2012 Ford Explorer Long Term Road Test - Audio & Technology

2012 Ford Explorer Long Term Road Test

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT Ecoboost: MyFord Touch Takes A Beating

August 23, 2012

ford explorer mytouch.jpg

The MyFord Touch system seen in our Ford Explorer hasn't exactly been a hit with our editors and owners in general. Yesterday, Consumer Reports weighed in.

In a blog post entitled "Why the MyFord Touch Control System Stinks," it criticized the system for being "distracting," saying it "wouldn't recommend dealing with the frustrations of MyFord Touch on a daily basis even to an adversary."

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Fan

August 20, 2012

Explorer fan speed with center stack.jpg

The Explorer's fan knob bugs me. Not because it's a knob--I like that. What irritates me is that neither the knob nor the display screen tell you the current fan speed. Or what you're changing it to. If you want to see that then you have to go into the Climate-specific screen.

And that's silly. It's at least one too many steps.

There should either be some delineation on the knob, or anytime you change the fan speed it should show up somewhere. Even just for a few seconds. Could be on the central screen or the instrument panel, whatever.

Why? Because that's the way it should be. And because if I'm already at the lowest fan speed, I'd like to know I'm at the lowest fan speed.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 19,737 miles.

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2012 Ford Explorer: MyFord Touch Saga Continues

August 13, 2012


Stop me if you've heard the one about MyFord Touch and our 2012 Ford Explorer. For those of you new to this saga, the original system was deeply flawed so we went in for an update. Well, since then we had to trip the master reset once. And then this weekend happened.

Take a look at the picture. There are several things out of whack here:

1) The car is in reverse, but the backup camera is not on.
2) In the top, right corner "navigation unavailable" is displayed.
3) Note: I blacked out the address to protect the innocent. That was frozen also.
4) The center home screen button was pressed (gray), but nothing happened.
5) The clock reads 9:03, but it is in fact 2:15.

In summary, MFT seized up again. I was out running errands. But even after cycling the car off and on 5-6 times, the issue remained. At one point, I turned off the car, exited, closed and locked the door, yet the radio was still playing. That couldn't be good, I thought. Then this happened...

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2012 Ford Explorer: MyFord Touch Master Reset

August 01, 2012


When last we checked, MyFordTouch was unable to pair phones to our 2012 Ford Explorer. We tried everything we could think of to repair the connection short of calling in for a master reset. So it was time...

The reset itself was easy enough. Forget the 3-key, Ctrl/Alt/Delete salute that we've relied on all of these years to save our e-bacon. This system requires a 5-key salute. From the home screen its: settings/system/master reset/warning one/warning two.

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2012 Ford Explorer: MyFord Touch Issues Return

July 31, 2012


I can confirm the Bluetooth pairing issues in our 2012 Ford Explorer that Chris spoke of yesterday. This is the warning message I recieved today, pairing failed. So I dug a little deeper into the problem...

My phone was stored in the car's computer and the Sync connection was stored in my phone. Yet it would not pair the two. I deleted both and started over. When I pressed the button to add a new phone this screen popped up, as it should.

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Beating a Dead Horse Edition (Part ??)

July 30, 2012


Do you ever get the feeling that somethings will never "fix?" Apparently, our MyFord Touch has been updated to the latest, greatest version. Yet, after an entire weekend of unremarkable Bluetooth connectivity, several trips, using both the phone and Bluetooth audio without a hitch, our Explorer and my iPhone inexplicably wouldn't talk to one another this morning.
More after the jump...

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 18,234 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: NaviGlare

July 30, 2012


Okay, this is nothing new, but it sure seems to me that the idea of a touchscreen (simply as an idea) is a flawed one -- especially when it is used for practically everything in the infotainment universe of Ford. Am I all alone on this one?
There's a video after the jump...

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 18,143 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer: Setting a Course for Home

July 17, 2012


Yesterday, I attended a special tour of the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, followed by a dinner associated with the Michelin Challenge Design. I attended the same event last year in our Equus, and like the last one, the drive home gave me plenty of time for personal reflection.

Somewhere in between my thoughts of where I've been and where I might be headed, I was comforted by the Explorer's wide headlight spread that pierced the inky blackness of a moonless Pacific Coast Highway. I'm not an SUV-type-of-guy, I'll take a low and lean sports car any day, but the Explorer's elevated headlights shone the way through multiple curves without the need for high beams.

Of course, I did have to flash the high beams a few times to remind a few inattentive drivers going the opposite direction that I did not appreciate being blinded.

If there was one complaint, it'd be a slight whistle coming from the passenger-side A-pillar that kept bringing me back to reality. Otherwise, the smooth ride and decent sound system allowed me to collect my thoughts.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 17,900 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer: A Little Confused

June 27, 2012


No, the cast of Glee has not recorded The Godfather theme. Our MyFord Touch has been updated recently but I've been experiencing some wackiness. I don't usually pair my phone to a car. But I do like to connect my iPod.

When my iPod started to play, it sounded all warbly. Have you ever spoken into a rotating fan? We used to do that when we were kids and it would chop the sound of your voice. That's what this sounded like. I had to unplug and replug it several times before it played normally. This happened last night and again this morning.

