2012 Ford Explorer XLT
(3.5L V6 6-speed Automatic)
What our ratings include
Date Driven: 9/20/2011 (2.0L 4-cyl EcoBoost engine tested)
Typical city driving with the optional turbocharged 4-cyl engine is on par with the standard V6. Acceleration to 60 mph is about 1 second slower, though it's not what we'd call slow. EPA Combined fuel economy improves 4 mpg.
Steering effort is light, but response precise and intuitive. Sub-limit handling is confident and appropriate for a vehicle of this size, but low-rolling resistance tires and non-defeat stability control severely restrict enthusiastic driving.
The Explorer offers a soft but controlled ride that is neither floaty nor jarring--very good balance between ride quality and confident handling.
When equipped with the 4-cyl turbocharged engine, all of our measured sound levels were noticeably quieter than with the standard V6, particularly at full-throttle.
In an effort to consolidate infotainment options for better usability, Ford's MyFord Touch system inadvertantly compounds the challenge due to clumsy menus and small touchscreen buttons. Secondary controls are intuitive, though.
All SUVs are challenged in this regard especially with the 3rd row occupied, but the Explorer provides optional equipment to help: a reverse camera, cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot monitoring.
Seat Access & Space
Relative to other mid-sized SUVs, the Explorer's low hip-point makes entry/exit quite good for the first 2 rows--good seat comfort too. Third-row access and size are passable, but not exemplary partly due to a fixed-position second row.
Cargo & Storage
With a minimum of 21 cu-ft behind the 3rd row and up to a maximum of 81 cu-ft behind the 1st row, cargo capacity is good. A truly flat cargo floor and a cargo well are bonuses. There are ample bins and nooks throughout for other stuff.
It's hard to know with this all-new Explorer, but our early impressions are that the build quality is very good: a solid foundation with Ford's recently improved reputation for reliability.
One drawback of the optional turbocharged 4-cyl engine is that it is only rated to tow 2,000 lbs. Get the V6 and you can tow up to 5,000 lbs with the proper options.
The FWD 4-cyl Explorer is meant for civic duty; not off-roading. Even the light-duty 4WD versions offer only limited, electronic 'terrain management' rather than a two-speed transfer case.
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