Looking for a great three-row crossover SUV with outstanding quietness and quality cabin trimmings? The 2017 Ford Explorer might be a good fit. Here's a quick rundown of what we like, what we don't and the bottom line from the Edmunds editors.
MARK TAKAHASHI: I'm Edmunds editor Mark Takahashi. And here's your Expert Rundown of the 2017 Ford Explorer. The Ford Explorer has a ton of trim levels from basic to luxurious. We like the Sport model, in particular, because it's a little easier to drive, while other models feel a bit heavy and overly soft. You get three different engine choices, our favorite being the caboose V6, though fuel economy could be better. Unlike most SUVs in this class, you can have all three rows filled with passengers and still have plenty of room for cargo. Second row, you can get either a bench or captain's chairs. And to add a little convenience, they can be optioned with power folding, so that you don't really have to keep crawling back and forth to get stuff in. Here's the bottom line on the Ford Explorer. We like its space. We like the Sport trim and the V6. It competes well against the Dodge Durango, GMC Acadia, and Honda Pilot.
Vehicle Overview When it comes to hauling a larger family around, shoppers who don't want to go the minivan route often turn to midsize SUVs. And in the world of three-row SUVs, the 2017 Ford Explorer is one of the most well-rounded.
The new model year sees the introduction of a package available on XLT model Explorers called the Sport Appearance package. Added features include dark gray accents on the 20-inch wheels, grille, mirror caps and rear bumper appliqué along with black side moldings, roof rails and an Explorer hood badge. The package gives buyers the look of a Sport model without having to make the jump to the large turbocharged engine and Sport-level hardware. Inside, the package adds two-tone seats and door trim done up in dark gray leather and suede, as well as logo floor mats.
Additionally, XLT and higher grade models have the option to upgrade to Ford’s new Sync 3 infotainment system, which is more intuitive and quicker responding than the previous MyFord Touch system. The touchscreen uses swipe and pinch gestures and enhanced voice recognition with Siri integration. And when updates are available, the system will automatically update over Wi-Fi.
The Explorer spans a wide price range, from the low $30Ks for a base model to nearly $60K for the fully loaded Platinum trim, and its road mannerisms vary about as much as well. Where the base model makes do with less power and drives bigger than it looks, the Sport trim’s sharper handling and punchy turbo V6 engine shrink the Explorer from behind the wheel. There’s seating for up to seven passengers, which falls behind others in the segment that will carry eight, but it offers an above-average towing capacity of 5,000 pounds when properly equipped.
Naturally, there are other good options for three-row SUVs to consider. If you’re looking to maximize your cargo space and towing capability, the 2017 Chevrolet Traverse is worth checking out. There’s also the all-new 2017 GMC Acadia, which is slightly smaller than the previous model but more efficient. Both the Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander are excellent options thanks to their big cabins and comfortable rides.
Performance and MPG Standard on the base and XLT trim levels is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 290 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. With this engine, you have your choice of standard front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive. The latter gets hill descent control, hill start assist and Ford's Terrain Management System, which is a driver-selectable system that optimizes traction for a variety of driving situations.
According to the EPA, a front-wheel-drive 2017 Explorer with the V6 will deliver 20 mpg combined (17 city/24 highway). With all-wheel drive, the V6 drops slightly to 19 mpg combined (16 city/23 highway). In Edmunds testing, an AWD Explorer Limited with the base V6 went from zero to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds, which is about average for this size of vehicle.
Optional on base, XLT and now standard on Limited Explorers is the fuel sipper of the group, a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 280 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive are standard; all-wheel drive is optional. Fuel economy rises to 22 mpg combined (19 city/27 highway) with front-wheel drive and 21 mpg combined (18 city/25 highway) with AWD. Properly equipped, the four-cylinder Explorer can tow 3,000 pounds.
The Explorer Sport and Platinum trims come with a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine rated at 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive are standard. The EPA says to expect 18 mpg combined (16 city/22 highway). Properly equipped, an Explorer with either of the V6 engines can tow 5,000 pounds. In Edmunds testing, the Sport and Platinum models delivered a zero to 60 mph time of 6.3 seconds, which is very quick for this segment.
Safety Standard safety equipment for the 2017 Ford Explorer includes 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.
A rearview camera is standard on the Explorer, while a 180-degree front camera is optional. Rear parking sensors are also standard on all but the base Explorer. Optional on the Limited and Sport but standard on the Platinum is a forward collision warning system with brake priming (bundled with the adaptive cruise control), lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist (Limited only), a blind-spot monitoring system (with rear-cross traffic alert) and inflatable seat belts for second-row outboard passengers. You can now get blind-spot monitoring with rear-cross traffic in the XLT this year as well.
In Edmunds testing, an AWD Explorer Limited with all-season tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 118 feet, a few feet shorter than average. An Explorer Sport with summer performance tires stopped in just 108 feet, a remarkable stopping distance for a vehicle of this size and weight.
In government crash tests, last year's 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 front-impact, side-impact and roof strength tests. It received the second-lowest rating of Marginal in the small-overlap front-impact test. Its seat belts and head restraints earned a Good rating for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Additional Information Despite its practicality, a minivan is not every large-ish family's cup of vehicular tea. Some folks prefer a midsize three-row SUV to tote the kids and carry the cargo. Within that genre, the 2017 Ford Explorer stands as a well-rounded choice. Able to seat up to seven, the Explorer comes in a wide range of trim levels and offers a number of powertrains and family-friendly features.
New for this year, Ford's available Sync 3 infotainment system proves more intuitive and responsive than the previous MyFord Touch system. Just like a smartphone or tablet, the Sync 3 touchscreen uses swipe and pinch gestures. It also has enhanced voice recognition with Siri integration. One needn't worry about updating the system, as updates are done automatically via Wi-Fi.
The 2017 Ford Explorer family comprises five trim levels, ranging from the well-equipped base model on up to the plush Platinum. Under the hood, engine choices include a turbocharged four-cylinder and a pair of V6s, with one being turbocharged. Output runs from a respectable 280 horsepower to a muscular 365 horses. Lower trims offer a choice between front-wheel drive (FWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD), while upper trims are AWD-only. EPA fuel mileage estimates range from 18 mpg combined (16 city/22 highway) for the turbo V6 with AWD to 22 mpg combined (19 city/27 highway) for the turbo-four with FWD.
Even the base 2017 Ford Explorer comes with niceties such as LED headlights and alloy wheels. Highlights of the Sport trim include the turbocharged V6 and a sport-tuned suspension, while the Platinum pampers with a large dual-panel sunroof and a power-adjustable, heated steering wheel. Newly optional for the XLT trim is the Sport Appearance package, which provides much of the Sport trim level's styling pizzazz but at a lower price point because it does without the Sport's high-performance hardware.
A wealth of standard and optional safety features bolsters the 2017 Ford Explorer's résumé. Depending on trim level and specification, technologies such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning can help prevent or mitigate accidents.
Although the 2017 Ford Explorer is generally a smooth, quiet and pleasant-to-drive SUV, most versions tend to feel quite large from the driver seat. The Explorer Sport changes that to some extent — its sharper handling, quicker steering and more spirited performance give it a nimbler and more manageable feel on winding roads. On the towing front, the Explorer can handle up to 5,000 pounds, translating to above-average capacity in this regard.
Within the wide-ranging Explorer lineup you're bound to find something suitable. But no matter what your preferences are, Edmunds is ready to help you find the 2017 Ford Explorer that's just right for your needs.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.