Then when I used the seek button to fast forward through songs (like the moment when I realized I still had the Glee cast on my iPod), the song updated but the performer did not. This happened repeatedly. As you can see in the picture below, the display near the gauges was correct but the display on the nav screen was not.

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2012 Ford Explorer: Small Thing, But I Like It

June 21, 2012


This is my favorite MyFord Touch display in our long-term Ford Explorer's gauge pack. It's a 2D representation of the spherical compass my grandparents had on the dash of their last Taurus.

Not only does it look cool, it's functional for general navigating/knowing-where-you're-going purposes. And I like that it also tells you which street you're on and the posted speed limit -- useful when driving in areas with unfamiliar traffic patterns.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 16,422 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT: MyFord Touch Updated

June 14, 2012


After much back and forth, the MyFord Touch system in our Explorer has finally been updated. The revision was supposed to clear up a few glitches that made the system a little less than user friendly.

I drove it home last night and noticed an obvious difference in the reaction time of the on-screen controls. When you push a button something actually happens. Bravo. The hard buttons for the radio and climate controls below the screen are still a little slow to react, so I'm not sure if the update hastened their reaction time at all.

One thing I do like is the "Do Not Disturb" button on the home screen. This may have been there before, but I didn't notice it. Not a bad feature to have when you're in the car with multiple people and you don't want to answer your phone over the speakers.

We'll keep tabs on the new features included in this update as we discover them, but so far it's a noticeable upgrade.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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2012 Ford Explorer: MyFord Touch Update in Reach

June 12, 2012


This happened to the navigation screen on our 2012 Ford Explorer yesterday. The screen went blank. Coincidentally, I was on my way to the dealer to get the elusive MyFord Touch update installed. It was almost as if the old system wanted to get in one last shot before we sent it packing.

Stay tuned for a full break-down of our visit, the installation process and a before-and-after (a.k.a. night-and-day) comparison of the two systems. Hint: We finally met with some success.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 15,911 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT: Still Waiting for Tech Update

May 31, 2012


We've been waiting awhile for a "performance update" for the MyFord Touch system in our Explorer. We tried to get it loaded at the dealer but it didn't take. The factory was supposed to send out a USB sitck but it hasn't shown up either.

So for now we're stuck with the system as it came from the factory last year -- and that's not good. Actually, it's not just a blank screen, it's just slow. And as far as I'm concerned, they're almost the same thing.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

UPDATE: I've been informed that although our Explorer has been to the dealer, an update was not been attempted yet as none of the dealers we've tried had the proper software at the time. We've been told that the software is now available and we'll make another go of it. At this point I can only reiterate what Brent said about trying to get this done in the first place: it's a hassle.

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2012 Ford Explorer: Is It That Big a Deal?

May 18, 2012


Last night this warning came up in our long-term 2012 Ford Explorer's instrument panel. Oh no, I thought. I probably said it, too, because I talk to myself often. I heeded the little arrow prompt to view the warning which said only "Grade Assist."

Huh? I turned on the hill descent control?

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Mirror Dependent

May 07, 2012


I can't think of another car in the fleet in which I'm almost entirely dependent on the mirrors and rearview camera when backing up. Not even the Quest. Even as rearview cams become more common and my reliance on them grows, I still by force of habit twist around, throw an arm around the passenger seat for stability and crane my neck to see just where the hell I'm pointing the vehicle.

But it's a pretty futile effort in the Explorer. You can turn and twist, but the beltline on this car is so high, you still don't see much out the rear windows. Taller drivers can maybe see a little more of the greenhouse of the car they're about to back into, but good luck trying to find a bumper or hood for visual reference. And that shopping cart or fire hydrant, forget it.

We've beat on the Explorer for feeling big and driving big. But that's apparently what many Americans want: Ford sold 13,400 Explorers last month, its best April since 2005, and has sold 47,000 Explorers year-to-date. But the Explorer's compromised visibility, especially the thick C-pillar and second-row headrest combination, only contributes to a sensation of navigating a bulk carrier up the Colorado River.

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Beating a Dead Horse Edition

April 16, 2012


Yes, I know the MyFord Touch is due for an update. Yes, I also know voicing my harsh opinion of the system only adds to the chorus of those on staff who agree, but I've been living with the Explorer for six days now and I need to vent.

What you see pictured here is a completely non-responsive touchscreen which encompassed all its functions (phone, navigation, climate control, audio, and so on) were locked out behind the utterly dead screen. Beyond that, all of the redundant controls below like the on/off/volume hard button/knob (not pictured) were also on the fritz. After a few minutes of driving, the system re-booted itself and all was (almost well).

Were that the only problem I experienced, I would have been mildly perturbed. It's not just the glitchy, recalcitrant, touchscreen, virtual buttons that are so slow to respond to "MyTouch" (causing unintended double touches). No, it's the contrast of this slow response to the overly sensitive touch-sensitive "paint drip" buttons on the rest of the center stack that really makes the whole system infuriating. Yes, even I dared to rest my thumb on the flasher-activation button and drove with my flashers on for a while before I realized it. I'll finish with this: When I attached my iPhone through the USB port, it would sometimes be completely invisible to the audio system, other times it indexed and played as expected, and yet sometimes it would play for one song then become unresponsive as if invisible again. Finally, sometimes my iPhone would connect to the audio system as a "Docked Device" and not through the SYNC protocol. This update better come soon. Yo, Schmidt. Anything in your mailbox yet?

