2015 Ford Explorer Review
2015 Ford Explorer Review
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Edmunds' Expert Review
by the Edmunds Experts
- Upscale cabin
- abundant high-tech features
- comfortable ride
- fuel-efficient turbocharged four-cylinder engine
- strong turbocharged V6.
- Less rear-seat and cargo room than many rivals
- feels bigger than it is behind the wheel.
The 2015 Ford Explorer gets a new Appearance package for the XLT trim, as well as some minor changes to standard and optional equipment.
The 2015 Ford Explorer isn't as versatile or roomy as some other large, three-row crossover SUVs, but is still a respectable pick in this class, thanks to its high-end cabin and long list of advanced features.
Calculate my fuel costs
Cost to DriveCost to drive estimates for the 2015 Ford Explorer 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A) and comparison vehicles are based on 15,000 miles per year (with a mix of 55% city and 45% highway driving) and energy estimates of $3.11 per gallon for regular unleaded in Virginia.
Monthly estimates based on costs in Virginia
$193/mo for Explorer Base
Avg. Large SUV
One of the original SUVs, the Ford Explorer has been providing family transportation for nearly 25 years. Today's 2015 model, the largest and most luxurious yet, provides three rows of seating, three different engine choices, decent cargo space for the kids and their stuff and a sleek and handsome profile. As such, this Ford is certainly a good fit for almost any family's garage.
Driving the Explorer on a daily basis is pleasant, thanks to its quiet interior and comfortable ride. You'll also likely be pleased with the interior's high-quality materials and big collection of standard and optional features. For power, the standard V6 should be good for most owners, but Ford also offers a couple of engine options, which is unusual for this class. For enhanced fuel economy, there's a turbocharged four-cylinder that will get you an EPA-estimated 23 mpg combined. Or, for quicker acceleration and stronger performance when towing, there's a turbocharged V6 on the Explorer Sport model.
Unfortunately, there are some things that this tenured professor of SUV University doesn't do extremely well. While some crossovers have mastered the ability to drive smaller than they are, the Explorer is a bit the opposite and feels bulky and difficult to see out of and park. The interior isn't very roomy for this class of vehicle, either. Headroom in the second row is limited, and legroom in the optional third row isn't enough for anyone other than small children. Cargo capacity is adequate, but you'll be able to fit more stuff inside most other comparable rivals.
Luckily, there is no dearth of options in this segment. The Toyota Highlander is efficient, powerful and very comfortable. As such, it's one of our top picks. The Dodge Durango features a high-quality interior, along with some great user-friendly tech features. Also worth checking out is the roomier 2015 Chevrolet Traverse (or its twin, the GMC Acadia), the sporty Mazda CX-9 or Ford's own wagonlike Flex. Overall, we think the Edmunds.com "B" rated 2015 Ford Explorer is a respectable choice that can provide you with the right kind of utility and some extra style, but it's worth looking around in this ever-expanding segment before you make up your mind.
Performance & mpg
The 2015 Ford Explorer lineup offers a wide range of powertrains, allowing one to prioritize performance or fuel economy. As such, EPA fuel economy estimates range from fair to fairly impressive.
All 2015 Ford Explorers, except for the Sport, come standard with a 3.5-liter V6 engine. It produces 290 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque and is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. With this engine, you have your choice of front-wheel drive or optional four-wheel drive (there is no low-range gearing). Four-wheel-drive models get hill descent control, hill start assist and Ford's Terrain Management System, a selectable four-mode system that optimizes traction electronically for different conditions.
In Edmunds testing, a four-wheel-drive Explorer Limited with the base V6 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds, while a lighter 4WD XLT model was slightly quicker at 8.1 seconds -- these are average times for a large crossover SUV. A front-drive V6 Explorer returns an EPA-estimated 20 mpg combined (17 city/24 highway), and four-wheel drive lowers mileage to a still-respectable 19 mpg combined (17/23). We managed to earn 20 mpg on Edmunds.com's 120-mile evaluation route.
Optional on all front-wheel-drive Ford Explorers is the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. It also uses the six-speed automatic transmission. In Edmunds testing, a four-cylinder-equipped Explorer went from zero to 60 mph in 9.1 seconds, which is on the slow side for the class. Fuel economy, however, is much more impressive at 23 mpg combined (20 city/28 highway).
The Explorer Sport is 4WD only, and it comes with a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine and the six-speed automatic. The turbo V6 puts out 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque, and the EPA estimates it will return 18 mpg combined (16 city/22 highway).
