2018 Ford Explorer Review

Pros & Cons

  • Plenty of high-tech features that are easy to use
  • Optional turbocharged V6 engine delivers plentiful power
  • Cabin is quiet and comfortable on the highway
  • Cargo space is generous behind the third row
  • Depending on trim level, feels big and ponderous from behind the wheel
  • Legroom in the third row is subpar
List Price Range
$18,995 - $39,995

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Which Explorer does Edmunds recommend?

Our favorite version of the 2018 Ford Explorer is easily the Sport. It eradicates the ponderousness of non-Sport versions while maintaining excellent ride composure. The Sport doesn't compromise the Explorer's quiet demeanor either, despite its relatively low-profile 20-inch wheels. On top of that, its turbocharged V6 is plenty powerful, and you'll find it to be the engine of choice if you plan to do a lot of towing or hauling.

Edmunds' Expert Review

Overall rating

When Ford introduced the current generation of the Explorer back in 2011, it switched from the Explorer's traditional body-on-frame construction to a more carlike unibody. In so doing, the Explorer more fully (and smartly) embraced its role as daily family transport, delivering better road manners and much more refinement.

The Explorer is now entering the eighth model year of its current generation, yet it is still competitive. In the meantime, deciding on a three-row crossover SUV has gotten even harder. Today, the Explorer doesn't have the biggest cargo capacity in its class, and its third-row seat isn't tremendously spacious.

While we give the Sport trim level a solid thumbs-up, other trim levels aren't quite as impressive to drive, exhibiting more ponderous routine handling that makes the Explorer feel bigger than it is. Under the hood is your choice of one of three engines: a V6, a turbocharged four-cylinder or a turbocharged V6. Of the three, we like the turbocharged V6 the most. It delivers terrific thrust, which you'll like for highway passing and towing, but unfortunately it's only available with the more expensive trim levels.

Overall, though, the 2018 Ford Explorer gets most things right, and we see it as a respectable choice for a three-row midsize SUV.

2018 Ford Explorer models

There are five different ways to configure your 2018 Ford Explorer: the base, XLT, Limited, Sport and Platinum trim levels, which cover a broad swath of features. The base, XLT and Limited models are available in front-wheel or all-wheel drive, while the Sport and Platinum are offered solely with all-wheel drive. Regardless of trim level, every Explorer is equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission. For 2018, many driver assistance features (adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and intervention, automatic wipers and automatic high beams) have been grouped together into a single options package.

Explorer Base


Base models, predictably, sit at the very bottom of the Explorer range. These models have 18-inch wheels, cloth upholstery and manually adjustable front seats, though a rearview camera and Sync voice commands spruce up things a bit.

Explorer XLT


The XLT trim level is one rung up the ladder, adding a few standard features over the base trim level and desirable options that aren't available on base variants at all. With its balance between features and value, a well-equipped XLT will be a popular version of the Explorer. A non-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 (290 horsepower, 255 pound-feet of torque) is standard on the base and XLT variants, while a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (280 hp, 310 lb-ft of torque) is available as an option.

Explorer Limited


Buyers who want to amp things up will be attracted to the Limited model, which adds leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, power-adjustable pedals, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, premium audio and power-folding third-row seats. Note that the Limited comes standard with the turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but you can still get the regular V6 if you want.

Explorer Sport


While those additional comfort items are desirable, we're partial to the Sport variant's more fundamental changes. These models come with a powerful turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 (365 hp, 350 lb-ft of torque), firmer suspension tuning and a towing package.

Explorer Platinum


It's possible to get the turbocharged V6 paired to the softer suspension of non-Sport models by going for the top-of-the-line Platinum trim level. It comes with a panoramic sunroof, an automated parking system, premium leather upholstery, a premium audio system and more.

Trim tested

There are typically multiple versions of each vehicle, although many aspects are shared. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2016 Ford Explorer Sport (turbo 3.5L V6 | 6-speed automatic | AWD).

NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current Explorer has received a new infotainment system and minor revisions to feature availability. Our findings remain applicable to this year's Explorer.

Driving

Unlike other models dubbed "Sport," the 2017 Explorer Sport is indeed sporty, thanks to its turbocharged 3.5-liter V6, stiffer suspension tuning, quicker steering and our test vehicle's optional summer performance tires. The result is lots of speed and impressive handling and braking.

Acceleration

There's lots of "boost," not much "eco," with the EcoBoost V6. It has instant, effortless power anytime you touch the gas pedal. The six-speed automatic is smooth and smart about using the 350 lb-ft of torque; zero to 60 mph takes just 6.3 seconds, which is excellent for a big three-row crossover.

