2012 Ford Explorer Long Term Road Test - Comfort
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2012 Ford Explorer Long Term Road Test

Comfort

2012 Ford Explorer: Child Seat Report

September 3, 2012

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The second row seatbelt receivers in our 2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost tuck so nicely into the seat bottoms that they are nearly flush with the surface. That is great until it comes time to install a rear-facing child seat in the center position.

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2012 Ford Explorer: Packed House

July 23, 2012

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My sister and her family are in town visiting from Michigan, which means the obligatory trip to Disneyland. Her young boys both require child safety seats, so seating in the seven-passenger Ford Explorer is tight for the rest of us.

Just ask my daughter, who is relegated to the third row with Uncle Jason...

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2012 Ford Explorer: Kid Seat Compatible?

June 15, 2012

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Don't use Recaro kid seats or boosters with the Explorer's trick new airbag-equipped seatbelts. That's what Recaro says, at least for now. They haven't tested the seats with the seatbelts yet. I did notice that it was very difficult to jam the much thicker seatbelt through the routing slots on the booster when I was buckling it into the seat for this photo (without a kid in it). Made me wonder how safe it was if I couldn't properly route the strap.

Ford's consumer page for the Explorer says that the new seatbelts are compatible with child safety seats, and there are a good number of child seat manufacturers who do recommend their seats with the inflatable seatbelts. This document from Safekids.org compiles many of the child seat manufacturers' positions on use of their seats with inflatable seatbelts. As with all child safety seat questions, it's important to read and follow the instructions in the seat's owners manual, or contact the manufacturer if you have further questions.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, Edmunds.com @ 15,800 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Gets a Passing Mark for Road-Tripability

May 23, 2012

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My decision to drive our long-term 2012 Ford Explorer to La Jolla, California, and back last Saturday had as much to do with my wanting to try something new as it did with the vehicle's availability. My inclination is usually to take something like the Mazda 3 or Sonic on these adventures, but when I thought about how many errands I had to run after the trip, I realized it was going to be a 300-mile day on L.A. freeways and I just wanted something cushier.

Our Explorer filled the bill. Yeah, there were only two of us most of the time (though we also carried a set of parents for a couple hours), but man was it comfortable.

I like the driver seat a whole lot. It's well shaped and supportive. The driving position is also good -- well, good considering the Explorer's tall hood and large D-pillars limit visibility. My only complaint about the seating is that I bumped my knee on the steering column trim a couple times while getting in and out of the Ford -- most likely, that's a consequence of my decision to crank up the seat height to get a better view over the hood.

Ride quality is also very comfortable -- as it should be on a family crossover with P245/60R18 all-season tires.

But you pay a price for the compliance. The Explorer doesn't feel nearly as steady through corners as some of the minivans that have passed through our fleet recently (Sienna, Odyssey). I was a little put off by the amount of body roll around cloverleaf ramps. It still feels better than the older, truck-based Explorers, but compared with the current population of 7-passenger crossovers, it's not so great. This thing may share a platform with the Flex, but it feels like a different team of chassis engineers did the tuning. I really like the steering, though. It feels accurate at highway speeds and in parking lots.

Acceleration is adequate with the EcoBoost 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Full-throttle it up an entrance ramp and you'll arrive at 65 mph in a reasonable amount of time. Trouble is, when you need to pass, the torque just isn't there regardless of the rating on this engine. The six-speed automatic isn't lighting-quick with downshifts, either.

I can see how this drivetrain would work well in a lighter vehicle like the 2013 Escape, but in vehicles that are well past the two-ton mark, I'm not ready to advocate for getting a turbo inline-4 over a V6 -- unless it's a diesel.

Overall, I enjoyed my time in the Ford. I even liked the MyFord Touch interface; the menu system is logical to me and I appreciate how much information I can see on the screen at any one time (our Quest's nav-audio system shows you a lot of info, but Ford displays even more). My one complaint is the one you've heard over and over -- the touchscreen's glacial responses to finger input.

Fix that one thing (and eventually, our turn will come up and we will), and swap in the right engine, and I'd be pretty content in the Explorer.

