Steering Is a Deal Breaker for Me - 2012 Ford Explorer Long-Term Road Test
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2012 Ford Explorer Long Term Road Test

2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Steering Is a Deal Breaker for Me

January 06, 2012

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I drove our long-term ecoboosted four-cylinder Ford Explorer for the first time this week. The power's adequate with the turbo four, but I won't be in a hurry to drive it again -- certainly not on a road trip.

I don't care for this SUV's electric-assist power steering. It's limp and vague on-center to the point that I don't have confidence in my directional heading (on the freeway), so I'm continually making small corrections to keep the big lug pointed straight. This got old after 50 miles of commuting.

Obviously, it's important to keep your expectations in proportion -- in this case, with the realities of driving a 4,700-pound vehicle. Still, Mazda does a better job with the CX-9, as does Dodge with the Durango. Mind you, neither of these vehicles is getting its power steering assist solely from an electric motor (the Durango's steering uses an electric motor to drive a hydraulic pump).

Our long-term Flex, by the way, used hydraulic steering assist, but Flexes with the twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 have electric power steering.

Unfortunately, I haven't driven a Flex with the latter setup, so I can't comment on which is better or worse. But know this: The steering in our Explorer needs fine-tuning, because right now, it makes this SUV feel ungainly and larger than it actually is. Drive a Durango and you'd swear you were driving a smaller vehicle.


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