Properly equipped, an Explorer with either of the V6 engines can tow 5,000 pounds. With the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, max towing capacity is only 2,000 pounds.
Every 2015 Ford Explorer comes standard with stability and traction control, trailer sway control, front-seat 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.
Rear parking sensors are standard on all but the base Explorer. A rearview camera is standard on the Limited and Sport and optional on the XLT. The Limited and Sport can also be had with impending frontal-collision warning and brake priming (bundled with the adaptive cruise control), lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, a blind-spot warning system (with rear-cross traffic alert) and inflatable seatbelts for second-row outboard passengers.
In Edmunds brake testing, both the 4WD Explorer XLT and the Limited V6 stopped from 60 mph in 118 feet -- a good performance for a large crossover SUV. Meanwhile, the four-cylinder Explorer XLT did it in 130 feet, which is longer than average for this class.
In government crash tests, the Explorer earned a five-star rating (out of a possible five) for overall crash protection, with five stars for total front-impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave its top score of "Good" for the Explorer's performance in moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. It received the second-lowest rating of "Marginal" in the small-overlap frontal-offset test. Its seatbelts and head restraints earned a "Good" rating for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
The 2015 Ford Explorer has a very smooth ride quality on the highway, with good composure that gets only a little busier with the Limited model's 20-inch wheels over broken pavement. It's also particularly quiet on the inside, an added benefit for any highway journey. It handles securely in typical driving situations, but overall, it feels larger and less maneuverable than similarly sized rivals.
The same is true of the Explorer Sport, but thanks to its sport-tuned suspension and steering, it reacts more quickly to inputs and generally imparts greater driver confidence. And while the Sport gives up a bit of that cushy ride quality, the ride is still well within the realm of acceptability for this class of vehicle.
The Sport also comes with the turbocharged V6, which offers V8-like acceleration. But the reality is that the base V6 is powerful enough in most situations. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine is a viable option, too. It may seem a bit small for an SUV this large, but it provides adequate acceleration for daily use and, of course, better fuel mileage than you'd get with the V6.
Considering the price, the Explorer's interior is pretty well-trimmed. Materials are attractive and luxurious, with a soft-touch dashboard and precise-feeling controls. The front seats are very supportive, and the cabin is particularly quiet as well.
The optional MyFord Touch interface contributes to the premium vibe, as it adds a high-resolution display screen (plus two additional screens for the gauge cluster) and touch-sensitive audio and climate "buttons." We haven't been fond of this system in the past, as it was often slow to respond to inputs. However, ongoing year-to-year system improvements have made a difference, and in our most recent tests, MyFord Touch worked reasonably well. We also continue to like the usefulness of the Sync voice commands. That said, some rival infotainment systems are still easier to use.
The Explorer has 80 cubic feet of maximum cargo space, making it less spacious than the Dodge Durango and well below the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia. The third row is short on legroom and will fit only small children. The Explorer's second-row seats may be a bit disappointing for families as well, as there's not as much room to install rear-facing child safety seats -- something you'd expect to do with ease in a vehicle of this size. And while the Explorer has the commanding ride height expected in an SUV, its thick roof pillars and tall dash limit outward visibility. Even with all of the available parking aids, it's a handful in tight spaces.
2015 Ford Explorer models
The 2015 Ford Explorer is a large three-row crossover SUV available in four trim levels: base, XLT, Limited and Sport.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, rear privacy glass, roof rails, cruise control, full power accessories, air-conditioning, a 60/40-split second-row seat, 50/50-split third-row seat, a six-way power driver seat (manual recline), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 4.2-inch display screen and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The XLT adds upgraded brakes, foglights, rear parking sensors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a keyless entry code pad, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Sync (Ford's voice-activated phone/entertainment interface), a six-way power front passenger seat, satellite radio and a USB port.
For the XLT, the Equipment Group 201A package 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, an 8-inch touchscreen display (MyFord Touch), two USB ports, an SD card reader and upgraded Sync functionality. The 202A package includes all of the 201A equipment, plus leather upholstery, heated front seats and an eight-way power driver seat with power-adjustable lumbar. With the 202A package equipped, the Appearance package becomes available, and it adds 20-inch alloy wheels, body-colored door handles, leather seats with suede inserts and unique floor mats.
The Limited gets the XLT 202A's equipment, plus 20-inch wheels, keyless ignition and entry, remote engine start, driver memory settings, power-adjustable pedals, a 110-volt power outlet and a 12-speaker Sony sound system with HD radio. Optional for the Limited is the 301A package, which includes a power liftgate, a power-folding operation for the third-row seat, an eight-way power passenger seat, a heated and power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, ventilated front seats and a navigation system.