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT Ecoboost: Drives Big, Part Trois

May 02, 2012

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And yet another "It drives big" post on our 2012 Ford Explorer, but heck, it DOES drive big. I feel like I'm wearing a fat suit when I pilot this thing, all floaty with not too much road feel. Because of this, I found a lot of my phobias are aggravated in this car, phobias I didn't even know I had like fear of crashing and fear of scraping. (Granted, these are MY issues and those who are used to driving large vehicles will just chalk this up to my being insane, which is fine):

1) When in the far left lane, the sound of Botts' dots reverberate through the cabin as I try to avoid swapping paint with the car in the next lane or any incoming lane-splitting motorcyclists. I'm sure there's plenty of room but I just don't want to take any chances since I can't really see how close they are to the side of the car. The blind spot on the passenger's side is huge. The blind spot monitoring system makes it seem like there's always someone there, even though there's plenty of room to switch lanes.

2) Even when using the back-up camera and side mirror to parallel-park, I can never seem to get close enough to the curb for fear of curbing the wheel. I get out of the car, check how close the tires are to the curb and repark it. Rinse, repeat.

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2012 Ford Explorer: Will Riswick Fit?

May 01, 2012

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All 6-foot-3 of me was legitimately comfortable sitting in the third row of our dearly departed long-term Ford Flex. The boxy tail end allowed for plenty of headroom, while the Vista roof glass panels and big rear quarter windows provided an open atmosphere. Because our Flex had the second-row captain's chairs that slide forward (the bench does not), leg room was excellent too.

So how does the Explorer do? Well, as you can see above, I certainly fit. My head is grazing the roof, however, and my bent knees are touching the non-sliding second-row bench. I could sit back there for maybe an hour, but I'd need a breather for anything more. I could've gone forever in the Flex.

As I recall, though, this amount of space is consistent with other large crossovers like the Durango and Mazda CX-9. The GM Lambdas and Honda Pilot (also boxy) are a bit better. In total, I would say the Ford Explorer's third row seat is very useable since a vast majority of its tenants won't be 6-foot-3.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 14,458 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer: Feel Good Wheel

April 24, 2012

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I sit in traffic. A lot. And this morning as I was trying not to come unglued at the slow moving parade of cars trapped alongside me on the freeway, I found myself gripping and releasing our Ford Explorer's steering wheel in an attempt to release some frustration.

A nice wheel, I thought. Good shape and heft, supple, yet firm leather, and flawless detail stitching.

Reflecting on the steering wheel took my mind off the traffic for all of 60 seconds. But I'll continue to appreciate the wheel's quality everytime I drive the Explorer.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 14,194 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer: Convenient Mobile Office

April 19, 2012

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The Time Warner internet service in my new house has been anything but reliable, and after three outages in four days, it was finally time to request a visit from a technician instead of continuing to troubleshoot the problem over the phone.

Problem is, with an intermittent connection, how can you work from home while waiting for the tech to show up?

This morning's answer was my local McDonald's. I wasn't up for sitting inside, but parking next to the building got me close enough to connect to their public wi-fi.

The Explorer's front seat is spacious enough, so if I put the seat in the far-back position, I have room for my laptop flat on my lap. And the center console makes a great mouse pad.

Much easier than working on an airplane, for sure.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 13,986 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Doubles as a Minivan

April 16, 2012

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I was scheduled to drive our long-term Nissan Quest this weekend for its kid-carrying capacity, but I had a brian fart and forgot to sign it out on the right day. A quick glance at what was left on the infamous clip-board revealed an equally kid-friendly Ford Explorer. Both can seat five kids (though only four on this occasion).
Why did I care? It was my daughter's 8th birthday and I was one of the shuttle drivers to and from the "I Scream" party. Because my daughter told her friends, "You're going to be famous on the internet," here are a few more photos... Happy Birthday, Sweet Pea!

Chief Road Test Daddy, Chris Walton @ 13,020 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer: Child Safety Seat Fitment Test

April 04, 2012

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If you're buying a Ford Explorer, odds are good that you've got kids. Since that's me (the kid part, little ones), and I've amassed quite the collection of child safety seats, I figured the Explorer would be a good vehicle to subject to my occasional blog post series, the Child Seat Fitment Test. Ford versus Britax, read on.

First up is the Recaro booster seat pictured above. Honestly, boosters fit in just about anything, so that's not really a problem.