Braking

The brakes don't feel overly powerful, but they get the job done. The pedal has a nice linear action around town, and it's easy to stop smoothly. We recorded a remarkable stopping distance from 60 mph of 108 feet, thanks largely to the (optional) sticky summer tires.

Steering

Well-tuned electric steering system and natural assist level; it turns in with immediacy. Good heft at speed but light enough for parking-lot duty. Feedback could be improved, but overall it's excellent for this class.

Handling

The Sport's stiffer suspension and optional performance tires transform the Explorer. Body roll is kept to a minimum, the tires give good grip, and it doesn't feel floaty. The suspension does a good job soaking up midcorner bumps, too.

Drivability

The gas pedal can be a bit abrupt on initial tip-in. The optional adaptive cruise control is ultraconsistent and never varies by more than 1 mph; the transmission downshifts to maintain speed. Always available power makes merging into fast traffic simple.

Off-road

The Explorer Sport comes with all-wheel drive, including a four-position controller for the Terrain Management System, letting you toggle between Normal, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Grass/Gravel/Snow modes. Still, this is all for enhancing on-pavement traction, not conquering trails.

Comfort

Given the Explorer Sport's handling prowess, we expected ride quality to suffer. We were wrong. Although it loses a small degree of overall plush compared to the regular Explorer, the tauter handling is worth the minor trade-off. The seats are comfy, except in the third row.

Seat comfort

The reasonably wide and flat front seats are cushy with good support. Nicely padded armrests. The optional second-row buckets have excellent comfort but no inner armrests. The third-row upper seatback is hard and has awkward outer armrests.

Ride comfort

The Sport's stiffer suspension tuning means you'll feel more bumps and ruts on the road than you will in a regular Explorer, but it's still pretty comfy. The 20-inch wheels make deep potholes harsh, but the suspension is surprisingly compliant given the improved handling.

Noise & vibration

A quiet SUV. The tires are unusually silent for their size and performance-bent. Wind noise is barely noticeable, too. At full throttle, the turbocharged V6 takes on a V8-like tonal quality.

Interior

We're glad Ford finally got rid of the touch-sensitive controls on the Explorer's center stack. We highly recommend the optional sliding second-row bucket seats — you lose a seat but gain comfort as well as better third-row access and space. Rear visibility is a problem.

Ease of use

The all-new Sync 3 technology interface works far better than previous versions. Radio tuning uses a button; volume, a grippy knob. Handy, configurable gauge screens.

Getting in/getting out

The long and wide-opening front doors make for a big entryway. Noticeable step-down from the second row; shorter-legged folks will brush their legs on the doorsill, but hitting heads is not an issue. Second-row captain's chairs make for easy third-row access.

Driving position

Most drivers will find it easy to get in a good position that feels comfortable and affords a good view. On the downside, once situated the armrests can be too far away for some to use comfortably.

Roominess

Super airy up front, with a long dash, loads of headroom and elbow space. The second-row captain's chairs recline and, unlike the standard bench seat, slide fore and aft. Third-row headroom is good for average-size adults, but knee- and footroom are extremely tight.

Visibility

Expansive windshield and tall windows. The windshield roof pillars are thick at the bottom, though, which hampers your ability to easily look through turns. The rear view is also limited by thick pillars. Getting the optional parking sensors and other driver safety aids will help out.

Quality

A well-made SUV. Plenty of soft-touch materials throughout the cabin; the steering wheel has quality leather; the trim pieces look good and fit together well. The only flaw we noticed was an occasional dash rattle that we couldn't pinpoint.

Utility

The cargo area's deep well is useful even if the total cargo volume isn't exceptional. There's a good variety of cabin storage overall.

Small-item storage

Anti-tip cupholders, long door pockets, a huge center console bin. The forward bin is covered but oddly shaped.

Cargo space

The deep well behind the third row provides a superior amount of space. Total capacity of 81.7 cubic feet is on the small end for the segment.

Child safety seat accommodation

Installing certain rear-facing child seats in the middle of the second row makes it difficult to use the outboard seat belts. Two child seats can fit easily in the outboard positions, but some seat manufacturers don't recommend using them in conjunction with Ford's optional inflatable seat belts.

