2012 Ford Explorer Long Term Road Test

Interior


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 XLT Ecoboost: MyFord Touch Takes A Beating

August 23, 2012

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The MyFord Touch system seen in our Ford Explorer hasn't exactly been a hit with our editors and owners in general. Yesterday, Consumer Reports weighed in.

In a blog post entitled "Why the MyFord Touch Control System Stinks," it criticized the system for being "distracting," saying it "wouldn't recommend dealing with the frustrations of MyFord Touch on a daily basis even to an adversary."

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Fan

August 20, 2012

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The Explorer's fan knob bugs me. Not because it's a knob--I like that. What irritates me is that neither the knob nor the display screen tell you the current fan speed. Or what you're changing it to. If you want to see that then you have to go into the Climate-specific screen.

And that's silly. It's at least one too many steps.

There should either be some delineation on the knob, or anytime you change the fan speed it should show up somewhere. Even just for a few seconds. Could be on the central screen or the instrument panel, whatever.

Why? Because that's the way it should be. And because if I'm already at the lowest fan speed, I'd like to know I'm at the lowest fan speed.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 19,737 miles.

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2012 Ford Explorer: MyFord Touch Saga Continues

August 13, 2012

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Stop me if you've heard the one about MyFord Touch and our 2012 Ford Explorer. For those of you new to this saga, the original system was deeply flawed so we went in for an update. Well, since then we had to trip the master reset once. And then this weekend happened.

Take a look at the picture. There are several things out of whack here:

1) The car is in reverse, but the backup camera is not on.
2) In the top, right corner "navigation unavailable" is displayed.
3) Note: I blacked out the address to protect the innocent. That was frozen also.
4) The center home screen button was pressed (gray), but nothing happened.
5) The clock reads 9:03, but it is in fact 2:15.

In summary, MFT seized up again. I was out running errands. But even after cycling the car off and on 5-6 times, the issue remained. At one point, I turned off the car, exited, closed and locked the door, yet the radio was still playing. That couldn't be good, I thought. Then this happened...

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: NaviGlare

July 30, 2012

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Okay, this is nothing new, but it sure seems to me that the idea of a touchscreen (simply as an idea) is a flawed one -- especially when it is used for practically everything in the infotainment universe of Ford. Am I all alone on this one?
There's a video after the jump...

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 18,143 miles

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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: Small Thing, But I Like It

June 21, 2012

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This is my favorite MyFord Touch display in our long-term Ford Explorer's gauge pack. It's a 2D representation of the spherical compass my grandparents had on the dash of their last Taurus.

Not only does it look cool, it's functional for general navigating/knowing-where-you're-going purposes. And I like that it also tells you which street you're on and the posted speed limit -- useful when driving in areas with unfamiliar traffic patterns.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 16,422 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Toro Rosso

June 18, 2012

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I was absolutely positive that the third cupholder (or whatever it is) in the Explorer would be perfect for an 8.4 ounce can of Red Bull. Had to be. And thank you, Ford, for thinking of those of us who occasionally drink the sweet elixir.

Most cupholders do a crappy job of holding these slim cans in place.

But...

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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: Mirror Dependent

May 07, 2012

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I can't think of another car in the fleet in which I'm almost entirely dependent on the mirrors and rearview camera when backing up. Not even the Quest. Even as rearview cams become more common and my reliance on them grows, I still by force of habit twist around, throw an arm around the passenger seat for stability and crane my neck to see just where the hell I'm pointing the vehicle.

But it's a pretty futile effort in the Explorer. You can turn and twist, but the beltline on this car is so high, you still don't see much out the rear windows. Taller drivers can maybe see a little more of the greenhouse of the car they're about to back into, but good luck trying to find a bumper or hood for visual reference. And that shopping cart or fire hydrant, forget it.

We've beat on the Explorer for feeling big and driving big. But that's apparently what many Americans want: Ford sold 13,400 Explorers last month, its best April since 2005, and has sold 47,000 Explorers year-to-date. But the Explorer's compromised visibility, especially the thick C-pillar and second-row headrest combination, only contributes to a sensation of navigating a bulk carrier up the Colorado River.

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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: Big Cupholder

April 13, 2012

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This is my "BFF" water bottle. My friend and coworker Bryn gave it to me. Cute, right? Anyway, it's big and a good test for cars as it doesn't fit in every cupholder. Or if it does, it's just sort of half wedged in. But the Explorer's two front cupholders are sized differently. The bigger one works out well for BFF. Go America!

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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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: 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: Easy to Park, But...