The only thing of interest is our Explorer's optional inflatable outboard seatbelts. Chris covered them in a previous post, but in terms of safety seat fitment, they didn't seem to be an issue. There are two main things that are different about them, though. One, the main part of the belt (the part that's inflatable) is thicker, meaning it might be harder to thread through holes on some safety seats (if you're going the seatbelt anchoring route). Also, the automatic locking part of the belt is on the lap belt part, not the shoulder belt, which is opposite of normal.

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Airport Shuttle

March 30, 2012

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There's an old joke that says it's best never to get to know your neighbors. If you do, sooner or later they will ask you to pick them up at the airport.

Sadly, I was heedless of caller id and so got shamed into agreeing to perform taxi duty. So I picked the Ford Explorer to be my airport shuttle, it being large and luggage-friendly. Of course, it drove pretty much like an airport bus, too.

You get new respect for shuttle bus drivers when you try to thread the Explorer through the stream of vehicles headed for the white zone at the curb. ("For immediate loading and unloading of passengers only; no parking.")

Ford designers styled the Explorer to seem as large and trucklike as possible to the driver in order to disguise its Volvo-esque crossover heritage, so you can't see either the front quarters or rear quarters. Every minute, a smash with a giant passenger bus or hidden midget car from Korea always seems imminent.

And when I finally got to the curb, I thought my passengers were going to need some kind of portable jetway to make it across the gaping chasm between the Explorer and the sidewalk because I had misjudged the distance so badly.

Ah well, they won't be asking me for airport transportation again, I'll bet.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 11,589 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer: I Do Like It

March 29, 2012

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Our Explorer has taken its fair share of criticism since we acquired it back in September. But you know, I still like the thing. Maybe it's because, as a suburbia-living parent, the Explorer is pretty well suited to my lifestyle, and that greatly outweighs the negatives.

It's quiet on the freeway. It rides comfortably around town. The driver seat is comfortable. I like the storage well for holding grocery bags. If I want to haul more stuff, I can. It looks pretty cool in my driveway. I think the steering, which I find light but still direct, is well suited for urban duty. I like the cross-traffic alert safety feature. Oh, and fuel economy from the four-cylinder is pretty good as long as you don't boot the throttle all the time.

So, yeah, you know you're not in for 91-octane excitement with an Explorer. But I'm OK with that.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Top Ten Seat

March 19, 2012

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That, right there, the front seat of the 2012 Ford Explorer XLT, has made my list of Top Ten Automotive Seats.

Okay, I don't actually have a list of top ten seats, but if I did, I'm positive this one would make the cut.

How do I know?

Because the Explorer's seat is even more comfortable than the Nissan Quest's, which would make my imaginary top ten list as well.

The Explorer's combination of soft and supple leather and overstuffed plush padding in all the right places is what does it for me. Of course it has power-adjustable lumbar support, but the seat is so supportive that I usually have it turned to the minimum setting.

Sure, there isn't much in the way of side bolstering. But then, the Explorer isn't exactly a demon around the corners anyway.

This seat, combined with the cushy suspension, make the new Explorer a great highway hauler.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 11,417.6 miles.

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2012 Ford Explorer: Buckle Up the Hounds

March 15, 2012

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If you're familiar with this blog then you've no doubt seen my dog reports where I write about how my dog Mya fares in various long-termers. In every case, I always make sure to buckle her in. (The above photo is taken in our 2012 Ford Explorer.) Not only for her safety but for mine. In the event of an accident, a free-flying 60-pound dog can do a lot of damage. However, this morning I experienced yet another reason folks should buckle in their dogs.

While I was taking her for a walk, we reached an intersection with a stop sign when we suddenly heard a dog barking/whining loudly. It was coming from the backseat of an approaching Ford Explorer. The dog, a Boxer mix, was hanging out the window and seemed to get more and more anxious as its car approached us but I didn't sweat it because 1) the car was moving, 2) the window opening was high up since this was an SUV and 3) the car. Was. Moving.

But as the Explorer was passing before us, the dog then decided this was a good time to jump out of the window, at which point it fell on its side, stood up and shook it off, and then limped over to where me and Mya were standing, dumbfounded. Meanwhile the driver kept driving down the street. Eventually she stopped and ran out to retrieve her dog, who, thankfully seemed to be OK and really intent on smelling Mya. And all the woman said to me was, "Well she's never done THAT before!"