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 12,775 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer: MFT Expectations

April 09, 2012


As we wait for the MyFord Touch saga to come to an end, I thought I'd add what I hope comes of the update. I had a chance a few weeks back to try out the latest MFT in some 2013 Ford vehicles, and overall, I was pleased with the results.

According to Ford, the interface has been tweaked to exorcise some of the previous version's demons. First off, it's much more responsive than before. When you hit a "button," you don't have to wait a few seconds for the system to react. It's fairly immediate. Also, it seemed to me that the screen layout seemed a little less cluttered and the font was a bit more legible.

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2012 Ford Explorer: Another MFT Update Update

April 06, 2012


Dan's ongoing series of posts from Moab in our Jeep Wrangler are a lot more interesting than the latest travails of our Explorer's MyFord Touch system. But if you're curious, here's the latest.

This morning I was at my in-laws house in Orange County, and a dealership (Fairway Ford) is just up the street from where they live. Inspired by a note made in my previous MFT Update Update post by commenter LASHAWN (who says he's an advisor at a Ford dealership in South Carolina), I decided to just drop by Fairway's service department and see what they said in person.

I approached an advisor and told her how we haven't received our update kit yet but that I wanted to see if they (the dealership) had the required software update on hand. She said she did (yes!), but she also said their ability would depend on what kind of MFT we had (huh?). She wrote down our Explorer's VIN and checked it on her computer.

The details escape me, but effectively, she said, no, they couldn't update our Explorer's MFT. Something about MFT being a "02" or "03", and if it's "03" like our Explorer's, then we have to wait for our kit to arrive in the mail. I asked her to explain this. She couldn't, at least not in a way that made sense. She then suggested calling the Sync/MFT help line, which of course I already did earlier in the week and was no help.

On one hand, I'm sure all of us have had exasperating issues with cars and dealer service. And really, we're just talking about a software update here -- the Explorer drives just fine. But it's also getting a bit ridiculous. You'd think Ford would be more on the ball here considering how important MFT is to consumer preception of quality.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer: Update On MyFord Touch Update

April 02, 2012


Last week I posted how we hadn't yet received our MyFord Touch update in the mail and that my plan was to just go visit the dealership and have it done. I had an appointmet set for this morning. Then it got interesting.

I showed up at Lithia Ford (in Fresno, Calif.) and met my advisor. Told him I was there with the Explorer for the MyFord Touch update.

He said: "Great! Did you bring the kit with you?"

Me: "Umm, no. That's why I'm here, so I can just have it done."

Advisor: "Oh, sorry. No, all we can do is perform the update for you. We still need the kit you get in the mail."

Well isn't that great? It would have been helpful if the advisor had told that to me over the phone when I made the appointment. Or if I had known. But I just assumed a dealership would be able to do the update.

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2012 Ford Explorer: MFT Update? Still Waiting.

March 27, 2012


Some people have posted comments wondering whether we've received our MyFord Touch software update that Ford says it's mailing to owners of vehicles with MyFord Touch. So far, we haven't received the required USB drive in the mail. Odds are I'll probably just head over to the Ford dealer later this week to have it done.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Easy to Park, But...

March 23, 2012

2012 Ford Explorer back-up camera display.jpg

Everyone here agrees: our long-term 2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost feels big and drives big. However, parallel parking with this Big Bertha is a breeze.

That's because our Explorer is equipped with rear parking sonar (standard on the XLT and Limited) and a backup camera. When you combine the feedback from the parking sonar tone and the green, yellow, red zones from the backup camera, you can park the Explorer in some very tight spots. I love it. You can even zoom in on the backup display if the space is really tight (bottom pic), but I don't see why you would need that.

Unfortunately, you have to buy a Rapid Spec package -- starting at $1800! -- to get the back-up camera unless you get the Limited, where it's standard.

That's ridiculous. The back-up camera should be included with Navigation and it's not. In the future backup cameras may be mandated as standard, and perhaps they should be -- on SUVs.

What do you think? Would you pay for the at least $1800 Rapid Spec package to get the backup camera? Me -- I would not, but would end up getting a Rapid Spec package anyway.

And should backup cameras be mandated by USDOT?

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 11,667 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer: Rear Back-Up Camera

March 15, 2012


Don't worry, automotive photographer Kurt Niebuhr has been in plenty of more dangerous spots than this one.

Kurt's holding up a test car's key tag to demonstrate the clarity of the Explorer's rear camera on the interior display screen.

Can you guess what the tag says?

Kelly Toepke, News Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT: The Fix Is In -- the Mail

March 07, 2012

MyFordTouch Upgrade.jpg

Those howls you hear echoing across the Ford-o-sphere with some regularity are coming from people whose MyFord Touch systems confound and malfunction on a daily basis. The system has almost single-handedly been responsible for torpedoing Ford in quality rankings compiled by J.D. Power and Associates and Consumer Reports.

