2012 Ford Explorer SUV Review | Edmunds.com

2012 Ford Explorer SUV

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Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Ford Explorer Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 3.5 L V 6-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 6-speed Automatic
  • Horse Power 290 hp @ 6500 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 18/25 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats No

Review of the 2012 Ford Explorer

  • With solid on-road dynamics, decent fuel efficiency and an accommodating, high-class cabin, the 2012 Ford Explorer is a top pick for a large crossover SUV.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Upscale cabin; abundant high-tech features; excellent ride and handling balance; available fuel-efficient turbocharged four-cylinder.

  • Cons

    Less third-row and cargo room than rivals; feels bigger than it is behind the wheel; MyFord Touch is slow to respond and can be difficult to use.

  • What's New for 2012

    For 2012, the Ford Explorer offers an optional turbocharged four-cylinder engine that promises six-cylinder performance with four-cylinder fuel economy.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

Suspicion of a sensor problem

by on
Vehicle: 2011 Ford Explorer

Our 2011 Ford Explorer is a fantastic vehicle that has caused us no problems until now. It started approximately two weeks ago, the vehicle does not recognize when it is in park. When we open the door a dash light comes on telling us to put the car in park. So far it takes just once for us to re-start the car, shift into neutral, then back to park, and the problem is sloved. This happens about 60% of the time. I have read elsewhere that other people are having the same problem and Ford does not recognize it as a problem, at least there has been no recalls. I hate to complain because it has been such a great vehicle for us.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Lemon - ford doesn't fix

by on
Vehicle: 2011 Ford Explorer

LEMON ALERT!!!!! FORD has the WORST customer service in their repairs! I have a 2011 FORD Explorer that anytime I park for the last 3 weeks, it DOES NOT REGISTER that the car is on PARK and I turn off the ignition and the car chimes "SHIFT TO PARK" It's in park, and it does this repeatedly and I have to press in and out the black lever on the gear shift 10 or more times before it "registers" that the car is on park. I have a video of it on my phone, I took a picture of it when I parked at the dealership and they WILL NOT FIX IT because they can't get it to fault. This is NOT my issue alone, just search the internet for the number of people with this issues that DID NOT get fixed!!!!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

2011 explorer

by on
Vehicle: 2011 Ford Explorer

We traded in a GMC Yukon XL for a new Explorer XLT. This SUV has better seats, ride and handling. There is a bit more road noise on some surfaces. It is surprisingly good in the snow/ice. Especially given the all season type tires. We have had a few issues with the Sync/My Touch system, but all have resolved with the software upgrades. The engine is good, with fairly good power but you have to rev it to get to the powerband, which seems to be the case with many of the new V-6s these days. Gas mileage is very good for a AWD vehicle. Just returned from a 1500 mile trip and averaged 24 mpg with mostly interstate at 70 mph. Back seats are comfortable.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful


by on
Vehicle: 2011 Ford Explorer

The 2011 Explorer must have the worst electronics of any vehicle in history. I bought mine in April 2011. After a few weeks, the audio system was a mess. The speakers would cut out intermittently. It eventually got to the point that there was almost no sound on the left side. After a spending nearly a year of regular visits to the dealer, Ford finally replaced the wiring on the left side of the vehicle. but now the left side has muffled sound, and there is an occasional humming sound in the speakers on the right side. Now the dealer refuses to deal with the problem, and customer service at Ford says there is nothing they can do. Last Ford for me.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

Too many problems

by on
Vehicle: 2011 Ford Explorer

Swore I would never buy another Ford after the Explorer I bought in 2000 had the transmission go out at 37000 miles and Ford would only cover half the cost even though I had sevice records showing I had been complaining about it from 15000 miles on. If I didn't have those records they weren't going to cover any of it even thought it was only 1000 miles past warranty. But when the new model came out in 2011 I really liked it and since Ford looked like they had a turn-around the past few years I figured they must have improved their quality control and customer service. Wrong again! Not going to go over every problem (just read through these reviews) but this time, never again!