Now, I know that this doesn't really have anything to do with this particular car but it does go to show that even if you are driving a tall vehicle like our Explorer, your dog might still go out the window. Please, folks, buckle up your dogs.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT: The Look of Silence

February 28, 2012

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The tires on our Explorer don't look like much, but they are perfectly matched to this vehicle.

Now, every modern car is matched to its factory specified tires, but in this case I'm constantly amazed by how little tire noise you hear from behind the wheel. On some smooth surfaces it's almost inaudible, and on grooved concrete that makes some vehicles howl, the Explorer emits only the faintest "whirring" sound. Combine that with fairly minimal wind noise and the Explorer makes for a surprisingly serene highway cruiser.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Waiting

February 22, 2012

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One one-thousand...two one-thousand...

The Explorer takes its sweet time feeding out the speed. Give it throttle, then wait for the turbo to spool and for a committee to decide if more speed is a prudent use of fuel. Your request is granted, but it's too late. You committed to the lane change and the car that was 100 feet behind is now hard on the bumper, giving you the lights and a salute. Hate being that guy.

The only real workaround is to drop into "L."

But that only buys you a few milliseconds and only if the turbo is cooking. Otherwise, the EcoBoost turbo-four feels under-gunned for everything except steady-state cruising at 70 mph or loping between stoplights. This engine makes about the same power and torque as the new BMW 3-Series turbo-four, but carries an extra 1,100 pounds.

There's still a lot to like about the Explorer, though. Cushy ride, plush cabin. Tons of space (and seemingly tons of usable space covered in plastic). My Ford Touch is still unloveable, but it queues up Bluetooth music pretty quick. I haven't yet driven the V6 Explorer for comparison, so maybe I don't know what I'm missing. I'd find the EcoBoost's power delivery pretty maddening in daily use, though.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer: Video Review

February 21, 2012

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Here is Senior Editor Erin Riches with a video review of the Ford Explorer. The video covers the entire Explorer model range but the action footage features our long-term Explorer XLT EcoBoost.

See the video after the jump...

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT Ecoboost : Whole Lotta Room

February 07, 2012

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Made some noise with friends at a house party this weekend to kick off Super Bowl weekend. We exhausted nearly every tune we knew and plenty more we didn't. Everyone was psyched for Sunday's game, finding their singing voice, and having a good time. The cops didn't even respond with a noise complaint until almost 2 am, which blew everyone's minds; we'd expected them by midnight.

Afterwards I packed the Explorer, then considered a few options. I could drive home, crash on some well-trod carpet in the house, or catch a few zees in the Explorer until the sun came up.

Having driven more than 400 miles since that morning (Northern California to Orange County), I was done driving. I also didn't want to lie down in a puddle of pale ale. No worries. The Explorer takes a full drumkit in the cargo, a half-dozen stands, hardware and cowbells - lots of cowbells - on the floor and front seats, and leaves enough room to throw out a sleeping bag. If the Explorer only fit in tighter spaces, it might be a city musician's dream car.

From the driver's seat, the Explorer feels pretty expansive. But it's crowded by panels, consoles and bulkheads. You feel like there's room, but don't see how it's possible. I was actually surprised I had as much room as I did, bedded down with my old mahogany beater kit, and all the bulky stands and metal pokey pieces safely away from my ribs. That cupholder/console shock tower shroud was only a minor, knee-knocking annoyance.

Next time I'll demand that the promoters provide, at the bare minimum, a room at the Courtyard Inn. But bunking in the Explorer was nice enough that even Henry Rollins probably would've found it too soft and bourgeois.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Laminated Glass

February 02, 2012

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I just noticed the front-side glass in our Ford Explorer is laminated to reduce interior noise. Out of curiosity, I looked up an Audi Q5's interior sound levels from a track test and our long-term Ford Explorer. Both are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4, and the Explorer is quieter in two of our three samples:

2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost Db @ Idle: 42.6 Db @ Full Throttle: 69.3 Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 62.6
2011 Audi Q5 2.0T quattro Db @ Idle: 43.4Db @ Full Throttle: 70.3Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 61.7

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 9,334 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: "Inflatable" Belts

February 02, 2012

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Our Explorer is equipped with a $595 option called BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) with cross traffic alert and inflatable rear seatbelts for second-row outboard-seating positions. These are essentially seatbelts with integral airbags. No wonder those buckles and receivers look chunky. Follow the jump to see how they work...

Would you pay extra for this safety enhancement?