We've had our own problems with the system in our Explorer, and I experienced the wonders of Touchiness this week when I drove a short-term 2012 Ford Edge to a networking event sponsored by Women in Technology International. The guests for the evening were three Ford engineers, including one who is a specialist in voice recognition and is on the MyFord Touch team.

I used voice recognition in the Edge to set the event's location as the trip destination:1413 Fifth Street, Santa Monica. After three tries at saying the address as clearly as I could, and even substituting "Five" for "Fifth" Street, in case the system thought I was lisping, I had to give up. There was no recognition of the address. I entered it manually and went on my way.

During the evening, I had a chance to talk for a few minutes with the MyFord Touch voice-recognition engineer. (We were off-duty, so I'm leaving her unnamed in this report.) The problems with MyFord Touch are "totally unacceptable," she said. Everybody inside Ford knows how bad they are and employees have been working hard to get them fixed, she said. It's particularly disheartening for Ford peoplle, she said, because the problems are cropping up at a time when the company has been breaking through with vehicles that people really want to buy. I'm pretty sure consumers feel the same way about the disconnect between good cars and bad software systems.

When I described my problem in getting the voice recognition to understand the restaurant's address, she smiled ruefully. She'd had exactly the same experience in a Focus the Ford team had brought to the mixer. MyFord Touch "doesn't like Santa Monica, for some reason," she said. (There's many a rock-ribbed Republican who would agree with MyFord Touch on that score. But that's about social engineering, not the automotive variety.)

She also confirmed -- with relief -- what I'd read earlier in the day: Improved software for MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch is being mailed out to current owners of cars with the systems on March 8. In its official release, Ford says that more than 300,000 owners will get the kit in the company's effort "to improve their driving experience even further."

Ford says that the packages will include "a USB flash drive with the updated software, a notification letter, detailed instructions for the 60-minute download, and an updated user guide. Navigation-equipped vehicle owners also will receive an updated SD card with all-new, updated map data." Yes, a 60-minute download. Pack a lunch.

If customers don't want to wait for the delivery, or don't want to do the upgrade by themselves, they can take their vehicles to Ford or Lincoln dealers and they'll handle it.

Finally, for a classic example of what journalists call "burying the lead," please see Ford's press release on the matter. The software upgrade is not even mentioned until the last few paragraphs. And aside from a comment about the upgrade incorporating user "feedback," consumer ire at system's problems is not mentioned at all.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer: Running On Empty

March 06, 2012


When I first moved to California, a friend advised me to never let my car's gas level drop below a half tank. He said it was an earthquake safety measure. In the event of a large earthquake, you wouldn't be able to gas up anywhere to escape town. I thought that was a little extreme.

Our rule at the office is that you never bring a car back with less than a quarter tank of gas out of consideration for your fellow drivers, unless of course you are doing a pre-planned fuel experiment.

I've been working from home a little under the weather this week. The Explorer's tank was getting low on my way home from the office Friday but I just wanted to get home. I've been in the house all weekend and yesterday I finally ventured out to the doctor but I still didn't have enough energy to stop and fill up. I wouldn't normally let it get this empty. I will definitely fuel up before returning to the office tomorrow.

How low do you generally let your tank go?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 10,874 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer: Safety Aids

March 01, 2012


I rely heavily on safety aids when driving the Ford Explorer, mostly the Blind Spot and Cross Traffic Alert monitoring systems. It's difficult to see passing cars when trying to switch lanes on the freeway. The headrest of the second row blocks much of the view out the rearmost right-side window. There have been times when I didn't see a car coming up on my right but the little yellow light on the side mirror told me otherwise.

The side mirrors themselves do a good job especially on the driver side, but this car has a huge blind spot on its right side toward the rear.

I also need to rely on the rear-view camera when backing out of parking spots. Even exiting my wide driveway at home is tough. I just can't see. Perhaps if I were taller it wouldn't be so bad but I suspect not. Thankfully, the Explorer's camera gives a wide view which is really helpful.

Last night, I was parked in a diagonal head-in spot near a corner. That corner is notorious for drivers flying around too quickly without regards to the parking spots. On the screen I could see all the way to the street corner. I saw a car approaching the intersection and the Explorer beeped a warning chime before the driver even started making the turn toward me.

A while back I made a short video of the visibility in the Ford Explorer. You can see it here.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 10,807 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT: Rolling Health Report

February 10, 2012


This notification popped up on the screen in the Explorer last night. It was accompanied by a soothing announcement from Ms. Sync that asked if I would like to check the health of the Explorer.

This is part of a regular check up schedule and not the result of a suspected problem. After consulting the manual I found out that registered Sync users can have the diagnostics emailed to them so they can have the info ready should they want to schedule a service appointment. It can also send a text message to your phone if it's a serious issue.

At first it felt a little gimmicky, but if owners actually use the system correctly it seems like a good use of Sync's abilities. It's essentially a more sophisticated check engine light and given most owner's propensity to ignore such warnings, anything that gets them into the dealer to check a potential problem seems like a worthwhile feature.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: MyFord Fingerprints

February 10, 2012

MyFord Fingerprints.jpg

I had this nice view on my drive home from work the other day, with the sun at the exact wrong angle.

