2013 Ford Explorer Review

Pros & Cons

  • Upscale cabin
  • abundant high-tech features
  • excellent ride/handling balance
  • excellent crash test safety scores
  • available fuel-efficient turbocharged four-cylinder.
  • Less third-row and cargo room than some rivals
  • feels bigger than it is behind the wheel
  • MyFord Touch is slow to respond and can be difficult to use.
List Price Range
$11,000 - $24,990

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Edmunds' Expert Review

With solid on-road dynamics, decent fuel efficiency and an accommodating, high-class cabin, the 2013 Ford Explorer is a top pick for a large crossover SUV.

Vehicle overview

One could argue that the Ford Explorer started America's love affair with the SUV, and as times have changed, so has the Explorer. Thanks to a full redesign two years ago, the 2013 Ford Explorer is the most efficient and upscale Explorer yet. It's also become one of the most technologically advanced large crossover SUVs available, with dynamic qualities and a hushed cabin that would rival those of many luxury-brand models.

In the last redesign, Ford changed the Explorer's underlying architecture, going from the previous truck-based chassis to a unibody design for more usable interior space. This design brings with it a weight reduction, which results in better fuel efficiency and handling. Inside the cabin, the Explorer offers a stylish, well-finished space for up to seven passengers. There are a lot of advanced features, too, including the voice-activated Sync system, the touchscreen-based MyFord Touch and many safety features, including second-row seatbelt airbags, adaptive cruise control with collision warning and, for 2013, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist.

For power, the Explorer comes standard with a 290-horsepower V6. It's what most buyers go with, but Ford also offers a turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine as an option. Oddly, you have to pay more to get the four-cylinder, but it gives the Explorer best-in-class fuel economy and pays for itself in a few years thanks to reduced gas bills. Also, the Explorer's available Terrain Management, a selectable four-mode all-wheel-drive system, takes some of the guesswork out of properly operating a four-wheel-drive system.

If neither of the above engines suits you, there's also the turbocharged V6 that comes with the new Sport trim level this year. It's the same turbo 3.5-liter V6 Ford uses in the Flex and generates an estimated 365 hp. The Sport also comes with firmer suspension tuning, revised steering for a claimed improvement in road feel, different 20-inch wheels and special interior and exterior trim details.

While there's a lot to like about the 2013 Ford Explorer, we do have some reservations. The third-row seat, for instance, isn't as roomy as that of some competitors. And while the available MyFord Touch interface is a neat idea in theory, we've found it slow to respond and difficult to use. That leaves the door open for some other top choices, including the roomier Chevrolet Traverse, the more powerful Dodge Durango and the sportier Mazda CX-9. They're all quite desirable, but if upscale features and a high-quality interior are priorities for you, the Explorer is a great choice.

2013 Ford Explorer models

The 2013 Ford Explorer is a large crossover SUV available in base, XLT, Limited and Sport trim levels.

Standard equipment includes a V6 engine, 17-inch steel wheels, privacy glass, integrated blind spot mirrors, roof rails, cruise control, air-conditioning, a six-way power driver seat (manual recline), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a trip computer and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.

The XLT adds 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlamps, foglamps, rear parking sensors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a keyless entry code pad, Sync (Ford's voice-activated telephone/entertainment interface), satellite radio and a USB port.

With the XLT trim, Ford offers the Equipment Group 201A package that adds a rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, a nine-speaker sound system and the Driver Connect package, which includes an auto-dimming rearview mirror, MyFord Touch electronics controls (includes three configurable displays, two USB ports, SD card reader and audio/video input jacks) and upgraded Sync functionality. The 202A package includes all of the former plus leather upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver seat with power-adjustable lumbar, and a six-way power passenger seat.

The Limited bundles the XLT's items with 20-inch wheels, keyless ignition/entry, remote engine start, power-adjustable pedals with memory, a 110-volt power outlet and a 12-speaker Sony sound system with HD radio. Optional for the Limited is the 301A package that includes a power liftgate, a power-folding operation for the third-row seat, an eight-way power passenger seat, ventilated front seats, a heated and power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a navigation system. To this the 302A package adds xenon headlamps, automatic high beams, an automatic parallel-parking system, adaptive cruise control with collision warning and brake support, lane-departure and lane-keeping assist, a blind-spot warning system and inflatable seatbelts for second-row outboard passengers.