March 23, 2012

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Everyone here agrees: our long-term 2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost feels big and drives big. However, parallel parking with this Big Bertha is a breeze.

That's because our Explorer is equipped with rear parking sonar (standard on the XLT and Limited) and a backup camera. When you combine the feedback from the parking sonar tone and the green, yellow, red zones from the backup camera, you can park the Explorer in some very tight spots. I love it. You can even zoom in on the backup display if the space is really tight (bottom pic), but I don't see why you would need that.

Unfortunately, you have to buy a Rapid Spec package -- starting at $1800! -- to get the back-up camera unless you get the Limited, where it's standard.

That's ridiculous. The back-up camera should be included with Navigation and it's not. In the future backup cameras may be mandated as standard, and perhaps they should be -- on SUVs.

What do you think? Would you pay for the at least $1800 Rapid Spec package to get the backup camera? Me -- I would not, but would end up getting a Rapid Spec package anyway.

And should backup cameras be mandated by USDOT?

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 11,667 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Drives Big

March 18, 2012

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I haven't spent as much time as I'd like in the new Explorer yet, but one thing I have noticed is that it seems positively huge from inside.

Usually you want a vehicle to drive smaller than it is, but the Explorer is the opposite: It drives far bigger than it looks.

The styling is very clean, quite modern, and from the outside it doesn't look gigantic. But once you start driving, you're like, "Hold it, where are the edges of the fenders? How close am I to the lane line? Did I just run over a Fiat 500, or was that a Mazda 2?" Okay, it's not quite that bad, but the edges of the Explorer seem very far away.

On the bright side, the ride is certainly cush and it's an exceedingly comfortable vehicle to spend time in.

I just wish it drove a bit smaller.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 11,318.4 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: Mini Me's Cupholder

February 13, 2012

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What is that? See that itty-bitty storage thing behind the shifter and next to the cupholders. It's too small to hold a mobile phone. And it's too shallow to hold a pen or individual french fries.

Maybe it's a cupholder designed especially for Mini Me!

What could you put in there besides a few coins or paper clips?

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Small Outer Mirrors

February 08, 2012

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One thing I like about driving bigger SUVs (and I do like SUVs) is that they have large outer mirrors. Newer cars, like some recent BMWs we've had through here, have tiny outer mirrors due to aero and, more importantly, styling considerations.

Most carmakers realize that on big SUVs you need big mirrors for lane-changing and backing up, and that functionality is priortized over styling given the size of these vehicles.

But this isn't the case on our long-term 2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost. It has disappointingly small outer mirrors. They would be fine if they were on a regular sedan, but not on this thing.

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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?

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2012 Ford Explorer: A Question of Tolerance

January 30, 2012

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I didn't set out to inspect the Explorer's gap tolerances, but after spending several days in the Ford, this one became glaringly obvious.

The photo above is the driver's side, where the door meets the dash. It's flush. The photo below is the passenger side. The dash is a good quarter-to-half-inch above the door at the back of the gap.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 9,120 miles

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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: Bigger? Sort of

January 20, 2012

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Our fifth-generation Explorer feels big to me. This morning on my drive into the office, I thought, "man, this thing must dwarf the first-gen Explorer." In my head, I was thinking it was as big a difference between the first Ford Expedition and the same-year Explorer. No, I was mostly wrong.

My first hint was the wheelbase, which is what I used to scale the two Explorer images. The 1991 Explorer had a 111.9-inch wheelbase, while the latest version measured 112.6. Not that much. Other dimensions show bigger differences, but not to the extent that I had thought.

Old vs. New
Length: 184.3 vs. 197.1
Height: 67.3 vs. 70.4

The most significant difference is in width (70.2 vs 78.9). A 1991 Explorer will fit down my narrow driveway, but our new long-termer won't. And that leads me to conclude that it's this additional 8.7 inches that's responsible for the perception of size.

From a styling perspective, the 2012 Explorer's chunky styling and longer front overhang make it appear much larger than the numbers suggest. Personally, I'd prefer a narrower Explorer. I noted in my last post that I found far too much space laterally on the inside. Then again, I'm not the target demographic. I rarely have more than one more passenger my cargo-hauling needs are even less common. If I did need an SUV, I'd probably start my search with a smaller Escape or Edge to see if they'd meet my needs.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Visibility

January 17, 2012

From the driver's seat:

Was visibility better or worse than you expected?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 8,342 miles

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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: Not All the Controls are Bad

January 12, 2012

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We've covered various user interface issues with the Explorer. Needless to say, there's much to discuss.

