Ford Hits the Mark
Ford has been building Explorers for over 20 years, and this latest version is undoubtedly, the best yet. A panel of 50 auto journalists named it North American Truck of the Year after it debuted a couple of years ago. This current Explorer is different from earlier models in that it is a large crossover SUV, rather than a midsized, and truck-based vehicle. For 2013, The Explorer gets a new Sport model, and new options.
The Explorer features a sculpted body with a large grille, which was body-colored on my test car. This SUV looks massive coming down the road. The cabin shines with a stylishly designed dash that wraps around into the doors. A piano black control panel with touch-sensitive buttons and an eight-inch display screen highlight the interior. High quality materials are used throughout.
The Explorer seats seven, two up front, three in the middle, and two in the rear. Passengers in the first two rows sit tall in chair-like seats. This is good, since legroom is not overly generous. The “way back” seats are adequate, if you are nimble enough to climb in back there. Both second and third row seats fold flat to provide 80 cu.-ft. of storage space.
Ford equips the Explorer with a standard 3.5-liter, 290 hp, V-6 teamed with a six-speed automatic. Acceleration is brisk merging on to the freeway. A twin-turbocharged version of this engine in the new Sport model generates a hefty 350 horses, and a turbocharged 2.0-liter “EcoBoost” four-banger is now optional for the first time. This small motor pumps out a surprising 240 hp, and while slower than the V-6, it delivers better gas mileage, 23 versus 20 mpg.
The Explorer comes with front-wheel- and all-wheel drive. The AWD version features a Terrain Management system, which enables the driver to select settings for sand, snow and mud conditions. Also included is hill-decent control, which enables the Explorer to crawl down a steep grade without driver intervention on the accelerator or brake.
Buyers can purchase an Explorer in four levels of trim, base, XLT, Limited and Sport. Most customers will choose the XLT version, which is nicely equipped with upscale features, like blind spot warning, rear parking sensors, voice activated controls and satellite radio. Option packages can add more goodies, such as a backup camera, a nine-speaker sound system, leather seats and MyTouchFord electronic interface.
Those who want to go the total luxury route can opt for the Limited. This Explorer is available with automatic parallel parking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and assist, and inflatable seatbelts for the second row passengers. On the other hand, you can get much of the same equipment on the Sport, plus big wheels and distinctive styling, but of course, at a higher price.
My Explorer Limited test car displayed excellent driving dynamics for a large SUV. The steering was precise and conveyed a reasonable amount of road feel. The suspension displayed a nice balance of decent handling and a compliant ride. The Explorer felt sure-footed going around corners, yet conveyed no harshness hitting bumps in the road. Beyond that, the Explorer is quiet at freeway speeds.
Ford experienced some bumps in the road with earlier Explorer models, but they hit the mark with this latest version. Their pricing is competitive, starting at $29,695 for the base model, and ranging up to $41,545 for the top-of-the-line Sport. My Limited test car, with over $7000 in options, had a sticker price of $47,710.
Stylish, Well-Made Cabin
Competent Power Trains
Available Hi-Tech Options
Good Handling and Ride