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 9,334 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Similar to the Nissan R35 GT-R

February 01, 2012

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Our long-term 2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost has a feature that's similar to the Nissan R35 GT-R.

WTH?

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2012 Ford Explorer EcoBoost: A Boy's Car?

January 24, 2012

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The girlfriend got into our Long Term Ford Explorer EcoBoost last night and sighed. At first I thought she was just bummed that she'd have to go through 92 menu screens to turn on the seat heater, but then she surprised me by saying, "I'm not really feeling this car. It's just, why did they give a mom car such a boy interior?"

"It's so cold and uninviting" she continued. The thing you need to remember here is that, as a a girlfriend of one of the editorial staff, she is in-and-around more cars than almost any enthusiast. She may not drive them, but she has her own way of evaluating the cars as do all of the WAGS of IL.

"The seats are ok but the black-and-silver dash is so clinical and sterile. The lines are too computer-designed and soulless."

I'm not sure I agree so I point her in the direction of our Full Test of a 2011 Ford Explorer Limited. That car had lighter leather and wood accents instead of the metallic ones in our car.

She didn't budge.

"You remember the Flex? That one had style; an Art Deco-ish feel. This just feels like a dude's car even with that interior. It's not tough, it's just not inviting. And what's with the Lela-eye in the dashboard?"

Again, I'm not sure I agree with her take here but I can see the point. I'll leave this one open to the floor: Is the Explorer a boy's car?

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2012 Ford Explorer: Where's the Space?

January 16, 2012

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When the Ford Explorer was first introduced in the early 1990s, it was a mid-size SUV. Over the years it has grown in size to accommodate a third row.

The modern-day Explorer is now a car-based large crossover. As this popular Ford nameplate evolved over time, what happened to its cabin space?

When my short body feels cramped sitting in the driver seat, how do our taller editors feel when driving the Explorer?

Once positioned and belted in I feel like I have no room to move my knees. Even the six-way power adjustable seat doesn't help me make myself any more comfortable.

I much prefer the Ford Flex for its interesting looks and cavernous front row. Even though both vehicles have similar front legroom specs, there is a vast difference in feel.

Any of you have this generation Explorer? How does the driving position feel to you?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 8,319 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT Ecoboost: Reporting From the 3rd Row

January 05, 2012

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The other day I was banished to the third row of our 2012 Ford Explorer XLT Ecoboost. Actually, in all honesty, it wasn't that bad. I had ample legroom in that my knees weren't touching the seatback in front of me. (FYI, I'm 5'5" so those taller than me may have a different experience.) And I even felt comfortable enough to catch some Zzzzs. Mind you, this was only on the way to a mall that was about 30 miles away and there's no way I'd want to sit there for a road trip.

But it wasn't as bad or as claustrophobic as I thought it was going to be. And getting back there was a cinch, after I figured out how the levers worked to move the second row seat out of the way.

Only issue with the third row that I suspect any owner of a large third-row-equipped vehicle can attest to is that the car wash guys tend to neglect it. After we picked it up from Blue Wave we noticed that the guys had failed to vacuum the bits of food particles in the seat crevices and floor. And the following week when I pointed out to them that they missed it last time, even folding down one of the second-row seats for them, it still got neglected. Hm.

In any case, the moral of this story? Don't fear the Explorer's third row (if you're under 5'5").

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Evacuation Slide Not Shown

December 29, 2011

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Now that's a door panel. Dig that skirt! I remember our Flex having a tall panel like this, with an exaggerated bottom apron and even the upturned flange.

My first drive in our Explorer a few nights ago was underwhelming. Rather, underwhelmed by its oversize. After a week in the Odyssey, this was a stark contrast. Where the Odyssey feels big and drives small, the Explorer drives big and just feels swollen. From the driver's seat it feels almost identical to the Taurus SHO we had in the office several weeks ago.

No surprise there, since both are built off the D4 platform. But to echo earlier points that Takahashi and JayKav made, the Explorer just seems big for the sake of it. As if Ford product planners decided Americans feel safest and offered the most value when surrounded by bulging seats, dashes and trim panels, with not much regard for maximizing cabin space. It feels like there's an additional six cubic feet in here trapped under plastic. Ford isn't the only one guilty; the Dodge Charger also feels like its retaining water.