Towing

Electronic trailer sway control and a Class III trailer tow package come standard on the Explorer Sport. Both the base V6 and this EcoBoost V6 are rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds, with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost at 3,000 pounds.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2018 Ford Explorer.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

After 11 Beemers, a Ford
Billy Scholtz,04/24/2018
XLT 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A)
After 11 BMW's and 2 3 stars, I thought to give an American car a try. My friends recommended the explorer. What a total surprise. I simply love it. Wish I had bought one years ago... Mine is 2018 XLT.
What you’d expect
Mark Schoenhals,10/28/2018
XLT 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 6A)
Nice and comfy. However, don’t be surprised about poor fuel economy with the V6. Brakes are weak, pick up is acceptable. Utility is great. Great seats for long drive.
Worst car we’ve owned
M Anderson,12/26/2018
Platinum 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl Turbo 6A)
We have had problems with this car from day one, dead battery after dead battery. Dealership can not find a reason for the problem. The car has been in the shop for 50 days with no resolution and FORD refuses the acknowledge or do anything about it!! I would not recommend this car to anyone, it’s a real LEMON. I’ll Take a Toyota any day!
How to buy any new car... at the best price
Justin watts,03/01/2018
XLT 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A)
The Ford Explorer is a Great SUV... it’s very nimble. The dash is a bit deep but you get used to it. Makes the interior spacious for front seat and passenger. I want to share my car buying formula to get the best deal..... whatever MSRP price the dealer gives you.. take that number and deduct 15% to 20% off the price and INCLUDE the tax and license and that will be the best rock bottom price for any car you buy and shop as many dealers as you can.... this is my opinion but it has worked for me. I bought my 2018 Ford Explorer XLT with aftermarket leather added and had 20 inch wheels installed as part of sports appearance package. My out the door price was $41,700. Not too bad!

Features & Specs

MPG
16 city / 23 hwy
Seats 7
6-speed shiftable automatic
Flex-fuel (ffv)
290 hp @ 6500 rpm
MPG
17 city / 24 hwy
Seats 7
6-speed shiftable automatic
Flex-fuel (ffv)
290 hp @ 6500 rpm
MPG
16 city / 22 hwy
Seats 7
6-speed shiftable automatic
Gas
365 hp @ 5500 rpm
MPG
19 city / 27 hwy
Seats 7
6-speed shiftable automatic
Gas
280 hp @ 5600 rpm
See all Used 2018 Ford Explorer features & specs

Safety

Our experts like the Explorer models:

Collision Warning with Brake Support
Alerts the driver to an impending forward collision and precharges brakes to shorten stopping distance.
Lane Keeping System
Vibrates the steering wheel and reduces steering effort if the car veers toward the edge of its lane.
Blind Spot Information System
Senses vehicles in adjacent lanes and illuminates a warning in the side mirrors.

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 Rollover16.4%
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Good
  • Roof Strength Test
    Good
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Good
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Good

More about the 2018 Ford Explorer
Used 2018 Ford Explorer Overview

The Used 2018 Ford Explorer is offered in the following submodels: Explorer SUV. Available styles include XLT 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 6A), XLT 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A), Sport 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl Turbo 6A), Limited 4dr SUV (2.3L 4cyl Turbo 6A), Platinum 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl Turbo 6A), Limited 4dr SUV AWD (2.3L 4cyl Turbo 6A), 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 6A), and 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 6A).

What's a good price on a Used 2018 Ford Explorer?

Price comparisons for Used 2018 Ford Explorer trim styles:

  • The Used 2018 Ford Explorer XLT is priced between $19,999 and$33,000 with odometer readings between 4719 and85326 miles.
  • The Used 2018 Ford Explorer Sport is priced between $23,988 and$35,232 with odometer readings between 21451 and90190 miles.
  • The Used 2018 Ford Explorer Limited is priced between $22,995 and$32,500 with odometer readings between 17853 and61610 miles.
  • The Used 2018 Ford Explorer Base is priced between $18,995 and$24,412 with odometer readings between 8482 and76297 miles.
  • The Used 2018 Ford Explorer Platinum is priced between $39,995 and$39,995 with odometer readings between 12570 and12570 miles.

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Which used 2018 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) 2018 Ford Explorer for sale near. There are currently 79 used and CPO 2018 Explorers listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $18,995 and mileage as low as 4719 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 2018 Ford Explorer.

Can't find a used 2018 Ford Explorers you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Ford Explorer for sale - 3 great deals out of 7 listings starting at $25,192.

Find a used Ford for sale - 4 great deals out of 12 listings starting at $19,317.

Find a used certified pre-owned Ford Explorer for sale - 5 great deals out of 12 listings starting at $11,789.

Find a used certified pre-owned Ford for sale - 11 great deals out of 13 listings starting at $23,150.

Should I lease or buy a 2018 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.

Check out Ford lease specials
Check out Ford Explorer lease specials