With that in mind, I figured I would call out one instance where the Explorer designers got it right. Yes, I'm talking about the door lock button and its correct positioning near the door handle. It's the most basic thing, yet so many manufacturers screw it up. They stick the buttons on the dashboard, the center console and plenty of other places you wouldn't think to look.

This setup? Perfect, don't change a thing.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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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 EcoBoost: Shut Up and Take My Money

January 05, 2012

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Last week I posed about a missing feature from our $101,575 2012 Audi A8. It was a nifty toy, yes, but not something I'd shell out my own money for.

This, however, is completely different. This is the Dual Panel Moonroof option on a 2011 Ford Explorer and, honestly, if I were buying an Explorer today the Ford people couldn't take my money fast enough for this one.

I use the sunroof EVERY time I'm in the car. Raining? Flip it up and just use it to vent a little air. Too cold / too many buses (loud + stinky air) / guy in front of me smoking? Close it but leave the shade open. It's a quick way to add some natural light and brighten the place up a bit. People pay serious amounts of money to buy/rent houses/apartments that offer good natural light, why wouldn't you want that in your car? I do and would pay for the pleasure.

I'd happily ditch the $995 EcoBoost motor and the $595 blind spot monitor/inflatable rear seatbelt options for the sunroof.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Edmunds.com

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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: Touchy

November 07, 2011

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Here's a new way for the Explorer's touchpads to frustrate. See the emergency flasher button below the touchscreen? It, too, is a touchpad and comes with all the same caveats that exist with the other touchpads on the Explorer's dash.

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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: Blindspotting

October 25, 2011

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Our Explorer has a number of safety features, including a Blind Spot Information System -- BLIS for short. BLIS uses radar technology to scan the road for vehicles in the adjacent lane and illuminates an amber light in the sideview mirror to let you know that there's a vehicle lurking in your blind spot. BLIS can also sense traffic approaching when you're slowly backing out of parking spot, Ford says.

I'm of two minds about blind-spot systems, which I've experienced in other cars recently. It's good to have technology to backstop a driver's usual practice of looking over her shoulder to see if there's anything in the blind spot. But if you're driving in any amount of traffic, the light is blinking every few seconds. It's annoying, particularly if you're planted in a lane with no intention of changing. As in many cars, you can disable the system in the Explorer if it gets too annoying. But it will resume with your next drive.

The real problem with a system like this is that it can become a substitute for actually turning your head. A Ford brochure, sadly, reinforces the idea that it's just darned inconvenient to take a look. It says: "Stop craning your neck trying to see what's in your blind spots."

The Explorer's manual, which Ford lawyers have undoubtedly vetted to a fare-thee-well, says just the opposite: "To avoid injuries, NEVER use the BLIS as a replacement for using the side and rear view mirrors and looking over your shoulder before changing lanes." BLIS is just a helper, not "a replacement for careful driving," the manual warns.

There's this bit of info, too: BLIS can produce "false alerts." Ford says the system sometimes goes off when there's no vehicle in the blind zone. BLIS could be triggered by a guardrail, a freeway concrete wall or by a sharp turn around a pole or building. "False alerts are temporary and self correct," according to the manual.

In many years of driving, I haven't yet mistaken a guardrail for a car. So I'm going to stick with a glance over my shoulder before I change lanes. How about you?

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @3,412 miles

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT: There's a Place for Everything

October 21, 2011

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Yes, there's really a lip balm holder in the center console of our Explorer. Not a tissue holder, not a coin depository, but a snap-in receptacle for your favorite tube of Chap stick.

I wonder how that decision was made. We're there heated battles between the Kleenex contingent and the iPod holder people? And why did the pen people win two spots? Who needs to carry two pens? Nobody writes stuff on paper anymore.

Any way you look at it, this is one seriously engineered center console. Maybe some of those people should have worked on the MyFordTouch controls instead.

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.

They angled sharply forward, pressing drivers and front passengers alike into a crouch. And there was no relief because this unhappy angle was not adustable one little bit. Those devilish headrests were by far the worst part of driving our long-term Ford Flex.

But no such problems exist in our new 2012 Ford Explorer. The face of its headrests are a bit softer and the angle is adjustable -- very adjustable.

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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: Interior Video Tour

September 28, 2011

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Here is a tour of the interior features of our 2012 Ford Explorer from the driver's seat.

Video after the jump...

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2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Does the Panel Fit?

September 27, 2011

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After my post yesterday you were wondering if the panels in the Ford Explorer's dash were misaligned or an optical illusion of the photo.

Video and many photos after the jump...

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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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The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2012 Ford Explorer in VA is:

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