To top it off, the Ecoboost-four just doesn't feel like it's got any beans. Plant your foot to the floor and the turbo-four debates a little among its systems before delivering any meaningful passing power. My Ford Touch? I'd pile on, but we've already made glue of that dead horse.

But what do I know? People are buying the Explorer and rappers like it. It cuts a nice muscular form during a walkaround. Still, it makes me nostalgic for when MC's made videos riding around in Impala convertibles, Fatburger in hand and shotgun across the lap.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer: Leaves Me Hanging

December 29, 2011

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My first impression of the Explorer was immediate: the armrests are way too far apart.

I'm not sure who Ford had in mind as the driver when they designed the Explorer. I'm guessing that person has about 80 pounds over me. Either that, or they anticipated someone in a full upper-body cast. It's not that big of a deal on my short commute (hooray for light traffic during the holidays!), but if I were to take this on a road trip, it would be a problem.

In order for my elbows to find a decent purchase, I have to lower the seat to the deck and extend my arms like I'm giving the international gesture for "chicken." I suppose I could just lean to one side or the other, but that sounds like a bad idea.

Outside of the armrests, I like the seating position. I found myself sitting higher than normal, with a commanding view of my surroundings. The driver seat is quite comfortable with plenty of lumbar support. As a result of the elevated position, the gauges and center stack are a little low in my sightlines, but I rarely needed to spend much time looking at them.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT Ecoboost: Dog Report

December 27, 2011

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For the holiday, we packed up the 2012 Ford Explorer with Christmas presents, baggage and my dog Mya and drove it up to Sacramento to visit my family. Naturally there was ample room to load everything up but here are some notes with regards to Mya in the Ford.

Love that the vents were over the seat instead of in the back of the center armrest. That way the air covered more area instead of just blowing in her face. I could also angle the slots so it wouldn't blow down on her. I don't know if she even cares about that but I know I would if I was sitting back there.

I didn't appreciate the inflatable seatbelts in this instance. Since the buckle was unusually large, it was a bit of a struggle fitting it through Mya's harness loop. Not a big deal, just not as easy as it is with regular seatbelts.

The seat bottoms of the second row seem to be short because we couldn't even lay Mya's bed across it like we had been able to in the TSX and Outlander. We couldn't tuck the edge of her bed into the crease of the seat anyway to keep it in place as the seatbelt fasteners were buried in the seat and would have gotten in the way of buckling her up. So we just spread her blanket down and that was fine.

Since Mya comes with a bit of doggy paraphernalia, I always appreciate any storage room I can get, like a pocket behind the front seat for storing her leash and collar or something on the door to contain her water bottle. Unfortunately here the door didn't have a place to store her small water bottle so I had to pack that away and dig it out for every pit stop.

I don't know if Mya was comfortable back there but I did notice that for the trip up and the trip back she never zonked out like she had in previous cars she traveled in, like the Infiniti M56. Usually for long trips I can look back at her and she'll be asleep. But in the Explorer, every time I peeked at her she'd be lying down with her head on her paws but her eyes wide open. Then she'd catch me looking at her and sit up expectantly as if to ask, "Are we there yet?"

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 7,620 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT Ecoboost: Drives Big

December 27, 2011

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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

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Roadmaster

November 30, 2011

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(It's hard to get a picture of yourself driving down the road, so I have to resort to one stolen from our photographers to illustrate my point, sorry.)

This is what the 2012 Ford Explorer EcoBoost looks like when driving down the road. What it feels like, though, is completely different.

I remember two things very vividly from our full test of the 2012 Ford Explorer Limited: The first was that the Explorer was impossibly smooth at highway speeds. So smooth that you had to constantly monitor your speed lest you want to wind up doing 40 over for no reason. The second thing that's stuck in my mind was the way the car felt on the highway: huge, wide, imposing.

It doesn't look it, but from behind the wheel, the Explorer is 12 yards long, 2 lanes wide and some 65 tons of American pride. I felt like I was within a millimeter of crossing both lines at the same time at all times.

Our Ecoboost version, unsurprisingly, feels exactly the same in regards to its road-hogging size (a trick due to big, flat hood and high seating position) and somewhat surprisingly, almost the same in cruising prowess. The only real difference is you wind up doing 10 over the speed limit before realizing what's happened instead of way, way over.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Edmunds.com @ 6,150 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT: These Seats Were Made for Driving

November 09, 2011

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Didn't really expect this from our Explorer, but the seats are fantastic. Not in the traditional way, though, as they don't exactly reach out and grab you when you sit down. No, these are long-haul seats that feel great during extended stretches like, say, from L.A. to Vegas to cover SEMA.