And there's the problem with touch screens.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 9,679 miles.

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT: Drowning in a Sea of Gas

February 03, 2012


Every time I look at the gas gauge in the Explorer I can't help but think it looks like the icon is under water, or is it gasoline? Hard to tell with the cool blue color.

Maybe someday Explorers will actually run on a crisp clean H2O. Someday, in the future. The very, very distant future.

For now, we've got Ecoboost. Works for me.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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2012 Ford Explorer: Daily MyFord Touch Complaint

January 19, 2012

Ke$ha on MyFord Crap.jpg

When considering how to properly visualize today's blog, I could think of nothing more appropriate than drawing a comparison between MyFord Touch and the drunk girl belching out something akin to "music" being displayed on its screen as I switched to Sirius last night after giving up on my iPhone. The annoyance I feel when encountering both is equally palpable.

Here are today's round up of errors and inherent problems I encountered with MyFord Touch just last night...

1) No USB device detected despite plugging my iPhone into BOTH USB drives. It would end up working this morning.

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT: Seriously Connected

January 18, 2012


As you can see, Ford did not skimp when it came to giving the Explorer plenty of connectivity. A couple USB ports, a 12V plug, some RCAs and even an SD card reader. Pretty sure that's the highest concentration of inputs I've seen in a converted ashtray for some time.

As nice as it is to have all those options, I'd be curious to know how many owners actually use more than one of the inputs provided. The two USB ports seem like the most obvious candidates since they're useful for both charging and connectivity. The RCAs? Eh, even if you have a game system, plugging it into the dashboard seems a little inconvenient. The SD card might be nice to load a pic or two for the home screen, but apart from that most owners would probably just leave the navigation card in there out of fear of losing it.

Seems like Ford would have been better off separating some of these inputs to make them more accessible instead of creating a "media hub" as it's called.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT: Not All the Controls are Bad

January 12, 2012


We've covered various user interface issues with the Explorer. Needless to say, there's much to discuss.

With that in mind, I figured I would call out one instance where the Explorer designers got it right. Yes, I'm talking about the door lock button and its correct positioning near the door handle. It's the most basic thing, yet so many manufacturers screw it up. They stick the buttons on the dashboard, the center console and plenty of other places you wouldn't think to look.

This setup? Perfect, don't change a thing.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT Ecoboost: MyFord Touch Is Infuriating

December 28, 2011


Our longterm 2012 Ford Explorer is equipped with MyFord Touch. Other editors have posted entries about its various functions and use. Across the jump is my readers' digest version of impressions after I spent a good, long time with it (1000 miles over the weekend).

Conclusion? It's the worst interface in a car today.

Oh, MyFord Touch, how do you infuriate? Mainly, it's when you attempt to do the most basic functions, the kind you do every day:

The inadvertent touch that triggers - A part of your hand or finger barely brushes a button and triggers the hazards, the max a/c function, something else you (rather, I) had no intention of activating. Also see: Chevy Volt.

The constant looking - Because there aren't discrete buttons that you can operate simply by feel alone (leaving your eyes on the road where they belong), you have to visually acquire the desired button on the center stack -- say, the "temp up" button -- and keep your eyes on it while you guide your finger to that exact location, else you inadvertently touch and activate another function instead (see above).

The lack of tactile confirmation - Then, when your finger reaches the "temp up" button, there's no tactile confirmation that, indeed, you a.) touched the "temp up" button, and b.) it registered your command. Instead, you have to look elsewhere (to the touchscreen!) to see if the temperature number went up. Congratulations, you've traveled the distance of a football field while you watched your finger try to press a button. Does nobody see the insanity of this?

The multi-press - Sometimes, the system doesn't register your touch. So you poke, poke, poke until it does.

The faked-out multi-press - Functions (the seat heaters? I forget) sometimes have a delay between poke and result. It registered your touch but, you know, it's going to take its sweet time letting you know that it did. In the meantime, you assumed it simply ignored your touch and you went on a button-pressing spree.

Of course, this. Like all touchscreens, gets all smudgy with fingerprints. Sure, it looks kinda gross, but more importantly the smudges -- especially in direct sunlight -- obscure all the functions crowded together in 4-point font that you're required to access here.

Tied to Sync (see lead photo) - MyFord Touch in our Explorer is commingled with Sync, and when Sync randomly decides it wants to reboot in the middle of your drive, all functions -- nav, radio, HVAC, name it -- are off limits for the next five minutes or so. When the system returns, it has switched the radio to some AM radio station preset programmed by Dan Edmunds that you've never listened to in your life and, apparently, canceled any nav routes you'd entered.

Also, the Sync reboot appears to occur every day. At least it did while the Explorer was in my care during a 1000-mile trip.

Touchscreen needs an external dimmer. Other automakers have recognized the folly of burying the screen brightness adjustment deep within several menus of a interface that's too dim to see... the very situation you're attempting to resolve in the first place.

Touch-sensitive interfaces probably look great on a corporate balance sheet -- hey, it's cheap! -- but their poor ergonomics and functionality leave much (everything?) to be desired.

