Consumer Reports: Two Ford crossovers 'not recommended'

(January 4, 2011) YONKERS, NY — The Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX scored too low in testing to be recommended by Consumer Reports. The vehicles are part of a test group in the February issue comprised of six midsized, midsized luxury, and large luxury SUVs.

“In a highly competitive category, all three of these vehicles have a number of strengths, but each had some notable weaknesses that forced their testing scores to fall below our standard for a recommended SUV,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center in East Haddam, Conn.

NOT RECOMMENDED BY CR: Chevy Tahoe, Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX

The report also reviewed the Infiniti QX56, a V8 version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the Porsche Cayenne. All of these performed well in testing, but are too new for CR to have adequate reliability data to recommend. CR only recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR’s Annual Auto Survey of its more than seven million print and Web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

The story also reviews the MyFord/MyLincoln Touch system, a new driver interface for operating the radio, climate control, and navigation system. It can also interface with cell phones and portable music players.

The driver’s interface uses an 8-inch video touch screen in the center of the dashboard. It also includes two 4.2-inch dashboard displays flanking the speedometer that can be configured to show different gauges and can perform some of the same functions as the screen. The system recognizes and responds to voice commands.

CR’s testers looked at the system in the 2011 Lincoln MKX and Ford Edge SEL and found it to be a complicated distraction while driving. In addition, first-time users might find it impossible to comprehend. The system did not always always perform as promised.

The systems eliminate even basic knobs like the radio volume knob, instead using touch-sensitive controls or touch screens. Testers found the system complex and buggy.

Pulling its recommendations for the Ford crossovers came down to the new telematics system, Champion told the Detroit News. Testers found the system unwieldy, difficult to use and requires drivers to take their eyes off the road, he said.

"If the Edge had decent controls, it would probably be recommended," said Champion, noting that controls drivers use every day should have dedicated switches.

Vehicles were selected for this diverse test grouping because of product changes. The Porsche Cayenne and Infiniti QX56 were both fully redesigned for 2011.The Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX were extensively freshened for 2011.

PERFORMED WELL: Jeep Grand Cherokee V-8, Porsche Cayenne V-6, Infiniti QX56

Since CR’s last test of the Chevrolet Tahoe, it received a six-speed transmission. The magazine previously tested a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo with a V6 engine. It performed poorly in CR’s emergency handling tests, so a Grand Cherokee Limited V8 was tested to evaluate how it would perform in CR’s emergency handling tests. It did better than the V6 in those tests. CR also evaluated the performance of the Jeep’s V8 power train.

CR found the Porsche Cayenne is one of the most agile-handling SUVs on the market. The Cayenne feels well planted as speeds increase and has a controlled and compliant highway ride. The Porsche Cayenne ($63,805 Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price as tested), is powered by a 300-hp, 3.6-liter V6 responsive engine that gets 19 mpg overall in CR’s own fuel economy tests.

The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts frequently but imperceptibly. Braking is Very Good. Towing capability is impressive for a mid-sized SUV. The interior is finished with lots of high-quality materials but the many controls can be confusing. The three-way-split rear seatbacks fold forward, and there is a pass-through for longer items. Cargo space is good-sized.

The Infiniti QX56 is a large and plush SUV. CR said its large size and awkward handling makes it difficult to maneuver and park. Emergency handling is poor, as the stability control steps in too late to avoid some tail slide. The QX56 shrugs off most road imperfections but on the highway, some body motions persist.

The Infiniti QX56 ($63,395 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 400-hp 5.6-liter V8 engine that provides strong acceleration but gets only 15 mpg overall. The seven-speed automatic transmission shifts very responsively and smoothly. Braking is Very Good. The interior is very plush and well-finished. Folding down the second and third rows opens up a huge but sloping cargo hold and cabin storage is generous. Tow capacity is generous and the QX56 performed well in CR’s demanding off-road course.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee tackles corners willingly and with very little body lean. It is steady on the highway, and the cabin stays pleasantly quiet, with muted engine noise, CR testers reported. On-road refinement is impressive, given that the Jeep performs well off-road and can tow a heavy trailer.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited V8 4x4 ($42,765 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 360-hp 5.7-liter V8 engine that has plenty of power but averaged just 14 mpg overall. The five-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and responsively. Braking is Very Good. The interior has soft-touch panels and nicely-finished leather seats. Cargo room can be expanded by folding the rear seatbacks, and the tailgate window opens separately.

The Chevrolet Tahoe sails along with ease but rough roads unsettle the ride a bit. The highway ride is composed and compliant, but dips can make it feel unsettled, testers reported. The huge cabin stays nicely quiet. However, handling is ungainly and stopping distances are long.

The Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ ($57,435 MSRP as tested,) is powered by a 320-hp, 5.3-liter V8 engine that gets 14 mpg overall. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and helped fuel economy and acceleration a bit. Braking is Good.

Interior fit and finish doesn’t impress at the Tahoe LTZ’s high price. The two halves of the third-row seat fold and tumble, but maximizing cargo space requires removing them, and they weigh 55 pounds each. With the second-row seats tumbled forward and the third row removed, cargo space is voluminous. The Tahoe can tow a heavy trailer and is competent off-road.

The Lincoln MKX absorbs most bumps with decent isolation. The 2011 freshening improved its handling. Ride motions are well controlled, and the highway ride is uneventful, CR said.The Lincoln MKX ($50,235 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 305-hp V6 engine that provides very good acceleration and gets 18 mpg overall. The six-speed automatic transmission is mostly smooth, but shifts are not always seamless. Braking is Very Good.

The interior is luxurious and most components fit well together with lots of wood and stitched leather. The cargo area can be expanded by folding the split rear seatbacks. This creates a good-sized cargo hold.

The Ford Edge has good interior space, easy access, and a lively engine. For 2011, the Edge’s suspension, steering, and drivetrain were changed to improve handling and fuel economy. But controls were significantly worsened by the complex MyFord Touch technology.

The Ford Edge SEL ($37,635 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 285-hp 3.5-liter V6 engine that provides brisk acceleration and 18 mpg overall. The six-speed automatic transmission usually operates smoothly but sometimes shifts with a jolt. Braking is Very Good. Most components fit together well and the interior is nicely finished. Folding the 60/40-split rear seatbacks creates a good-sized cargo hold.