Beautiful vehicle, but in the

by on
Vehicle: 2011 Ford Explorer

I have had my 2011 For Explorer Limited for 1 1/2 years. So far I have had to have the following replaced: Air-conditioning unit, back up camera, and a couple of modules (whatever those are.No one could explain it to me) and several trip to update the My Ford Touch (Which is completely unreliable) I just got it out of the shop last week and now my air-bag light is on. The earliest Jim Burke Ford in Bakersfield is able to make an appointment for me, is in 10 days! Whenever I have it in the shop, it is there for several days as they seem to have trouble figuring out how to fix it. I have problems with the Ford Touch responding slow. Don't know how much is the car or if it's incompetent service

Gas Mileage


  • 18
  • cty
  • 25
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs

Full 2012 Ford Explorer Review

What's New for 2012

For 2012, the Ford Explorer offers an optional turbocharged four-cylinder engine that promises six-cylinder performance with four-cylinder fuel economy.


Once as ubiquitous as Barney, the purple dinosaur who starred on children's TV, the original Ford Explorer was a staple in the garage of the American family throughout the 1990s. The glory days didn't last, however, as SUV buyers changed their priorities from recreational capability to passenger hauling. So last year the Ford Explorer became a car-based crossover instead of a truck-based SUV, enhancing its well-rounded personality.

As such, the 2012 Ford Explorer features a carlike unibody chassis instead of the heavier, truck-based body-on-frame. Refined, carlike driving dynamics are the result, although maximum towing capacity has declined in the bargain. And in another nod to contemporary concerns, the new, turbocharged, "EcoBoost" four-cylinder engine option gives the Explorer best-in-class fuel economy, although at a cost premium over the standard V6.

Inside the cabin, the Explorer offers a stylish, well-finished space for up to seven passengers. The second row features seatbelt airbags -- a first for the automotive industry -- that are meant to improve safety for smaller occupants. The third row, though, isn't as roomy as that of some competitors. Perhaps a more appealing selling point will be the abundance of electronic convenience features, including Sync, adaptive cruise control and an automatic parallel-parking system. The MyFord Touch interface found on most models is a neat idea, but we've found it slow to respond and difficult to use. Look for Ford to make software updates to correct some of these issues -- even to cars that have already been built and sold.

Overall, though, the 2012 Ford Explorer is very much attuned to what today's large crossover shoppers want. It drives well, returns good fuel economy and keeps the versatility that made people like SUVs in the first place. But rivals including the Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee are also recently fully redesigned and bear consideration. Other contenders include the more passenger-friendly Ford Flex, the more engaging Mazda CX-9 and GM's more spacious Buick Enclave/Chevy Traverse/GMC Acadia triplets.

They're all quite desirable, and the best choice hinges on your need for space, the driving experience you prefer and the high-tech features that make you comfortable.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2012 Ford Explorer is a large crossover SUV available in base, XLT and Limited trim levels.

Standard equipment includes 17-inch steel wheels, privacy glass, integrated blind spot mirrors, roof rails, cruise control, a six-way power driver seat (manual recline), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, MyFord advanced trip computer and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.

The XLT adds 18-inch cast-aluminum wheels, automatic headlamps, foglamps, rear parking sensors, upgraded cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a keyless entry code pad, Sync (voice-activated telephone/entertainment interface) and satellite radio (optional on base).

For the Explorer XLT, Ford offers the Rapid Spec options suite that adds a rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-speaker sound system and the Driver Connect package, which includes an auto-dimming rearview mirror, MyFord Touch electronics controls (includes two configurable displays, two USB ports and audio/video input jacks) and the Sync Services upgrade (includes turn-by-turn directions and traffic reports). The next-level Rapid Spec package includes all of the former plus leather upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver seat with power-adjustable lumbar, and a six-way power passenger seat.

The Limited bundles the XLT's Rapid Spec items with 20-inch wheels, keyless ignition/entry, remote engine start, a 110-volt power outlet and a 12-speaker Sony sound system with HD radio. Two additional Rapid Spec packages include a power liftgate and a navigation system, along with an eight-way power passenger seat, ventilated front seats and a power-folding third-row seat.