The new Explorer Sport is equipped similarly to the Limited, although it lacks the leather upholstery, 110-volt outlet, keyless ignition/entry, remote engine start and power-adjustable pedals. It does come with different 20-inch wheels, sport front seats and unique interior and exterior trim details. The Sport's 402A package adds the power liftgate, navigation system, blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, inflatable seatbelts, power-adjustable steering wheel and pedals, ventilated front seats, leather upholstery, driver seat memory, power front passenger seat and 110-volt outlet. The navigation system is optional, as is adaptive cruise control.

Some of the features in the XLT and Limited's optional packages can be added as individual options. Other stand-alone options include a dual-panel sunroof, second-row captain's chairs and a rear-seat entertainment system with dual headrest-mounted displays.

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2013 Highlights

The 2013 Ford Explorer receives a new performance-oriented Sport trim level that features a turbocharged engine and sport-tuned suspension. All Explorers this year have a new front passenger knee airbag, while a heated steering wheel, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column and lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist are offered for the Limited trim level. The available xenon headlights now feature automatic high-beam control.

Performance & mpg

The 2013 Ford Explorer comes standard with a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 290 hp and 255 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard. Four-wheel drive (there is no low-range gearing) is optional and includes Ford's Terrain Management System, a selectable four-mode system that optimizes traction electronically for different conditions. Hill descent control and hill start assist are also included.

In Edmunds testing, a 4WD Explorer with the base V6 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds, an average time for the class. A front-drive V6 Explorer returns an EPA-estimated 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined -- also average for the class. Four-wheel drive lowers this to a still respectable 17/23/19. Properly equipped, a V6 Explorer (base or turbocharged) can tow 5,000 pounds.

The Explorer Sport comes with a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine as well as four-wheel drive. It's rated at 365 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque. EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway.

Optional on all front-wheel-drive trims is the turbocharged 2.0-liter "EcoBoost" four-cylinder engine -- also paired with the six-speed auto -- making 240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds testing, an EcoBoost Explorer went from zero to 60 mph in 9.1 seconds, which is on the slow side for the class. Fuel economy, however, is best-in-class at 20/28/23.


Every 2013 Ford Explorer comes standard with stability and traction control, trailer sway control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, a front passenger knee airbag and MyKey, which allows parents to specify limits for vehicle speed and stereo volume. The Explorer's stability control system also includes Ford's Curve Control, which can monitor speed carried into a corner and decelerate if necessary.

Optional on the XLT and above are a blind-spot warning system (includes cross-traffic alert) and inflatable seatbelts for outboard second-row passengers. The Limited and Sport can be equipped with collision warning and brake support and lane-departure warning/keeping. In Edmunds brake testing, a 4WD Explorer Limited came to a stop from 60 mph in 122 feet -- an average distance for the class. The EcoBoost model stopped in 130 feet.

In government crash tests, the 2013 Explorer received five out of five stars for overall crash protection, with five stars for overall frontal protection and five stars for overall side protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Explorer earned a top rating of "Good" for its performance in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.


The 2013 Ford Explorer feels rock-solid at freeway speeds, well-damped over broken pavement and very confident when negotiating a corner. The responsive steering demonstrates Ford's skill at tuning an electric power steering system (a setup that improves fuel economy and accommodates the automatic-parking feature).

While this Ford doesn't offer a V8 option, the base V6 is quick enough and can handle the job for most recreational pursuits. We've yet to test an Explorer with the turbocharged V6, but based on our experiences with the similarly turbocharged Flex, expect swift acceleration and greater passing abilities when towing.

Don't be quick to dismiss the idea of a turbo-4 powering this none-too-small SUV. It may not be as quick as the V6, but in practice, the EcoBoost engine provides smooth response, more than adequate acceleration for daily use and, of course, better fuel mileage than you'd get with the V6.