Imagine for a moment an alternate universe where touch-sensitive HVAC panels like MyFord Touch have always been the norm. If some enterprising individual came up with a 3-knob interface, he would be hailed as a genius and all touch-sensitive panels would be obsolete overnight.

--Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer EcoBoost: Loud Bluetooth

December 19, 2011


Loud Bluetooth in the title and then a picture of the exterior of our 2012 Ford Explorer EcoBoost? It makes sense. Trust me.

Late last week I was driving down one of California's notoriously clogged roads when I spotted a silver Explorer EcoBoost just a few cars up. "Oh, neat, someone else bought the EcoBoost."

I got a little closer and realized that it was our car. I was still two cars behind it and one lane to the left so I couldn't see who was driving but I knew it was our car. I also knew that the driver was using the Ford's built in Bluetooth. How? Because I could very clearly hear the voice of one of our executives. I've heard that guy's voice a billion times, but this was the first time I heard it booming in through the sunnroof of a car I was driving.

Anyone who spends a significant period of time in traffic knows that some cars' BT connection are louder than others. Our Ford is one of the loud ones. Loud and exceptionally clear.

It was even clear when I heard the call drop twice. We're looking into that one now.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Edmunds.com

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2012 Ford Explorer EcoBoost: Rear View Camera Dislikes Rain

November 29, 2011

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We've already heard about one side-effect of driving the Explorer in the rain, now we're onto another one: As soon as the roadway is wet, the rear view camera is useless.

We've had some other cars with this problem, Mike Schmidt reminds me that the FX50 was pretty bad in this regard, but we've also had ones that weren't rendered so annoyingly useless. Our Flex, for one, managed to stay dry-ish even in the rain

Thankfully our Explorer has fairly decent sight lines and the camera is more of a bonus than a necessity. Also, it has parking sonar which is unfazed by the rain and, IMO, more useful than a camera.

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: I'm Thankful For Dual USB

November 25, 2011

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This problem hits me more than I'm comfortable admitting. The only thing worse is when driving with someone (say: your girlfriend's sister) who wants to use the USB port to charge. That means listening to their music. Or, god forbid, the radio. No, ma'am. No doing.

Our 2012 Ford Explorer solves this by having two USB ports right (There's also an RCA input. For former Mitsubishi owners?) upfront in the cubby reserved for holding such devices. Sure, one person could use USB while the other uses the cigarette lighter plug, but who carries one of those around? Everyone I know with a phone has a USB charger in pocket at all times.

This solution should also appease the "iPods are dumb, you should only use a USB stick" crowd. You can still use your beloved thumb drive, but you can also charge your phone.

As more and more people are carrying these things (most kids have one as do all adults) we should start seeing more and more USB charging options in cars. two up front and two in back should be the minimum. The Ford Explorer offering two upfront is a great start.

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2012 Ford Explorer: Ownership Viewpoint of MyFord Touch

November 16, 2011


While we have our Explorer for a year, I think Sync and MyFord Touch are the most difficult features for us to evaluate. Most of our staff rotates daily in our long-term cars, and the occasional nighttime commute home isn't really enough time to learn everything there is about MyFord Touch.

Fortunately, my schedule typically gives me multiple days with a vehicle, and this better replicates the ownership experience. So I've spend some time focused on Sync and MyFord Touch to figure out if I can alleviate some of our prior complaints.

Just to clarify, Sync is the voice-command system that allows you to control your phone, your MP3 player and some vehicle systems through voice commands. (There is also more to Sync, such as things like turn-by-turn navigation and emergency response). MyFord Touch (MFT) is the optional touchscreen interface that also equips the Explorer with a different center stack design and two additional LCD display screens flanking the speedometer.

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2012 Ford Explorer: Will Do Some MyTouch Homework

November 14, 2011


For the past few days I've been mildly annoyed at our Explorer. I haven't been able to figure out how to easily cycle through satellite radio presets using the steering wheel-mounted controls. But I haven't RTFM, either. Actually, it makes me wonder how MyFord Touch will be if I act more like an owner and -- gasp! -- actually read up on what all MyFord Touch can do. I should probably use Sync more, too. So that's my plan for the week. I'm also hoping to perform the interface update and see how much of a difference it makes.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 4,961 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer: Cross Traffic Alert Works

November 10, 2011


Oh, what a lovely picture of the Explorer's rear seat you have here, Brent. Well, it's more to show rear visibility, or the lack therof. Interestingly, though, our Ford Explorer has the optional blind-spot monitoring system, and that also includes cross-traffic alert. We've had a fair number of vehicles in the fleet with blind-spot monitoring, but the Explorer is the first to my recollection to have traffic alert.

This system utilizes the same sensors but beeps if it detects an on-coming vehicle when you're slowing backing up. Basically, it's for when you're in a parking lot and can't see much. And that can certainly be the case given the Explorer's limited rearward visibility.

I've had it go off once so far, and it did give me advance warning about an approaching car. For vehicles like Explorer or their intended buyers, it seems like a useful thing to have.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: MyFord Touch 2.0

November 07, 2011


Ford will introduce a new update for the MyFord Touch system at the 2011 LA Auto Show next week, unveiling it in the 2013 Escape, Flex and Taurus. It will also be available to owners of existing vehicles with the system, like our 2012 Explorer XLT EcoBoost.

