The height of the Firestone-tire-failure-on-Ford-Explorers mess was 1998, when a class-action lawsuit was filed against Ford and Firestone. Since then, the Ford Explorer SUV has gone through three design revisions, including an all-new-from-the-ground-up redesign for the 2011 model year. Aside from the name, a 2011 Ford Explorer has virtually nothing in common with a pre-2000 Explorer, or even a 2010 Explorer. The new model is unibody construction, not body on frame construction. The new Explorer has a wider stance and a lower center of gravity, and drives more like a big sedan than it does a truck. Some critics have panned the new Explorer for losing its SUV credibility, but Ford did their research before building the latest version of their best-selling SUV. Like it or hate it, the latest Explorer is exactly what the bulk of their customers wanted, and new Explorer sales back that up.
The new Explorer does have one weakness, as Consumer Reports recently found out. If properly equipped, the Explorer can to up to 5,000 pounds, but it can’t tow a trailer, of any size, from U-Haul. It’s not that U-Haul uses a proprietary electrical connector or an off-sized hitch, it’s simply that U-Haul doesn’t want to defend a lawsuit involving a Ford Explorer. Even a brand-new-and-completely-redesigned Ford Explorer.
Joanne Fried, director of media and corporate relations with U-Haul, confirmed that this was indeed a corporate policy, and told Consumer Reports, “Every time we go to hire an attorney to defend a lawsuit, as soon as we say ‘Ford Explorer’ they charge us more money.” Their no-trailer-rental policy also extends to Jeep Wranglers, unless they’re equipped with a factory hard top.
If you’re in the market for a new Ford Explorer, factor this into your purchase decision. The new model is a big improvement in almost every way over the outgoing one, but it may not be fast enough to outrun all the ghosts of its past.