Ford Motor Co. midsized SUVs Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX have lost a "recommended" rating from Consumer Reports, in part because of a complex audio and interior controls system, the influential magazine said Tuesday.
Consumer Reports said reviewers found the MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch systems, which allow drivers to operate audio, climate control and navigation systems using a touch screen or voice commands, to be "a complicated distraction while driving."
Ford has touted its "MyFord Touch" system as a key selling point for some newer models, such as the 2011 Ford Edge SEL and 2011 Lincoln MKX tested by Consumer Reports.
General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Tahoe also did not score well enough for a "recommended" rating. Consumer Reports said the Tahoe's handling was "ungainly" and its stopping distances too long.
"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.
Derrick Kuzak, Ford product development chief, said more than 80 percent of customers who have MyFord Touch or MyLincoln Touch like it and would recommend it. The feature is helping make Edge and MKX among the best sellers on dealer showroom floors, he added.
"MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch is all about making the driver's experience to connect with technology in the car, and their digital lifestyle safer and simpler, and keeping their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel."
The MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch systems use touch screens in the center of the console and two smaller programmable display screens on the dashboard, eliminating most knobs in favor of touch-sensitive controls.
The system was "complex and buggy" in the Lincoln, and while the Edge SEL has improved handling and fuel economy and a good interior space, the MyFord Touch technology significantly worsened controls, Consumer Reports found.
"First-time users might find it impossible to comprehend," the magazine said.
Kuzak said Ford would work with Consumer Reports officials to fully understand the criticism. The automaker will improve the vehicle systems as it sees necessary based on the feedback from the magazine, he said.
GM's head of global quality, Dan Nicholson, said the Chevrolet Tahoe's performance in third-party tests such as those at Consumer Reports has been strong.
"Consumer Reports is one of several third-party inputs we take seriously as we work to improve our current and future vehicles," Nicholson said.
Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally will appear at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas later this week, in large part to bolster the company's image as an innovator in bringing new technology to its vehicles.
Shares of Ford were down 1.2 percent at $17.04 in midday trading, while GM share were up 0.5 percent to $37.24.
Three other SUVs tested were too new in their life cycle to be recommended, Consumer Reports said. Those were Chrysler's Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Porsche Cayenne, and Infiniti QX56 from Nissan Motor Co. Chrysler is under management control of Fiat SpA.
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