far as ride stiffness, it handles better. I prefer a little stiffness compared to wallowing over every dip in the road. As far as the 10 spd. auto, its fine. For some reason its trendy to critique everything Ford does. Heck , my daughter has about 140.000 miles on her 14 Fiesta and its the original trans, only has had normal routine maintenance and the A/C works fine

      Reply
  3. 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
  4. 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
    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
  5. 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
    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
  6. TS

    I say Consumer Reports should be avoided.

    Reply
    1. Bill

      Absolutely agree with you

      Reply
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. Bill

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

    Reply
  15. 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
  16. 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
    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
  17. Bob Dobson

    CR is just a bunch of cranky old men who have no clue what they are talking about when it comes to vehicles. They want a Toyota Camry ride in everything they test. Stick to appliances old timers your opinions are outdated.

    Reply
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. Tom

    They also test can openers. Enough said.

    Reply
  21. Joe Snell

    The Truth hurts
    So sorry I bought this Ford Junk
    Never again
    Honda & Toyota for my family

    Reply
  22. 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
  23. 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
  24. Mike says..

    S/B They DO NOT warrant….

    Reply
  25. 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
  26. 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
  27. 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
  28. 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
  29. 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
  30. Paul

    Is there anyone left who still have trust in CR?

    Reply
  31. 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
  32. 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
  33. 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
  34. 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
  35. John

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

    Reply
  36. 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
  37. 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

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