It's about a 4-5 hour drive each way and I never noticed the seats. This is, of course, a good thing, as no pain is your gain. It's a rare occurrence, too, at least for me. I've driven dozens of high-end cars with 18-way adjustable seats that still managed to feel uncomfortable after a few hours on the highway. No idea why the Explorer's seat feels so great, but hopefully it stays that way.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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2012 Ford Explorer: More On Highway Driving

November 08, 2011

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I did a four-hour drive in our Explorer yesterday. It was mostly highway driving, and the Ford was a pretty agreeable companion. The driver seat is comfortable and the suspension smoothers out most of the nasty pavement.

Ed recently did a long highway drive as well, and a lot of people commented on his 22.7 mpg average. Unfortunately I don't have a number for my trip as a fair amount of the miles on our trip odo was from previous driving. But I will be doing this route again in a couple weeks and will fill up beforehand to get an accurate observation of miles per gallon.

I do have a little more commentary about how the four-cylinder engine managed when going up hills, though.

I did my drive over the Tejon pass. Indeed, the four-cylinder was "adequate." But I did notice one odd aspect: there was more than one occasion where I'd set the cruise control while climbing a grade and the Explorer wouldn't (or couldn't) match my desired speed. Say I'd set the cruise control for 73 mph; the Explorer would only maintain 70 mph.

I was fairly annoyed by this, though I don't know if I can actually blame this on the engine. Maybe it'd be the same with the V6, or maybe it's a programming or transmission issue. Actually, when I'd prod the throttle to get my desired speed up, not much would happen. The transmission was pretty reluctant to downshift. So maybe the goal of fuel economy and staying in top gear was trumping the cruise control's desire to hit 73 mph? Again, I only noticed this when climbing grades.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT: Solid Second Row

October 27, 2011

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I've had countless people tell me that they're suspicious of all these new crossover SUVs. "No, I want one that's big inside like the old SUVs," they tell me.

Well, I hate to break it to them, but these crazy new crossovers actually have more room inside than the big ol' SUVs of the past. Just look at all that leg and foot room in our Explorer, it's far more comfortable than the more rugged Explorers of the past.

The seats themselves still aren't the most comfortable chairs in the world. I'm over six feet and there's plenty of room, but the seat back are pretty flat so there's not a ton of support. Still, as midsize crossovers go, the Explorer's rear seat is pretty solid.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT Ecoboost: Road-Trip Pick

October 20, 2011

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With another road trip planned for yet another far-off 24 Hours of Lemons race (this weekend's is at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma), a list of which long-termer I'd like to take runs through my mind. Once again we'll be bringing my dog Mya (puppy!) and since we no longer have a vehicle that can tow our Lemon (Raptor, you'll always have a special place in my heart) we only have to worry about getting a car with room for the pup, some race gear and our luggage.

But after driving our 2012 Ford Explorer last night, I'm daydreaming about it as a road-trip possibility. Traveling with a passenger, that much-complained-about MyFord Touch system wouldn't be too much of an issue. And hooray for seat heaters, Sirius Satellite Radio and iPhone charging capabilities.

The best thing, however, is that backseat for Mya's comfort. The rear seatbacks recline to afford her more leaning room and there's also rear A/C and rear ventilation ducts with fan control to get her some air. Plus, even though we'd throw a blanket and doggy bed in the back, leather seats are always nice for traveling with pets. No pet hair and easy to clean if there's an accident (knock on wood).

Anyhoo, which of our long-termers would you pick for a road trip?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT: Heavenly Headrests

October 09, 2011

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The front headrests in our new 2012 Ford Explorer Limited are nothing like those found in our dear departed 2009 Ford Flex Limited -- and that's a very good thing. Longtime readers may remember that the Flex's headrests were so universally hated that they were dubbed Headrests from Hell.

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Rear Legroom Makes the Cut

October 07, 2011

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We recently published a list showing the 10 crossovers and SUVs with the most rear legroom. The Ford Explorer made the cut, with 39.8 inches available for passengers who want to stretch out those lower limbs in the second row. Crossovers like the Lincoln MKT, the Infiniti QX56 and the Chevrolet Equinox also made the list.

