Wrap-Up - 2012 Ford Explorer Long-Term Road Test

2012 Ford Explorer Long Term Road Test

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  • Pricing & Specs
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  • Long-Term

2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Wrap-Up

September 21, 2012

Read the introduction of this vehicle to our long-term fleet.

See all of the blog posts on this vehicle.

What We Got
The Ford Explorer was fully redesigned in 2011 and it was no small overhaul. For the first time in its life, Ford's midsize SUV was built on a unibody platform instead of a more trucklike body-on-frame setup. The aim was less weight, better mileage and a smoother ride, so we decided to see just how well it achieved those goals.

On the list of must-haves for our 2012 Ford Explorer long-term test were the midgrade XLT trim, the new turbocharged EcoBoost engine and the new MyFord Touch driver interface. The 2.0-liter EcoBoost inline four-cylinder produced 240 horsepower and was, according to Ford, "for a buyer who has utility needs that the vehicle provides but who doesn't require as much capability.... It's for someone invested in fuel economy." That was us. We were also eager to give the innovative but sometimes frustrating MyFord Touch system a fair shake.

We sifted through a sea of highly accessorized Explorers in an attempt to locate a two-wheel-drive model with our must-have options. We finally found one that was close, although it had a bit more equipment than we hoped. The full list included MyFord Touch, Sync, a rearview camera, dual-zone air conditioning, power liftgate, blind spot monitoring, voice-controlled navigation and the Comfort package. The MSRP was over $38K but after Ford rebates we paid $35,402. Our test was under way.

Our Impressions

  • "I drove the Explorer 200 miles in three days and not once did I wish it had more power. This is a fine engine. And it works in the Explorer." — Scott Oldham

  • "It is not a quick crossover by any means. There are times on the freeway when it struggles to build speed and your average family sedan will smoke you away from a light every time. Then again, most of that doesn't matter. In most driving situations our Explorer feels adequately powered, without any noticeable peaks or valleys in the delivery." — Ed Hellwig

  • "In concept, MyFord Touch (MFT) makes a lot of sense.... It is clean-looking and modern. Plus, MFT allows levels of customization you could never get away with in a button system.... The main downside...is that you lose tactile confirmation when pressing a touchscreen button. Occasionally you'll press a button and, due to a lag or a non-response, you're left staring at the screen wondering whether your button press actually worked. Rather than keeping your eyes on the road, you're keeping your eyes on the screen. Not good.... The answer is Sync. With Sync, you can use voice activation to do many things. To be honest, though, it's kind of a workaround. And workaround implies there's a significant problem." — Brent Romans

  • "Well, after several days of driving the Explorer I still never got the hang of the center stack buttons. Sometimes I would give the temp buttons a quick tap to change the settings and get nothing. Then I would press them again and get four or five degrees of movement.... For now they are more trouble than they're worth." — Ed Hellwig

  • "I know the Explorer is a challenging piece, since it's supposed to combine the truck themes of its past with the modern, family-friendly cues of GM's Lambda-class crossovers. But the styling execution makes this vehicle more challenging to drive than you want in either a truck or a crossover." — Michael Jordan

  • "I remember two things very vividly.... The first was that it was impossibly smooth at highway speeds. So smooth you had to constantly monitor your speed.... The second thing that's stuck in my mind was the way the car felt on the highway: huge, wide, imposing." — Mike Magrath

  • "I drove our long-term EcoBoosted four-cylinder Ford Explorer for the first time this week. The power's adequate with the turbo four, but I won't be in a hurry to drive it again — certainly not on a road trip.... I don't care for this SUV's electric-assist power steering. It's limp and vague on-center to the point that I don't have confidence in my directional heading (on the freeway), so I'm continually making small corrections to keep the big lug pointed straight. This got old after 50 miles of commuting." — Erin Riches

  • "While wheelspin is possible (during acceleration testing), it occurs well after launch and then the boost gets carried away and really lights the tires, making the run slower. It exhibits very smooth and moderately quick upshifts. Engine noise is well isolated and it never sounds strained." — Chris Walton

  • "That, right there, the front seat of the Explorer, has made my list of Top 10 Automotive Seats.... OK, I don't actually have a list of top 10 seats, but if I did, I'm positive this one would make the cut.... 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." — Mike Monticello

  • "I recently changed the oil in our Explorer. The procedure was very straightforward — so straightforward, in fact, that the process will be documented in an upcoming Edmunds how-to oil change piece." — Dan Edmunds

  • "Another week of hauling Girl Scout cookies. This time, it was the Ford Explorer's turn. That's 26 cases in the Ford's rear cargo area with the second-row seats still in place.... Not bad, considering the boxes don't block rear visibility, either." — Kelly Toepke

  • "The other day I was banished to the third row of our Explorer. Actually, in all honesty, it wasn't bad. I had ample legroom and 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 Zzzs. Mind you, this was only on the way to the mall that was about 30 miles away and there's no way I'd want to sit there for a road trip." — Caroline Pardilla

Maintenance & Repairs

Regular Maintenance: Routine service for our 2012 Ford Explorer was scheduled in 7,500-mile intervals. We handled the first oil change ourselves for $41. When we realized that the dealer charged just $48 for the same work, we let it turn the wrench at 15,000 and 20,000 miles.

Service Campaigns: Our life with the Explorer was not all by the book. Beyond the scheduled dealer visits we stopped in to update both the cooling fan PCM and the maligned MyFord Touch system. That, of course, followed an earlier, failed attempt to have MFT updated by the dealer. A flat tire, requiring a patch, concluded our extracurricular maintenance. Aside from the $25 flat repair, we spent nothing additional out of pocket.

Fuel Economy and Resale Value

Observed Fuel Economy: The EPA estimated fuel economy for the 2012 Ford Explorer EcoBoost is 20 city/28 highway and 23 mpg combined. We averaged 20 mpg over 20,000 miles. Our single-tank best of 28 mpg supported the EPA rating, but required careful throttle management. A range of 400 miles between fill-ups was possible with similarly deliberate driving habits. On the other end of the spectrum, our worst tank returned just 14 mpg.

Resale and Depreciation: We purchased the Explorer for $35,402. One year later the odometer read 20,000 and it was time to sell. At the time, Edmunds' TMV® Calculator valued the SUV at $29,689 based on a private-party sale. So when Carmax made us an offer of $28,000, we could not refuse.

Summing Up

Pros: Solid, usable power from 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, very quiet cabin on the highway, excellent driver seat comfort, usable third-row seats, compliant ride in nearly all conditions.

Cons: MyFord Touch system makes simple adjustments frustratingly difficult, marginal fuel mileage from four-cylinder engine, limited visibility for shorter drivers.

Bottom Line: You're not going to get huge mileage numbers from the four-cylinder turbo engine and you should avoid the MyFord Touch interface. Other than those two misgivings, we liked just about everything else about the new 2012 Ford Explorer and would recommend it to anybody looking for a roomy, comfortable, quiet SUV that offers three rows of seating and solid all-around performance.

Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs: $166.91 (over 12 months)
Additional Maintenance Costs: $25 to patch a flat tire
Warranty Repairs: Update MyFord Touch and cooling fan PCM
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 2 for MyFord Touch updates
Days Out of Service: None
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Best Fuel Economy: 27.9 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 14.2 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 20.4 mpg
True Market Value at service end: $29,689 (private-party sale)
What it Sold for: $28,000
Depreciation: $7,402 (or 21% of paid price)
Final Odometer Reading: 20,130 miles

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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