To this, the 302A package adds xenon headlights, automatic high-beam control, automatic windshield wipers, an automatic parallel-parking system, lane-departure and lane-keeping assist, a blind-spot warning system, rear cross-traffic alert and inflatable seatbelts for second-row outboard passengers. Adaptive cruise control with frontal-collision warning and brake priming is a stand-alone option. When the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is equipped, the 302A package becomes the 303A package, but the equipment is the same.
The Explorer Sport is equipped similarly to the Limited, but some of the Limited's standard features are optional here. You get different 20-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, front sport seats (with extra lateral bolstering) and unique interior and exterior trim details. The Sport's 401A package adds keyless ignition and entry, a power liftgate, 110-volt outlet, a front power passenger seat, driver memory settings, power-adjustable pedals, navigation system, ventilated front seats, a power-adjustable and heated steering wheel and the Limited's optional safety features. The adaptive cruise control is again optional.
Other options for the XLT, Limited and Sport include a dual-panel sunroof, second-row captain's chairs and a rear-seat entertainment system with dual headrest-mounted displays.
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful consumer reviews
5 out of 5 stars
Premium SUV without premium price
john adams, 02/23/2016
2015 Ford Explorer 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A)
Expert commentary on limited legroom is wrong. With almost 40 inches of legroom in second row and 33 inches in third row you have the upper end of leg room for this size vehicle. Additionally. second row is adjustable. Plenty of space for storage with 3rd seat down and useful space with it up. Bucket seats for second seat allows access to 3rd row without having to fold seats. Push … button option for folding 2nd and 3rd row seats makes configuration simple. Ingress to and egress of vehicle is very easy. Limited model has practical options to include heated and cooled front seats and heated second row seats. Push button folding rear view mirrors helps in tight parking spaces. Back up camera great size. Ride is smooth, comfortable, and quiet. Gas mileage is low to mid-20's in combination of city and highway driving. Brakes are solid. Functionality of design, ease of driving, and excellent ride are hard combination to beat and continue to impress with age. While competitors may have one or two features that stand out more than the Explorer, few are able to optimize the real world usefulness that this car has. Routine maintenance and two recalls in 70,000 miles. Our concern in buying car was the technology of vehicle which some reviewers said was difficult to use, non-intuitive, etc. As two 70 plus year old non-techs, we have been pleased with the ease with which we have learned to use what we want and need. While we may not use all the tech features, the ones we use daily have been helpful in driving the vehicle and easy to use, particularly the large screen back up camera and phone connectivity.
3 out of 5 stars
Awesome concept but I must have gotten a lemon
2015 Ford Explorer Limited 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A)
I test drove a bunch of SUVs in this class during my search and I must say the overall design and appeal of Explorer captured my attention and made it stand out. I test drove a fully equipped sport edition first and while I absolutely loved the performance of EcoBoost, it lacked some safety features such as lane assist or blind spot monitoring and only came in AWD, which here in Phoenix … area isn't needed much. So I opted for Limited Edition for its safety/equipment/price and settled for the somewhat mediocre performance of the regular 3.5L V6. Purchase process was smooth and I drove off the lot at Bell Ford in Phoenix same day. First few days were fine and I bragged to everyone I know how much I love the vehicle. Engine performance was nothing to write home about, but brakes were great, instrumentation and sound system were great, the vehicle was very roomy even with 7 in the car. 3rd row is one of the most spacious in the class for sure. Overall ride quality is very nice. Ride softness could be improved as during otherwise very quiet operation one could feel every crack in the pavement. But that stiffness gave it very stable ride, which is a great plus on highways and in tight turns. My whole family loved the car! Now the bad - At around 700 miles things went south and have been deteriorating since. I spent years working on cars when I was younger, and bought / sold many in the last 25 or so years of driving. So I may feel the car a bit more than an average driver but I don't consider myself picky when it comes to overall performance of any vehicle. I don't normally look for perfection but what I started experiencing is something completely off. The transmission began slipping from second to third gear, pretty badly at that too. It felt like the definition of slippage. Torque was almost completely lost while shifting from second to third gear, RPM would shoot up another 1000 or so, and then the gear would re-engage a second later. I'm not heavy footed either, by any stretch of imagination. And the tranny would do this at any level, higher or lower RPM, gunning or taking it easy. I brought the car to Bell Ford for inspection at 800 