2012 Ford Explorer XLT Ecoboost: Drives Big
December 27, 2011
Oddly enough, up until last week I'd never driven our longterm 2012 Ford Explorer. Or any 2012 Explorer, for that matter. And my first go was a 1000-mile holiday trip.
My first impression? Poor use of space. It's big on the outside, but the cabin is strangely un-big, or at least it feels that way. Could be the bulky dash or the tall beltline or deep cowl or the thick door panels or all the above.
This is a 3-row crossover/wagon, so physical bigness of all stripes is expected. But it doesn't need to drive so big.
You might be thinking that I'm referring to the powertrain. You would be wrong. The Explorer's big feel stems from the chassis, which feels like it's 600 pounds overweight or has wheels made from a neutron star. It's got a numb and ponderous feel everywhere you wheel it.
A Mazda CX-9 doesn't drive big. The Explorer doesn't have to.
The plus side of its chassis density is a very quiet ride. At 80 mph, there's surprisingly little wind noise, and road noise is largely nonexistent. This kind of refinement will play well with the target buyer.
I do wonder if re-tuning the suspension calibration (and steering) would help the Explorer drive less big.
More trip notes to come.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor