2017 Ford Explorer Review
Available with plenty of features and three distinctly different engines, the 2017 Ford Explorer has a lot to offer if you're shopping for a three-row crossover SUV. Its outstanding quietness and quality cabin trimmings elevate this practical do-all crossover to the front of the segment.
A household name among American carbuyers, the Ford Explorer has evolved from its long-ago roots as a body-on-frame SUV into the comprehensively modern three-row crossover it is today. Depending on trim level and options (and how deep your pockets are), it can be downright luxurious. Our preference for the Sport arises from the "drives big" nature of other non-Sport trim levels — though comfortable, the soft suspension and numb steering of non-Sport models make their driving experience oddly ponderous.
Aside from that, though, there is an awful lot to credit to the Explorer. You can configure an Explorer that keeps things relatively basic, or you can go all-in on luxury. Versatility is a strong suit, too. You have your choice of three engines. You can get it with a second-row bench or captain's chairs and option the second and/or third row with power-folding functionality. Lots of cargo space is standard.
trim levels & features
The 2017 Ford Explorer seats six or seven passengers, depending on how you equip it. There are five trim levels: base, XLT, Limited, Sport and Platinum. Three engines are available, and all models are equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission. The Sport and Platinum have all-wheel drive only, while Base, XLT and Limited models are available in front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Base Explorers have the basics covered, but going up one notch to the XLT gets you a few extra features plus access to more desirable options. The Limited and Sport have similar features, while the Platinum tops off the Explorer line as the fully loaded trim.
Entry-level base models have the basics covered with their 3.5-liter V6 (290 horsepower, 255 pound-feet of torque), 18-inch wheels, rearview camera, cruise control, rear climate controls, a 60/40-split second-row seat, 50/50-split third-row seat, an eight-way power driver seat (with manual recline), a 4.2-inch dashboard display screen, Sync (Ford's voice-activated phone and entertainment interface), Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system.
Going up one notch to the XLT trim adds a few features as standard, but the real draw is that it grants access to desirable options that aren't offered on base variants. We expect many buyers will find their needs met by an XLT with a few extra options added.
Base and XLT trims also offer an optional turbocharged 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (280 hp, 310 lb-ft of torque) engine. It's more fuel-efficient than the regular V6, but depending on how you drive, you might not realize a whole lot of savings. The V6 is our preferred choice of the two.
Limited models come with the turbo four-cylinder engine as standard (the V6 is optional) and add more comfort and convenience items such as leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, power-adjustable pedals, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel, an 8-inch touchscreen display with the new Sync 3 interface, a nine-speaker sound system and power-folding third-row seats.
It's nice, but we prefer the more substantive changes ushered in by the Sport variant. It has most of the Limited's features but comes with a gutsy turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 (365 hp, 360 lb-ft of torque) and sport-oriented suspension tuning.
Likewise, range-topping Platinum trim levels are offered solely with the turbo V6 but not the unique suspension and steering tuning of Sport models. Platinum variants make standard the features offered as options on lesser trim levels. The result is the kitchen sink of comfort and driver assistance features to suit the most well-heeled buyers. Highlights include a panoramic sunroof, a parking assistance system, adaptive cruise control, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and a 12-speaker Sony audio system. For the Platinum, a rear-seat entertainment system and power-folding second-row captain's chairs are optional.
Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2016 Ford Explorer Sport (3.5L turbo V6; AWD; 6-speed automatic).
NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current Explorer has received only revisions. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's Explorer.
Noise & vibration
Ease of use
Getting in/getting out
Child safety seat accommodation
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.