"Improved With New Features but Some Serious Negatives"1.5 starson by ElectroTom
Pros: Adaptive Cruise Control, great handling, good gas mileage, great styling, collision avoidance
Cons: Seating Comfort, Traffic Alerts, Ford Touch/ Sync (very complex) and did I say Seating Comfort. Most uncomfortable car to drive I ever owned. Traffic alerts will drive you nuts and no way to durn off. Touch screen not responsive and frustrating,
Summary: I pick up my 2011 Ford Explorer Limited edition in February, 2011 with virtually all the option packages. I sold my 2007 Honda Pilot for this car.
Overall I am disappointed with the Explorer. The seating comfort is terrible. It's not leg room, You feel cramped feeling due to the much smaller than normal area under the dashboard. I would not have bought it knowing what I do now about driving comfort. My wife says this is the most uncomfortable car she has been in on longer trips. This is from a passenager prespective!
Let's go through the GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY:
Engine and Engine Power: The car comes standard with a 3.5L Twin independent Variable Camshaft Timing (TiVCT) V6, new for the Explorer. The engine provides ample power for getting on highways and passing. For a car that weighs 4,600 lbs, it is surprisingly peppy although it would not compete with a sports car. The car takes regular gas. A turbo charged 4 cylinder will be available later this year with the 2 wheel drive version of the car.
Handling: This Explorer is build on a car chassis rather than the truck chassis of past Explorer's. This gives a more carlike ride, but reduces towing capacity. The Explorer has a firm grip on the road. The feeling is tight, steering is very predictable and firm with good road feel. If you buy the package with the ACC, you will also get a collision avoidance system. This system will apply brakes if necessary if you go around a turn too fast. I had the my Explorer overloaded carrying 44 bags of mulch (approx. 1600 lbs in weight plus another 250lbs for me). Unlike a 1998 Explorer I owned many years ago, this car handled well with no over-steering or under-steering which was so prevalent in the older Explorers. I would not recommend this heavy a load (which exceeded the car's limits), but it did the job . Unlike my old Explorer, the car does not wander around the road. This was a real nuisance with my old Explorer and required constant steering adjustments.
Styling: The Explorer has a totally new look with rounded corners, and more aerodynamic. For the most part, this did not compromise the interior cargo space. I like the styling of the new painted grill, the turn lights on the mirrors, the ease of entry and exit from the car without side running boards. The car seems a bit closer the ground than my Pilot (1" by specs) and my old Explorer. This could be a negative to those that want heavy duty off road use. The interior has ambient lighting around the door handles, cup holders and under the dash. Really looks nice. All controls are lighted, even the one's on the steering wheel.
Safety: With the highest option package, there are numerous safety features including Collision Avoidance, Blind Spot detection in the mirrors, Auto Braking if turns are taken too sharp, Back Up Camera, Rear Warning System and more.
The Collision Avoidance detects an imminent collision and warns you with loud beeps, red lights and pre-charges the brakes. If you fail to respond (like if you fell asleep), it will actually apply the brakes.
The Blind Spot Detection in the mirrors is great. When a car enters the cars blind spots on the left or right side, an amber light come on in the upper corner of the left or right mirror. The system works great.
Back Up Camera: My Pilot had a rear back up camera, but this car goes a step way beyond showing your projected tire tracks of where your car will steer as you back up. NICE!
The Rear Detection will beep if you approach an object but it will also warn you if a car is approaching on the left or right side.
Trailer Stability Control: When towing a vehicle and this is activated, the car's computer will help to prevent a roll over is it senses the trailer is swaying. (See "The Ugly" below regarding U-haul).
BlueTooth Phone: - this is a must have feature. It works well, is easily paired to your blue tooth phone, and lowers the radio volume and navigation commands if you are on the phone.
Auto Park: The system actually works and works well! However, I use this more to demo it to friends than actually park the car. The only issue is that you must activate the system and the car must "find" the parking space as you drive slowly. I assume Ford wants to be sure the space is big enough so the radar does measurements. When it finds a space, it gives you a "Check" mark on the screen. It instructs you to pull up to a position it likes. It then instructs you to take your hands off the wheel and put the car in reverse. The car then takes over. You release the brake (but are still in charge of braking). The steering wheel begins to spin on its own. If there is a car behind you, it tells you when to stop. It parks the car to about 3" to the curb. It would be better if you could activate this when you pull up to a space, but it just doesn't want to take the chance the space is not big enough.
Entry Access: The model I have has push button start and the doors open when you touch the door handles without ever taking out a key. As long as the key fob is in your pocket or purse, everything is automatic. Nice! It also includes a Ford standard for many years - the Keyless Pin Pad. Folding rear seats: The 2 seats in the 3rd row automatically fold and rise with the push of a button.
Other Convenience Features: This car is loaded with gadgets - everything from a 110V outlet in the 2nd row seat, to a totally configurable dashboard. You can control which instruments you display on the left side of the instrument panel.
Adaptive Cruise Control: This is the reason I bought the car, and I am not disappointed. The system works flawlessly. You turn on the cruise control, set your speed (which you can see digitally), and set you gap (distance between you and the car in front). Once activated, the car will keep the speed of the traffic and car in front of you regardless of what speed you set. If the car in front slows down, you slow down. If a car cuts in front of you, the car automatically applies brakes to slow down seamlessly.
Gas Milage: I am reasonably satisfied with the gas mileage so far (about 4,500 miles of driving). My low was 17mph, my high was about 23 mph. The 17mph was virtually all local driving. The 23mph was mostly highway but in moderate traffic.
Ford Sync and Ford Touch: This is a much touted feature, but I am sorry to say I find it way over engineered. After 10 months, I still have not mastered all the controls. On the positive side, the screen gives lots of information. The problem is there is a menu button, a home button, and an Info button. It is totally confusing when to press each of these. The other thing is that virtually all controls are touch screen (except radio volume and radio on off). Add to this that Ford placed the hazard flasher button directly under the center of the touch screen display. This button is a quasi touch/hard button that I seem to always activate as my hand passes over it to work the touch screen. Why didn't they put this on top of the touch screen. Finally, Ford claims the voice controls have hundreds of words in its vocabulary. While far greater than my Pilot with a similar feature, don't expect conversational English. Voice recognition is OK. I find the touch screen at times to be extremely unresponsive. You need to touch, touch again, and maybe again and again to get your selection recognized. This is not 100% of the time. Also, the semi-soft buttons that control the radio on/off and other functions also need multiple presses to work at times. The radio is especially troublesome. On a few occasions, I could not turn it off even after pressing the button 20+ times. Eventually, I just turned the volume all the way down. I am thankful the volume is a real dial and not touch.
Climate Control: I am putting this into the "BAD" catagory not because it doesn't work - it does and quiet nicely, but for it's complexity. Again, it has to do with Ford Touch. You must deal with the array of touch screen buttons to controling the temperature of the seats, the climate control for the rear seats, etc. Took me 10 minutes while driving to figure out how to activate the rear heating controls.
Navigation: Don't get me wrong, the navigation does work and gets you there. It is the peripheral issues that are annoying. Unlike my Pilot, you cannot set an address while the car is moving. You can, however operate the POI's and other functions. Setting an address by voice is hit or miss. In all, I miss the straight forward menus on my Pilot and the ability to set the address while the car is in motion. See below for review on Traffic Alerts.
Daytime Running Lights: NONE. Despite having every type of automated lighting control known to man, along with ambient lighting and HID headlights (an option), Ford neglected to equip the car with daytime running lights. This is a safety feature that provides me a $90 insurance discount on my other car.
Radio: Spend close to $50 grand for a car and you expect to see a state of the art sound system. Several Chevy SUVs now have a hard drive on which you can copy your CD's, a TIVO like system that allows you to replay the last 30 minutes of the radio show you are listening to, a built in 6 CD changer and other such necessities. If you expect this on the Explorer, you would be wrong. Included is a Very basic Sony radio with a 1 CD player. The radio is a Sony HD (stupidly, I thought "HD" this was for Hard Drive). No, no, it is for AM high definition radio. With it, you can listen to the one or two radio channels in your area that broadcast in HD and hear them slightly clearer.
