2012 Ford Explorer SUV Review | Edmunds.com

2012 Ford Explorer SUV

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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 Yes
  • Navigation Yes
  • Heated Seats Yes

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

  Average Consumer Rating (7 total reviews)  |  Write a Review

Very pleased

by on
Vehicle: 2012 Ford Explorer Limited 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A)

I am really happy with my Explorer. I think it is a good looking vehicle, I get 23 mph even when the 4wd is on (I live in the UP of Michigan and use it in the snow), and I like how it drives. The speed control with the auto slow down is great and it helped stop me when a car recently stopped suddenly in front of me on the highway. I have towed with it, filled it with a very large light item and many smaller heavy items and still it drives fine. I traded a F150 for it and don't regret doing it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

25 mpg???

by on
Vehicle: 2012 Ford Explorer Limited 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A)

We traded in a large SUV (Navigator) in hopes of retaining some of the space we are used to while getting better gas mileage. We have owned the car 3 months and have gotten no better than 20 miles per gallon on the interstate. NEVER have we gotten near the advertised mpg. The gadgets are "cool" in the interior however, my phone is continually bumped from the system (sometimes during calls) and at times the whole console goes dark. We have always been Ford owners but this car has been a bit of a disappointment. Looks good but I miss my Navigator.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Explorer 2012 fwd good for

by on
Vehicle: 2012 Ford Explorer Limited 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A)

We are a Ford family and have owned at least one Ford car as long as we have been married. We purchased the 2012 Ford Explorer FWD 3.5L V6 Limited in March and have driven it on one long road trip (5K driven). We like the features and quality of the vehicle. However, in the snow it was very disappointing. We were misled when we purchased the vehicle by the dealership. (We were told chains were an option) After I got stuck in the snow and returned to purchase chains from the dealership, I was informed by the parts dept that Ford does not support any model of snow chains for the car. We are living in the Pacific NW currently and would not dare take a road trip in the winter with it.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Ecoboost gas mileage

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Vehicle: 2012 Ford Explorer Limited 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A)

I love my new Explorer but the gas mileage is not as advertised. I would not have spent an extra $1,000.00 to get worst highway gas mileage than a V6 Explorer. I highly recommend the V6 verses the 2.0 liter ecoboost. After 2,000 miles and resetting my MPG counter after each fill-up I only get around 21 MPG on the highway at best. Combined mileage stays between 18 to 19 MPG which is ok but I am very dissappointed in the highway MPG. I know people with the V6 who get 24 to 25 MPG on the highway with their FWD Explorers. But we love everything else about the vehicle. It is a well equipped Limited and the ride is simply awesome and very comfortable. Go Ford, but drop the 2.0 unless MPG improves!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

Love the new explorer!

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Vehicle: 2012 Ford Explorer Limited 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A)

Previously drove Tahoes, last was 2008 LT. Tahoe is a great SUV, but wanted something smaller & less top heavy. Test drove the Ford and was impressed. After 6 months of owning, I'm still impressed. The ride is extremely smooth and quiet, especially on highway. I've not had the problems with Myford Touch locking or freezing, but have given up on using voice commands. Interior is luxurious with upgraded seats. 2nd row has cramped leg room. I'm 6' and briefcase barely fits between rows. Limited's features are awesome.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

Explorer limited in naples

by on
Vehicle: 2012 Ford Explorer Limited 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A)

I've driven the car for about 2 months. Overall I like the car very much. Was worried about the reliability with the reviews by the pro's. So far only issue is the My Ford Touch and Nav. I've had issues with voice command, some times does't work some times does't understand, some times system goes blank. This must be fixed with new software in March some time. The car runs great the engine has plenty of power and is smooth. The electronic steering is great and love the electronics overall. The power lift gate is a must and the rear power seats is excellent and eliminates the back of the rear seat controls, looks bettor. Controls LCD controls for radio, Nav, Air, and and phone-

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.

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