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Actual rating will vary with options, driving conditions, habits and vehicle condition.
The standard features of the Ford Explorer Base include 3.5L V-6 290hp engine, 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), side seat mounted airbags, Safety Canopy System curtain 1st, 2nd and 3rd row overhead airbag, passenger knee airbag, airbag occupancy sensor, air conditioning, 18" aluminum wheels, cruise control, ABS and driveline traction control, AdvanceTrac w/Roll Stability Control electronic stability.
Starting at: $31,160
|MSRP1||Engine||Transmission||City/EPA-Est Hwy mpg|
|Search New||$31,160||290-hp 3.5L 6-cyl||6-spd auto||17 / 24|
|Search New||$33,310||290-hp 3.5L 6-cyl||6-spd auto||16 / 23|
|XLT Search New||$33,775||290-hp 3.5L 6-cyl||6-spd auto||17 / 24|
|XLT Search New||$35,925||290-hp 3.5L 6-cyl||6-spd auto||16 / 23|
|Limited Search New||$41,675||280-hp 2.3L 4-cyl||6-spd auto||19 / 27|
|Limited Search New||$43,825||280-hp 2.3L 4-cyl||6-spd auto||18 / 25|
|Sport Search New||$45,355||365-hp 3.5L 6-cyl||6-spd auto||16 / 22|
|Platinum Search New||$53,235||365-hp 3.5L 6-cyl||6-spd auto||16 / 22|
The base V6 engine is quick enough from a standstill with your foot on the floor, but on a winding road requiring acceleration between the curves, the weak torque on the lower part of the powerband will have you flailing the shift lever. Most models have a sport mode, and its quicker throttle and shift responses help some; but without that sport mode, the shifts are slow. One really good thing is that the transmission will hold its lower gears when told. No paddle shifters here.
The 2.3-liter four-cylinder turbo is way better. It not only gives sharper acceleration, it sounds sweeter, throaty, with amplified engine notes piped into the cabin. It’s got good low end and spurts away from corners. It loves sport mode. If you’re the least bit enthusiastic about driving, you need it.
The suspension uses MacPherson struts in front with an isolated subframe, and multi links in the rear, with anti-roll bars at both ends. The Sport gets a quicker steering rack, firmer suspension bits, and a strut tower brace with stiffer anti-roll bar in front.
The Explorer’s off-road capability is modest (and it always has been). It’ll get you and six friends or family through the snow to a ski resort, and more important, back down off the icy mountain safely. The system has Normal, Mud, Sand, and Snow modes, and electronically varies the throttle and braking to deliver the best traction. Rugged terrain is not its forte.
Explorer’s styling might be considered authoritarian, with sharp corners and clean edges, as well as a textured grille and a lot of cladding. It’s sixteen and a half feet long, and weighs from 4400 to 4900 pounds. It’s not exactly rugged, and it’s not much like what made the Explorer successful back in the day. Explorer Platinum models get LED lighting and distinctive trim that say more about today’s Explorer.
The cabin of the Ford Explorer ranks with those of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango in its handsomeness, even a bit more contemporary, with metallic plastic on the center stack. Ford says it wants the Explorer to be up there with Audi and BMW, and will keep improving until it is.
It’s got some room to go, namely in polishing the Sync 3 infotainment system. It was a huge step last year to get rid of the painful MyFord Touch system, but Sync 3 still isn’t a better alternative to Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. There are more real buttons than touch-screen functions, which is good.
With tight door seals, engine mounts that absorb vibration, and acoustic glass all around (except for the Base), it’s soft and quiet in the cabin. Forward visibility is good thanks to a high seating position, although there are over-the-shoulder blind spots thanks to thick rear pillars.
The front seats (heated on most models) are supportive and comfortable, with soft cushions, the right amount of bolstering, and high and soft armrests. The rear seats provide plenty of legroom, but they aren’t so comfortable. They could use more padding, the horizontal cushion is short and slanted awkwardly, and there’s not enough width in the center for an adult. Rear bucket seats are available, and they work better; your big SUV loses a seat, but it’s also easier to reach the third row. The dual-panel moonroof really opens things up.
The third row like so many is cramped for adults, but okay for kids, who (if you don’t have the rear buckets) climb back there over the forward-flipped second row. The third row folds forward, with available power, to create a vast 81 cubic feet for cargo with a floor that’s nearly flat. There’s still 21 cubic feet even with all rows up.
The Explorer has a lot of competition nowadays. We think the EcoBoost 2.3-liter turbo is the way to go, but research the fuel mileage issues first. We wish it were more off-roady, the 6-speed transmission had paddle shifters, the Sync 3 infotainment system were simpler, and the second-row seats more comfortable.
Sam Moses contributed to this report, with driving impressions by The Car Connection staff.
The Ford Explorer ($31,160) comes standard with the 3.5-liter V6 engine, front-wheel drive, cloth upholstery, air conditioning. Explorer XLT upgrades with 18-inch wheels, keyless ignition, satellite radio, navigation, and 10-way power driver’s seat. Explorer Limited features leather seating, 20-inch wheels, heated steering wheel, interior ambient lighting, heated and cooled front seats, heated second row, power folding third row, 12-speaker Sony sound system.
All-wheel drive is available for all trim levels, including Explorer XLT AWD ($35,775).
Explorer Limited AWD models get the 2.3-liter turbo engine. Explorer Sport and Platinum ($53,235) get the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 and come standard with all-wheel drive.
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