2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: The Well
October 17, 2011
Like all 2011 and later Ford Explorers, our 2012 Explorer XLT is made up of a welded steel unibody instead of a seperate body perched atop a ladder frame.
There are disadvantages to this -- reduced ultimate towing capacity and diminished off-road performance to name but two. (The sidewinder front-drive architecture isn't helping much either.) But there are many advantages, too.
Because the body IS the frame, the center of gravity sits far lower, which improves rollover stability as well as everyday handling. Liftover and step-in heights are improved. Ride comfort gets better. And the whole enchilada weighs less, too, which improves the prospect of fuel economy.
And you can have The Well, a feature popularized in minivans. The Well is the receptable into which the 3rd-row seats flip and tumble when not in use, leaving a flat floor behind (make that above.)
Keep the 3rd-row seats in place (with the seatbacks up or down, your choice) and the empty The Well represents a most excellent place for stuff that you want to confine and keep from rolling around, such as bags of groceries or, in this case, assorted tools and a floor jack. I carted all of that and more around in the Explorer's The Well throughout the weekend.
All in all, the reinvented Explorer's change from body-on-frame to unibody is a net gain for most people. Turns out there was always more station wagoning going on than exploring. Either way, The Well is a welcome addition.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 3,050 miles