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Reliability is a vital factor for most people when considering what their next vehicle should be. Although Ford ranked as a fairly reliable brand in 2019, its rankings dropped considerably in 2020, according to research from Consumer Reports. This drop in the automaker’s rankings can be blamed partially on the strikingly bad reliablility ranking of the 2021 Ford Explorer.

Is the 2021 Ford Explorer a good SUV?

The 2021 Ford Explorer has a 2.3-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine that makes 300 hp. It gets an estimated 14 miles per gallon in the city and 29 miles per gallon on the highway for a combined fuel economy of 21 miles per gallon. 

With responsive steering and a maximum towing capacity of 5,300 pounds, the 2021 model does feature some improvements over its previous iterations. It was fully redesigned for this model year, and has shifted to a rear-drive-based platform. This sets it apart from most other vehicles in this segment, which tend to be front-drive-based.

Each Explorer comes standard with the Ford Co-Pilot360 safety suite. This system includes rear cross-traffic warning, lane-keeping assistance, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and forward-collision warning.

Consumer Reports praises this safety system, noting that drivers can easily set up all of these features, and can find animations on the center display screen which clearly demonstrate the function of every available safety feature.

What’s wrong with the 2021 Ford Explorer?

Unfortunately, although the 2021 Ford Explorer has its fair share of benefits, it also has a predicted reliability rating of one out of five. This makes it one of the most unreliable vehicles included in the survey conducted by Consumer Reports.

This low predicted reliability rating made Ford drop six points from its 2019 ranking, with a new reliability score of just 38 out of 100. Although Ford was in the middle of the pack previously, it is now ranking at No. 22 out of the 26 brands that Consumer Reports compared.

While the Explorer is the least reliable Ford SUV included in the survey, the 2021 Ford Escape didn’t do particularly well either; both new vehicles ended up lowering Ford’s score.

The Explorer struggled in several key areas, including its transmission, which reviewers described as “clunky.” Consumer Reports also found that the Explorer’s engine was noisy and the ride was fairly stiff.

Despite these detriments, the Explorer is also somewhat expensive: It has a base price of $32,225, making it more expensive than many of its competitors.

What does this SUV get right?

Although the 2021 Ford Explorer did quite a number on Ford’s overall reliability ratings, it’s not all bad. The Explorer handles well, with firm and responsive steering.

Test drivers found that the Explorer “behaves like a smaller vehicle” even when it is driven on fairly twisty roads. It manages corners well, which sets it apart from many other SUVs in its class. The Explorer also has excellent brakes, stopping quickly on both wet and dry surfaces.

Although the cabin is fairly plain for the price point, it is also comfortable and spacious. The Explorer’s supportive seats offer a range of adjustment options that enable everyone to find the driving position that is most comfortable for them. The cabin also offers a significant amount of headroom, and the controls all feel high quality and responsive.

All in all, the 2021 Ford Explorer isn’t a complete bust. It has many advantages that test drivers appreciated, and while it may not be the most attractive option, it holds its own in terms of comfort and usability.

However, its low predicted reliability rating is a pretty big mark against it, and Ford is now seeing the negative impacts of this in its Consumer Reports rankings. The true reliability of this model year will reveal itself over time and it is possible that the 2021 Explorer can increase its reliability ranking.


The 2021 Ford Explorer Already Has One Scary Recall