The Explorer's impressive cabin features excellent build/materials quality within an attractive, upscale design. The dash feels soft to the touch, the switchgear operates with precision (or is touch-operated with the optional MyFord Touch) and the overall look is quite rich. A loaded Explorer is actually just as nice as any Lincoln.

Much of that upscale look comes from the MyFord Touch interface, which adds a high-resolution display screen (plus two additional screens for the gauge cluster) and touch-sensitive audio and climate "buttons." It's a neat interface in theory, particularly when you utilize the complementary Sync voice-activation system. But in practice, we've found that the buttons are difficult to identify at a glance, and too often get pressed accidentally or fail to respond properly, even taking into account Ford's latest software update.

The Explorer's cabin is certainly spacious, but still not quite as roomy as those of the Dodge Durango, Ford Flex and especially the GM triplets (Acadia, Enclave, Traverse). Its 80 cubic feet of maximum cargo space is the smallest of the group and the third row is a bit cramped by comparison, though it does easily accommodate children. The driving position is spot-on for most drivers, though the wide roof pillars and high dash make it seem bigger when trying to fit through tight spaces.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2013 Ford Explorer.

Trending topics in reviews

Most helpful consumer reviews

Towing Issues
Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 6A)
I just bought a 2013 Explorer with a tow package with the intent of occasionally needing to rent a trailer as I had done with my previous vehicle (a 2009 Edge). I found out after the purchase that U-Haul has black-listed all model years of Explorer and will not rent towable equipment that will towed by any Explorer. This fact was not know by the dealer.
New vehicle impressions
Limited 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A)
Purchased vehicle in Fort Myers FL and had accumulated less than 400 miles on same before undertaking our trek to extreme Northern NY... the car performed very well and the mileage improved as we drove. Ride comfort and seating is superior. The car has 302a pkg, so all of the toys and features apply...forward facing radar is truly impressive in high speed traffic situations. The blind spot detection works very well and the lane minder too, had to play some to find out if it worked. Had one incident with the closing rate detection on the radar as a panic situation occured in front of me, the heads up display and braking assist performed as they were designed, added to my feeling of safety
Randy's Explorer
Randy Kennedy,07/10/2015
XLT 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A)
I recently took a trip of approximately 1,300 miles and got 25.2 mpg. The trip was mostly interstate driving. Changed the Michelin tires at 65,000. Could have gotten 70,000 miles, but didn't want to risk them on a long trip. Changed the front brake pads at 60,000 miles. No other repairs.
Do your own homework before reading these reviews
XLT 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 6A)
I bought my car used with 30000 miles on it in perfect condition. I fell in love with it when i saw that it had everything that i needed and more. As a mom this car fit all my needs, and it was way better than my mini van. The My Ford Touch is wonderful! it can find even the hardest of places on the GPS and never fails on me. i have to admit at first i was a little overwhelmed with the touch sensitive buttons and all the buttons on the steering wheel, but i found myself quickly learning and it wasn't that hard. I have had no problems with my Explorer just the usual maintenance. the only thing i have found i do not like is when the third row head rests are up it does make it hard to see out the back but the fix was just not having them up when they were not in use, but that is also why the backup camera is a dream, and the other thing is it is a bit slow when trying to get up and go, but I'm also used to a mini van that had a lot of get up and go power behind it. As i was reading these reviews i started to second guess myself because of all the negative comments people had to say about theirs, but people need to realize that not everything can be perfect and that sometimes parts are defective. There is no perfect car brand they all have the problems. with that i am still in love with my car and everything about it!


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    Overall5 / 5
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    Overall5 / 5
  • Side Barrier Rating
    Overall5 / 5
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front Seat5 / 5
    Back Seat5 / 5
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of Rollover16.9%
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
  • Roof Strength Test
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 2013 Ford Explorer
More About This Model

Hard to believe it's been nearly two years since the new-generation Ford Explorer rewrote the rules for the nameplate that became probably the most synonymous with the acronym "SUV." The 2011 Explorer took the tried-and-true, body-on-frame Ford SUV that for more than a decade was America's station wagon and turned that formula on its head. The new unibody Ford Explorer became a crossover.