Is rear legroom something that you place priority on when shopping for a crossover?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Wind Noise

October 05, 2011

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Get our 2012 Ford Explorer XLT up to 65 or 70 mph and it'll start to emit a reedy flatulent thrumming noise from the lower passenger side corner of the windshield.

How can I be so sure about the exact location?

For one, reedy noises are not consistent with normal air flow over the body and mirror housings. I ruled out the wipers by observing no change in the noise after running them back and forth a few times.

A quick look-see turned up a couple likely-looking (read: large and unsightly) gaps near the bottom of the passenger side a-pillar garnish. A few strategic strips of painter's tape put a stop to the discordant music, so the problem lies somewhere beneath.

I planned to peel strips away, one at a time, to localize it further, but traffic got bad and I could no longer get up to speed. I returned the keys to the board but forgot to tell the next driver about my little experiment. Inevitably, someone peeled the unsightly tape clean off.

No problem. I have lots more. I'll zero in on the area in short order and take it to our local dealer for repair. I only hope it's an assembly problem instead of a design problem.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 2,312 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Why Not the Flex?

September 28, 2011

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When I was driving the Explorer over the weekend, I kept thinking why not just buy the Flex?

The Flex is considered a wagon, but we all know that it is much taller and more spacious. Now that the Explorer is more of a crossover than an SUV, it is not as tall as it used to be. So why is Ford producing both vehicles?

Here are some specs for comparison:

  2012 Ford Flex   2012 Ford Explorer  
Front head room 41.8 in. 41.4 in.
Front hip room 55.5 in. 57.3 in.
Front leg room 40.8 in. 40.6 in.
Front shoulder room 58.4 in. 61.3 in.
Rear hip Room 55.0 in. 56.7 in.
Rear head room 40.5 in. 40.5 in.
Rear leg room 44.3 in. 39.8 in.
Rear shoulder room 58.1 in. 61.0 in.
Width 75.9 in. 78.9 in.
Height 68.0 in. 70.4 in.
Length 201.8 in. 197.1 in.
Wheel base 117.9 in. 112.6 in.
     
Cargo capacity, all seats in place   20.0 cu.ft. 21.0 cu.ft.
Maximum cargo capacity 83.2 cu.ft. 80.7 cu.ft.
Maximum towing capacity 4,500 lbs. 5,000 lbs.
Curb weight 4,471 lbs. 4,557 lbs.

These seven-seaters seem to serve the same purpose. Which would you rather drive?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Second Impression

September 26, 2011

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The inside of the 2012 Explorer may be cavernous but Ford has done a good job of making it comfortable and keeping out engine and road noise. It offers a quiet, relaxing ride and smooth sailing as it keeps bumps and road imperfections from being bothersome. And it can take a curve without too much lean.

Despite being a four-cylinder, the EcoBoost engine doesn't have to struggle to get the boat moving. When driving in the city you feel like you're cruising along slowly but then look at the speedometer and realize you're really moving.

The seats are comfortable and cushiony but firm and supportive. I haven't sat in the third row yet, but I have played around with their configurations. They seem more robust than what you usually find in the back of the bus.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: First Impressions

September 23, 2011

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I haven't been in a Ford Explorer in a long time so I was eager to try our new long-termer. My first impression is that it feels enormous. I've spend the last two days in our Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna minivans and the Explorer feels huge by comparison.

For reference, here are their dimensions. They are not that dissimilar:

  Ford Explorer   Honda Odyssey   Toyota Sienna
Width 78.9" 79.2" 78.1"
Height 70.4" 68.4" 68.7"
Length 197.1" 202.9" 200.2"
Wheelbase 112.6" 118.1" 119.3"
Curb weight   4,557 lbs. 4,541 lbs. 4,460 lbs.

You can view the full comparison chart on Edmunds.com.

While I felt comfortable sitting in the minivans, driving them on narrow roads and parking them, I conversely felt like I was taking up the whole lane of the freeway in the Explorer. Inside I was dwarfed by the cabin. The belt line is very high no matter how I adjusted my seat. And the large amount of space between my left arm and the door seemed like a waste. It's nice to have shoulder room but it feels overly wide.

I'll be driving it all weekend, so I'll let you know if I get used to this design right away or continue to feel like a shrimp driving an aircraft carrier.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 1,538 miles

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