The update promises faster touch-screen response times, streamlined graphics and new features such as iPad integration and easier voice activation commands. Hopefully we'll be one of the first to get the update, and we'll let you know if it improves the MFT experience in the Explorer.

Check out a video demo from Ford after the jump.

Doug Newcomb, Senior Editor, Technology

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: The Tailgate Beep Video

November 04, 2011


Every vehicle that has a remotely operated power door has a beep to accompany its closing. I prefer the Explorer's beep. Here's why...

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2012 Ford Explorer EcoBoost: MyFord Touch Tanks Ford's Reliability Rating in CR Survey

October 25, 2011


First it was JD Power and now Consumer Reports is getting in on the MyFord Touch bashing. CR has just published their 2011 Reliability Ratings Survey and Ford took a serious dive thanks to MyFord Touch and the Powershift Transmission.

Is it fair for CR to label a car unreliable due to an annoying stereo and a moderately clunky-at-low-speed transmission?

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Edmunds.com

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2012 Ford Explorer: MyLincoln Touch is Worse

October 19, 2011

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When I first drove an early production Explorer several months ago, I was not enamored with MyFord Touch even though it was then being touted as a great whiz-bang achievement. The controls within the instrument cluster didn't seem to be very useful, and the abundance of tiny black touchscreen buttons on a black background made it difficult to find something at a glance. I'll just go ahead and call myself prophetic on this one.

I still agree with my initial thoughts and now I realize that it's PAINFULLY slow and has been prone to do weird things with both my iPhone and iPod. One it will mute for no apparent reason, the other it will continue to display track info for the first song played after it's moved onto other tracks. The first is corrected by unplugging the iPhone, the other by going to another screen in MyFord Touch.

I'll also go ahead and concur with Ed about the touch-sensitive buttons underneath the touchscreen. In fact, I'll back him up one further by saying it's not just our Explorer, or even just Ford.

I was in Toronto last month driving a Lincoln MKX featuring "MyLincoln Touch." It too is slow and inconsistant to respond. The touch sensitive nature of the "buttons" also caused me to accidently turn on the hazards when I went to change a radio station (GM had the good sense to make the Volt's hazards a physical button).

Yet, MyLincoln Touch is inevitably worse than MyFord Touch. Instead of having a pair of knobs for volume and fan speed, it has a touch-sensitive slide pad. Great, except it absolutely does not work. I used it for a week and tried multiple methods, but it is hopeless. The video below is just one attempt where I tried to press harder. Pressing softer was no less ineffective, nor starting from different places on the pad. As you can see, it'll turn it up when you want to turn it down, or turn it way up when you want it up just a bit. In total, it's an unsuccessful solution to a problem that never existed in the first place.

So in that way, MyFord Touch for the win!?

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT Ecoboost: Securicode Entry

October 13, 2011

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Our long-term 2012 Ford Explorer XLT Ecoboost has an old-fashioned metal key with normal buttons on the fob. It works fine of course, but it is so 1987. But Ford says our Explorer has Keyless Entry. Huh?

There it is on the B-pillar -- Ford Securicode -- the electronic combination lock with a 5-digit code that can be re-programmed by the owner. When I worked at Big Motor Car Corp, my colleague who was based overseas was curious about this feature on another test car. When a guy who worked at Ford explained it to my colleague, we looked at each other and smiled. "Is this useful?" my colleague asked.

I just laughed.

But the Ford guy (like many Ford guys) loved it. He explained how great it was and that you could keep your car keys locked in the car with this. Huh? Well a guy I worked with here loved it for the same reason. He was a surfer boy and liked his keys locked in the car when riding waves. Dan also mentioned that this is popular for warming up the car in the winter, but that's been superseded by remote start.

For me, I have enough passwords and PINs to remember, so many that I bring a padlock to the gym so I don't have to remember the combination on their built-in locks. And I don't trust it enough to lock my keys in the car.

If this feature is so great, how come not one other car maker has a similar feature?

What do you think? Useful, or folly?

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 2,750 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: MyFord Touchscreen

October 11, 2011


The central feature of the MyFord Touch system on our 2012 Ford Explorer XLT is of course the touchscreen.

I hope you are not grossed out by fingerprints. I'm pretty certain Monk would flip out.

As the name implies, you'll be touching this a lot: upper right to access navi; lower right for climate controls; lower left for audio (shown); upper left for phone. Each of these four home screens has their own virtual buttons that are sprinkled across the screen in locations chosen for their unique tasks. The same is true of every submenu screen that resides below each of them.

The end result is a lot of "button" pressing and fingerprints everywhere. Also, a distinct lag in the system encourages more than one press because it isn't clear whether or not the first one was recognized. Sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn't.

Yes, there are steering wheel controls for each of these 4 functions, but for the most part those steering buttons don't change what's displayed here on this screen. Instead they control a tiny sub-screen next to the speedo. But that's more or less a status screen, not a substitute for the main one. You have to come back here and poke and prod to make any significant changes.

