The Ford Explorer is widely regarded as the catalyst that started America's love affair with the SUV back in the early 1990s. Certainly there were SUVs before the Explorer, but they were mostly utilitarian in nature. The Explorer was the first go-to SUV for the car-buying public. Throughout its life, the Ford Explorer has delivered versatility, a reasonable amount of comfort, affordability and, perhaps most importantly, more style than a station wagon or minivan.
Early generations of the Explorer were built like trucks, but newer Explorers are much more carlike in both construction and road manners. It's given up some off-road prowess over the decades — though it's still more competent in the dirt than many competitors — in exchange for improved handling, ride quality, fuel efficiency, acceleration, and better interior materials with more luxury and technology options. The justifiably popular Explorer should be part of any serious SUV search.
Current Ford Explorer
The Ford Explorer offers a quiet cabin made with quality materials, seating for seven, and a range of engine choices. With all the bells and whistles, the top trims rival luxury offerings for performance, comfort and technology. Dipping into the options menu can quickly add cost, but the Explorer has a lot to offer buyers.
There are five trim levels: base, XLT, Limited, Sport and Platinum. Though even the base version comes well-equipped, moving up the list provides luxuries such as leather seating, the Sync voice command system, a rearview camera, keyless ignition and entry, and upgraded audio systems. In addition to its potent engine, the Sport trim features a sport-tuned suspension as well as unique interior and exterior trim details. Optional highlights (depending on trim level) include a navigation system, a rear-seat entertainment system, adaptive cruise control, a heated steering wheel and even an automatic parallel parking system. Stability control and a multitude of airbags are standard, with blind-spot and collision warning systems available on upper trims.
A 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 is standard on all but the Sport trim, which comes with a turbocharged version good for 365 hp. Optional on all but the Sport and Titanium is a fuel-efficient turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder that makes 280 horsepower and returns 22 mpg combined (19 city/27 highway). All engines are hooked up to a six-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive is standard on all but the Sport and Titanium, which have all-wheel drive standard. The latter is optional for all other Explorers.
In reviews, we've found the Ford Explorer to be one of the best choices for a family-oriented SUV. It drives well, gets good fuel economy for its class, and still retains the versatility that made people like SUVs in the first place. Fitted with most of its optional high-tech features, the Explorer is also one of the most advanced SUVs available, luxury brand or not. The Explorer's most notable downside is that it doesn't provide as much third-row and cargo space as some rival large crossover SUVs. Our favorite version is definitely the Sport for its buttoned-down handling and improved steering response. Other trims can seem sluggish with the smaller engines, and handling can feel a bit ponderous.
Read the most recent 2017 Ford Explorer review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Ford Explorer page.
For more on past Ford Explorer models, view our Ford Explorer history page.