A safety-focused Rapid Spec suite includes an automatic parallel-parking system, adaptive cruise control, collision warning and brake support, a blind-spot warning system, inflatable seatbelts for second-row outboard passengers, xenon headlamps and automatic wipers.

Stand-alone options on the XLT and Limited include a dual-panel sunroof, the blind-spot warning system, a power liftgate, a tow package, second-row captain's chairs (Limited only), a rear-seat entertainment system with dual headrest-mounted displays, and a navigation system that includes real-time traffic, weather and other information.

Powertrains and Performance

The 2012 Ford Explorer comes standard with a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 290 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard. Four-wheel drive (there is no low-range gearing) is optional and includes Ford's Terrain Management System, a selectable four-mode system that optimizes traction electronically for different conditions. Hill descent control and hill start assist are also included.

In Edmunds testing, a 4WD Explorer accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds, an average time for the class. A front-drive V6 Explorer returns an EPA-estimated 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined -- also average for the class. Four-wheel drive lowers this to a still respectable 17/23/19. Properly equipped, a V6 Explorer can tow 5,000 pounds.

Optional on all front-wheel-drive trims is the turbocharged, 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine -- also paired with the six-speed auto -- making 240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds testing, an EcoBoost Explorer went from zero to 60 mph in 9.1 seconds, which is on the slow side for the class. Fuel economy, however, is a strong 20/28/23.


Every 2012 Ford Explorer comes standard with stability and traction control, trailer sway control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and MyKey, which allows parents to specify limits for vehicle speed and stereo volume. The Explorer's stability control system also includes Ford's Curve Control, which can monitor speed carried into a corner and decelerate if necessary.

Optional on the XLT and Limited are a blind-spot warning system (includes cross-traffic alert) and inflatable seatbelts for outboard second-row passengers. The Limited can be equipped with collision warning and brake support. In Edmunds brake testing, a 4WD Explorer came to a stop from 60 mph in 122 feet -- an average distance for the class. The EcoBoost model stopped in 130 feet.

In government crash tests, the Explorer received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for overall frontal protection and five stars for overall side protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Ford Explorer earned a top rating of "Good" for its performance in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.

Interior Design and Special Features

The Explorer's impressive cabin features excellent build/materials quality within an attractive, upscale design. The dash feels soft to the touch, the switchgear operates with precision (or is touch-operated with the optional MyFord Touch) and the overall look is quite rich. A loaded Explorer is actually just as nice as any Lincoln.

Our affections do not carry over to MyFord Touch, however. The touch buttons can be difficult to identify at a glance and too often get pressed accidentally or don't respond properly. As for the touchscreen itself, the small icons on the black background are difficult to see and press when you're concentrating on the road ahead. The redundant steering wheel controls and the LCD screens in the instrument binnacle could also use a bit of fine-tuning.

The Explorer's cabin is certainly spacious, but still not quite as roomy as those of the Dodge Durango, Ford Flex and especially the GM triplets. Its 80 cubic feet of maximum cargo space is the smallest of the group and the third row is a bit cramped by comparison, though it does easily accommodate children. The driving position is spot-on for most drivers, though the wide roof pillars and high dash make it seem bigger when trying to fit through tight spaces.

Driving Impressions

The 2012 Ford Explorer feels rock-solid at freeway speeds, well-damped over broken pavement and very confident when negotiating a corner. The responsive steering demonstrates Ford's skill at tuning an electric power steering system (which improves fuel economy and allows for an automatic parking feature).

The 2012 Ford Explorer might not offer a V8 option, but its V6 is quick enough and more efficient. Those who used an older Explorer to tow a large boat may be disappointed, but the V6 can handle the job for most recreational pursuits. And don't be quick to dismiss the idea of a turbo-4 powering this none-too-small SUV. It may not be as quick as the V6, but in practice the EcoBoost engine provides smooth response, more than adequate acceleration and of course better fuel mileage than you'd get with the V6.

Talk About The 2012 Explorer

Read more about the 2012 Ford Explorer

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