By Joseph Babiasz
People either love it or loathe it, the influential magazine Consumer Reports. There appears to be no in-between. For the record, I'm not in the "love it" category. My reasoning is simple. I'm of the opinion that Consumer Reports is doing an injustice to the public with respect to their automotive reviews.
Don't get me wrong. They do some things well. I just don't believe automotive reviews are one of them.
Case in point: Mr. David Champion and his team at Consumer Reports make a mockery of objective new-car testing with their recent removal of the 2011 Lincoln MKX and the 2011 Ford Edge from the "recommended" list in the February issue now on newsstands.
Ford designers made the grievous mistake of placing temperature and fan controls low in the center stack of the vehicles' touch screens. Consumer Reports believes that adjusting the controls via the center stack might be a distraction, since it causes the driver to take his eyes off the road for two seconds.
Yet an important fact is missing here: While the temperature and fan controls are indeed located in the center stack, those controls are redundant. Drivers have two other options for adjusting the temperature and fan speed.
The primary method is simply to "talk" to the car through Ford's Sync telematics system (called MyLincoln on the MKX and MyFord on the Edge). The company's voice-recognition system handles any necessary changes.
Or, if the driver is unable or unwilling to speak, he can use the controls conveniently mounted in the steering wheel.
The center-stack control is the third alternative--one that allows a front-seat passenger to work the controls, too.
Removing Ford from the recommended list is another case in which Consumer Reports is clearly out of touch (pun intended) with current technology. Mr. Champion is not doing his organization or the consumer any good with unreasonable recommendations that will only continue to make Consumer Reports increasingly irrelevant to the buying public.
I find it interesting that, in a recent article on the Ford CUVs in The Detroit News, reporter Scott Burgess wrote, "Consumer Reports, with more than 7 million subscribers, is an automotive authority for consumers."
The decision to remove these vehicles from the recommended list because of the touch-screen issue begs the question: Is the magazine truly an authority?