In Sync news, I'm still trying to figure out why my Bluetooth audio connection works sometimes and not others, even as the phone pairing stays steady throughout. (It's the same device, so it should be the same Bluetooth connection.)

Yesterday, on more than one occasion I had to stop the car, remove the key, open the door (to stop the audio), restart the engine and allow the Explorer to re-pair the Bluetooth phone connection in order to re-establish a working Bluetooth connection to the music player side of my iPhone. I've never had this sort of trouble with Sync before.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 2,264 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Sirius Black (Screen)

October 10, 2011

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I'm a fan of Sinatra, but it just needs to be the right moment. Know what I mean? I went to browse the Sirius station guide, but was rejected--not once, but twice. Is this a function of reception, or just another example of MyFord being out of touch? Not everybody on staff is keen on the new system, especially since the one in our 2009 Ford Flex was so widely complimented.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT: Three Blink Minimum

October 06, 2011


Our 2012 Ford Explorer XLT has an extensive menu of vehicle settings that can be customized by the driver. You can alter the headlamp off delay, auto door locking and a ton of other stuff. It's even possible to shorten the oil change reminder light interval if you prefer to change it early and often. Customization is good. I like this sort of thing.

But one thing you can't do is get rid of the three blink minimum feature on the turn signals. No such menu entry resides on the above vehicle settings screen, and I R'd the FM and came to the conclusion that no such toggle exists.

Some of you have no problem with this. You really like getting three winks of the turn signal in excahnge for one tap of the lever. I get that.

I am not of the same mind, and I know that I am not alone. Thirty years of muscle memory, of every blinker working the same way, will do that to you. I dislike having to pay attention to something that had become an involuntary reflex.

But that's neither here nor there. You like it, Jacquot and I (and people you know) do not. I think we can agree that the triple blink is not universally loved.

Point is, customizable menus make it possible to make everyone happy. If a car has umpteen vehicle settings and a slick method for making changes, how about we toss the blinkers in there, too.

It's been done. Our past long-term BMW 7-series had this, to name but one recent example.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 2,356 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Rear View Periscope?

October 05, 2011


With stuff to unload into the trunk of another car, I backed our 2012 Ford Explorer up to the other vehicle car to make the transfer go faster. I didn't bother to close the hatch, which meant the Explorer's backup camera was pointed skyward.

No complaint, just a nice view of the high desert clouds near Willow Springs.

In contrast to the low-angle grille-shot this camera normally puts out when backing up, it'd be nice to have something like this available all the time -- the vantage point is high enough to see over the top of cars following behind. Of course it only works in reverse and driving around all day with the hatch open is out of the question.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Connected or Not?

October 04, 2011

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One of these days I'll have so few problems with MyFord Touch that I'll actually get to talk about the way our 2012 Ford Explorer drives. Not today, though. Today, much to some of your chagrin, we'll be talking about iPhones.

Why was I using an iPhone to play music? Because I can. Because it's convenient. Because the battery was dead and because it had the newest music on it. So no "USB stick w/MP3!" comments. A workaround doesn't mean there's not a problem.

The problem then: half the time I try to plug in my iPhone to our Explorer, I get this. The car thinks nothing's connected, the iPhone is too busy being connected to the car to do anything else. Good times. It doesn't seem to matter if I plug it in with the car off or on or what the phone is doing when it boots up; there's no discernable rhyme or reason to when or why it's going to connect.

I had no problems with an iPod Nano plugged in all of Sunday so either the Forced Update fixed it, or MyFord Touch just likes the Nano better.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Edmunds.com @ 2,085 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Buttons? Not Really.

September 30, 2011


See those things? They're not buttons. And here's something I never thought I'd say: I wish they were. You see, I'd prefer a knob over either of these choices, but a conventional button is better than Ford's new touch pads.

Here's the deal: Buttons require a precise tap to change whatever it is you're trying to change (temperature, volume, etc) and they require mulitple inputs to arrive at your desired goal. Knobs are easier to find by feel and -- if done right -- offer tactile feedback on where you are in the range be it for temperature or volume. Buttons do not.

This non-button thing Ford has cooked up is, well...

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Choose Your Tachometer

September 29, 2011


Here's the default tachometer the Explorer's instrument panel displays. It indicates engine speed by sliding a bar vertically next to the fuel gauge. And it's not ideal if you really want to keep and eye on engine speed (we know, some of you don't).

But there is an altenative.

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT: Too Many Touches

September 22, 2011


Figured I would just get this one out of the way since it's bound to come up a few hundred times over the next 12 months. As you can see we bought an Explorer with the MyFordTouch system. It has plenty of nice features but the climate control buttons are not its crowning achievement.

You'll notice that the buttons don't really depress at all, you simply brush them with your finger instead. Simple enough, right?

Well, after several days of driving the Explorer I still never got the hang of them. Sometimes I would give the temp buttons a quick tap to change the setting and get nothing. Then I would press them again and get four or five degrees of movement.

It not that they don't work, it's just hard to tell when they work. Maybe they'll break in a little and become more intuitive as the miles pile up, but for now they're more trouble than they're worth.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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