Seating Comfort: While this is very personal, I must say the more I drive the Explorer the more I and beginning to really find the seating confort to be a big problem. On the driver side, leg room is adequate, nothing more (I am 6'1" and somewhat overweight with bad knees). The problem is that the front wheel-well seems to encroach on the interior space under the dash just where the "dead pedal" footrest is for your left foot. The total width is extermely cramped, both on the driver and passenger side. It's seems like your feet are going into a funnel. I own a Honda Accord and width on the Accord under the accelerator to the left side of the footrest is 22". On the Explorer, this same measurement is just 18". This causes you to have to twist your left foot slightly which is OK short term but becomes uncomfortable fast. This is terrible and makes it feel extremely tight and cramped. In addition, my wife and I find inadequate padding in both the driver & passenger seat. I believe this is because the front seats are cooled as well as heated and the padding may have been reduced to allow for air flow. Over the course of a trip (even a short one), the seat seems to press too hard into the back of your thighs. Unfortunately, you will not notice this issue when you sit in the car on the showroom floor or take in on a ten minute test drive. It could be a real deal-breaker. Had I know this, I am not sure I would have bought the Explorer. Now, I am not sure if I will own this car long term. In addition to the width problem, my wife discovered a raised protrusion just under the passanger seat. When the passenger is pulled all the way back to maximize the legroom, there is a raised hump, a few inches high, that prevents your feet from moving your legs to a right angle position -- like when you would cross your legs. You can eliminate this by moving the set forward a few inches, but then the leg room is compromised. My wife says it is the most uncomfortable car she has ever been in on a long trip.
Traffic Alerts: I was excited about having traffic alerts built into my navigation system, however on my very first use, I realized this is a disaster. I live in a suburb of New York City. Congestion on the highways is common. The system seems to divide the highway up into 1 tenth mile increments. You can see green, yellow or red arrows on navigation screen alongside the major highways indicating traffic movement. Once you set a destination in the navigation system, traffic alerts spring into action. The traffic alerts displays a LARGE message on the center of your Navigation screen and dims the rest of the screen so the navigation is worthless until you respond to the alert. The alert gives you 3 options - "Display", "Re-Route", "Ignore". The first time this happened, I pressed ignore. Nothing seemed to happen. After some fooling around, I realized that there were over 10 Alerts, one behind the other. I needed to respond to each one by repeatedly hitting "Ignore".
Rear Window: The Ford Explorer was introduced in the early 90's. For all that time, the rear window opened separately from the tailgate. Not on the 2011 Explorer. When I was carrying long lumber how easy it was to have it stick out the opened window on my old 1998 Explorer. Or, just adding a small bag of groceries or stuffing those extra items into the car that is overpacked with kids stuff from a college dorm.
Towing a Trailer - Maybe Not: I bought the trailer hitch (a $500 option) with my Explorer. It includes not only the hitch but a transmission cooling system. The car comes with a towing stability control, and a towing mode. The car senses if the trailer is swaying and the computer in the car compensates to prevent roll over. Sounds great, Right? It is, but go to U-haul, the only rental company I can find that will allow one way towing. They will not rent to any car named the "Ford Explorer". This issue dates back to around 2004 when all the bad press came out about the tires on the old Ford Explorers and rollovers they caused. Uhaul was sued and now prohibits rentals to Ford Explorers even though the car was totally redesigned and is probably one of the safest towing vehicles. This is not directly a Ford issue, but Ford and Uhaul needs to get together on this issue.
Complexity: This car is NOT for the person who expects to turn the radio on, punch in an address into your navigation system and drive off. Expect to take at least a long Saturday afternoon to initially set up your navigation, telephone, radio, vehicle settings, etc, etc. Expect to spend several more hours on and off adjusting these controls and understanding them. Expect frustration. It you are not somewhat technically inclined forget this car or get a low end version of it without any gadgets.
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