With the Explorer's transformation came definitively more acceptable road manners and ride quality. But nobody was going to accuse the three-row, wide-body — and nearly 2.5-ton — Explorer of offering any sort of enthusiast appeal. And why should it?

Because there are Hemi-powered Jeep Grand Cherokees and Range Rover Sports, that's why.

Hold People, Haul Stuff, Go Fast — Pick All Three
Our point is not to question the rationality of a "high-performance" crossover. They're oxymoronic, yes, but they exist. They exist because people — mostly fairly affluent people — want to buy them.

An even more puzzling proposition is the high-performance, three-row crossover. This is an even rarer bird, and with the exception of the Dodge Durango, you have to look to V8-powered European stuff, thus the reason Ford's people have the temerity to mention the Range Rover as a competitor for the just-released 2013 Explorer Sport.

The 2013 Ford Explorer Sport certainly is less costly. Base price is $41,545 (including destination) and even though the one you'd want will bring you close to $50 grand, that's still $35,000 less than the three-row Mercedes-Benz GL550 and probably $20 thou less than five-seater Mercedes MLs, BMW X5 and the Range Rover Sport.

Then again, you say, a Ford is not a BMW.

Fair Enough
Consider, then, that the 2013 Explorer Sport, with the same 365 horsepower/350 pound-feet 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 we know from the Taurus SHO, doesn't hold up too shabbily to the high-powered Euro competition, whose V8s churn out significantly more power but also are markedly porkier on the scales.

If you consider the Sport's most likely competition to be domestic, the EcoBoost is 5 horses stronger (though down 40 lb-ft) than the Hemi-powered Dodge Durango RT and Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Explorer Sport is 75 hp mightier than the standard V6-powered Explorer and produces fuel economy ratings of 16 city/22 highway mpg — just 1 mpg thirstier than that vehicle and still near the top of this not especially environmentally concerned class. The Explorer Sport's chief engineer proclaims it to be "the most fuel-efficient gasoline-powered high-performance SUV out there."

Whether all this will impress the seat of your pants is for now subjective, as we've yet to test it. But, when pressed, engineers say there might be as much as a 2-second reduction in 0-60-mph time — a handy thing given the noncommittal 8.3 seconds we got from the conventionally aspirated Explorer Limited.

What the seat of our pants told us: The Explorer Sport's EcoBoost propulsion makes a huge difference when midrange thrust is what you seek. Passing back road dawdlers will have all occupants (as many as seven) checking the tightness of their seatbelts far less than in, say, the Scion FR-S.

That's gotta be good for something, right?

Higher Performance Through the Steering Wheel, Too
Stop us if you've heard this before, but the engine may not be the best part. The Explorer Sport's chassis upgrades are at least as gratifying as the extra engine grunt, even though we'll allow that they don't make the 4,921-pound Sport the slot car of crossovers.

Ford engineers know the standard Explorer's electrically assisted power steering isn't the paragon of tactility, but the Explorer Sport's steering gear is solidly mounted to the front subframe and the steering's programming has been retuned. Then they did something nobody typically associated with improving steering precision or turn-in ever does: They replaced a bushing at each rear-wheel knuckle with a bearing.

Result: steering that's at least responsive and locked in on center, if still not particularly alive with feedback. We wouldn't call the Explorer Sport's steering radically better than the standard Explorer's, but it's close — close enough that the chassis gang got the hard-mounted steering gear and the rear suspension revision approved for all Explorers as a running change.

It Won't Float
What we like about the Sport's improved handling is that Ford engineers didn't stiffen the stabilizer bars or go overboard in jacking up the spring rates in pursuit of sports-car cornering. There are Sport-specific springs and dampers, but the result is merely better body control, such that low-frequency humps taken at high speed on a back road are pleasingly and efficiently absorbed, never affecting the steering or allowing the Sport to get floaty.