miles and after a day in the shop was told that no issues were found. I drove off and given that it's all under warranty continued driving as-is. Things, got worse with milage and soon more symptoms of trouble were apparent. Transmission would jolt and jerk shifting during very easy driving shifting from second to third, and even later in the stack from 4th to 5th. Slippage still occurs to this day although a lot more prominent while cold and less when hot. Jerking and kicking happens at any temperature. I took the car to another dealer at 10K - Peoria Ford, after leaving the car there for two days while paying for my own rental, I was told the specialist could not re-create any of the issues I mentioned :(. This was the last draw as even my 10 year old could sense the abnormal, unpredictable behavior with the tranny while riding around with me. My wife refuses to drive the car now altogether. I'm afraid to drive it long distances. I just drove to Denver and back and after couple of hours on the freeway if I got off to get food or gas, the transmission shifting issues were more pronounced than ever. The slipping, hesitation, jolting got worse. I'm not sure where to go from here but I would hesitate to ever buy another ford given the dealer support and expertise I received so far. This is actually my second run-in with Ford transmission issues as I had problems with a 2011 Taurus I owned before with very similar issues but at around 55K miles. But all that is for another review. Update 10/27/16 with 26K miles: Transmission issues persist but two different dealers could not identify it, so we're still driving it around until it completely dies, which seams to be the only way for Ford to "look into" it. I'm really starting to dislike the Sync system as it's getting slower and less responsive with age. Every touch takes one to few seconds to respond, and since 95% of all function manipulation is through Sync touch system, it really gets to you after a while. I know on 2016 models they improved instrumentation with more real buttons for stereo, climate, seats...etc, but the '11-15 gen is all touch. A very recent new development (haven't had a chance to have our dealer look into this) - every once in a while I'll start the car, and as soon as gear is shifted to R the moonroof opens, literrally slides back by itself with no input whatsoever. I just close it and move on with my life for now, but it's certainly one of the weirdest things I've experienced with this car. Now the good - milage per gallon is still great, around 21MPG mixed driving, which is awesome for this size vehicle. It is still very comfy for long drives. Mountain driving in steep hills is a bit challenging still due to engine performance, but overall our long drives to CA, northern AZ, CO, NV, NM were all fun.
5 out of 5 stars
Surprisingly efficient and fun
2015 Ford Explorer XLT 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A)
We just drove our 2015 Ford Explorer XLT on an 800 mile trip. The ride is very comfortable for a 6 foot tall 200 pound driver. Lots of room and support in the seat. The touch controls took a little getting used to the sensitivity but once that was accomplished they are intuitive and easy to operate. Without studying the owners manual in detail I was able to operate everything except … the windshield washer button which I found after reading the manual. The car rides and handles very well at highway speeds and on twisting roads. The gas mileage averaged 23.4 mpg for the trip. The ride was quiet and conversations were easily conducted at all times.
5 out of 5 stars
Best Car for your money
2015 Ford Explorer Limited 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A)
I traded in my 2008 Honda Odyssey for the new 2015 Explorer Limited and boy do I love it! As much as I loved the function of the minivan, I was ready for something "cooler". It was really hard finding a midsize SUV that could compete with the space of the minivan and believe me I looked! I was just about sold on the Toyota Highlander, but then I decided to look at the Explorer. I'm so … glad I did because there is a lot more room in the back and the seats are much more comfortable. With 3 children, I had to have something with 3 rows up all the time. It is extremely fun to drive and the boys on my son's baseball team fight over who gets to ride with us. I'm finally a "cool" mom! :)
2015 Explorer Highlights
|Engine Type||Flex-fuel (ffv)|
|Combined MPG||20 MPG|
|Cost to Drive||$193/month|
|Cargo Capacity |
All Seats In Place
|Drivetrain||front wheel drive|
|Warranty||3 years / 36,000 miles|
NHTSA Overall Rating5 out of 5 stars
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
- Frontal Barrier Crash RatingOverall5 / 5Driver4 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Side Crash RatingOverall5 / 5
- Side Barrier RatingOverall5 / 5Driver5 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsFront Seat5 / 5Back Seat5 / 5
- RolloverRollover4 / 5Dynamic Test ResultNo TipRisk Of Rollover16.9%
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
- Small Overlap Front Driver-Side TestNot Tested
- Small Overlap Front Passenger-Side TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front Test – OriginalGood
- Moderate Overlap Front Test – UpdatedNot Tested
- Side Impact Test – OriginalGood
- Side Impact Test – UpdatedNot Tested
- Roof Strength TestGood
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintGood
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