Yet there's still a large degree of comfort orientation: Without overly stiff tuning, the wheels don't crash and your head doesn't toss when the road gets rough. There still could be more assertive rebound damping, though, and the Sport continues to exhibit uncomfortable body lean in more-abrupt corners.

The Explorer Sport's front brakes are beefed up by 1.1 inches to 13.9 inches, with 19 percent more thermal mass, 67 percent more swept area and improved venting. Diameter for the rear discs increases from 12.8 inches to 13.6 inches and thickness increases, too, delivering a substantial 53-percent increase in thermal mass. Yet we still think there's work to be done here. Why does everybody but the Germans chintz out on something so vital yet so essentially cheap as brakes? The Explorer Sport's 9-inch-wide 20s replace 8.5-inch jobs for the standard Explorer, although the 265/45 rubber is only marginally wider. Don't want fuddy-duddy all-seasons? Summer rubber is optional.

All Explorer Sports are fitted with a specially tuned all-wheel-drive system that includes the standard Terrain Management selections. A paddle-shifter six-speed automatic transmission remains as well. The Sport rides so marginally lower at the front your eye will never notice.

I Want It To Turn Black
The 2013 Ford Explorer Sport's strategy on visual differentiation can be summed up with one word and one color: black. So if you want folks to know you've popped for the Sport, you'd better hope they notice the black grille and the all-over black exterior accents, including the lower body cladding and Explorer-specific alloys.

Some may question the very notion of high-performance utility vehicles, but with the 2013 Explorer Sport, it's hard to argue the balance of Ford's approach. The Sport is not about off-the-charts acts of violence like the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. Rather, it's just enough of a boost to keep Mom or Dad interested in the upcoming corner without beating them up later this evening on the grocery run.

The Explorer Sport is effective even when viewed as little more than a new trim level for the Explorer lineup, given that it's not much more expensive than a similarly equipped Explorer Limited.

The takeaway is that the overall performance envelope of this new Explorer feels just about right. There's enough power to flex it when needed, and the Explorer Sport's handling feels tidier than the V8 Grand Cherokee or Durango RT. If you sometimes want to haul six or seven and always want a dose of performance, the Explorer Sport expands a small class.

Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

Used 2013 Ford Explorer Overview

The Used 2013 Ford Explorer is offered in the following submodels: Explorer SUV. Available styles include XLT 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A), XLT 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 6A), Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 6A), Limited 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A), 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A), 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 6A), and Sport 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl Turbo 6A). Pre-owned Ford Explorer models are available with a 3.5 L-liter flex-fuel (FFV) engine, with output up to 290 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2013 Ford Explorer comes with front wheel drive, and all wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 6-speed shiftable automatic. The Used 2013 Ford Explorer comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.

What's a good price on a Used 2013 Ford Explorer?

Price comparisons for Used 2013 Ford Explorer trim styles:

  • The Used 2013 Ford Explorer XLT is priced between $11,999 and$19,000 with odometer readings between 53160 and163065 miles.
  • The Used 2013 Ford Explorer Limited is priced between $12,750 and$24,900 with odometer readings between 70290 and169460 miles.
  • The Used 2013 Ford Explorer Base is priced between $11,000 and$16,895 with odometer readings between 58425 and164849 miles.
  • The Used 2013 Ford Explorer Sport is priced between $15,495 and$24,990 with odometer readings between 66400 and134186 miles.

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 2013 Ford Explorers are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2013 Ford Explorer for sale near. There are currently 46 used and CPO 2013 Explorers listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $11,000 and mileage as low as 53160 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2013 Ford Explorer.

Can't find a used 2013 Ford Explorers you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Ford Explorer for sale - 6 great deals out of 19 listings starting at $18,692.

Find a used Ford for sale - 2 great deals out of 13 listings starting at $10,862.

Find a used certified pre-owned Ford Explorer for sale - 6 great deals out of 16 listings starting at $19,619.

Find a used certified pre-owned Ford for sale - 10 great deals out of 12 listings starting at $24,020.

Should I lease or buy a 2013 Ford Explorer?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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