Ford Explorer Performance
According to our analysis, the 2008 Ford Explorer's performance is adequate, though less than spectacular. Car and Driver says the Explorer will "go, corner, and stop well enough, but excitement is absent."
Last year, the Explorer underwent a top-to-bottom overhaul, which resulted in what most reviewers consider a more refined ride. Popular Mechanics writes, "The Explorer isn't as carlike as a true crossover SUV, yet it does ride and handle well compared to the vehicles in its class. A standout? No. But a capable SUV that can tow a real trailer, that's a definite yes." After its major redesign last year, the Explorer now has a stiffer frame, resulting in what the calls a "smooth, comfortable and eerily quiet" ride. Kelley Blue Book sums up the general consensus, commenting, "Although the 2008 Ford Explorer succeeds in being both smoother and more responsive than any previous model, it still drives like a big, truck-based SUV when compared to a select few of its competitors, many of which deliver almost sedan-like ride and handling. "
Acceleration and Power
The V6 engine nets 210 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. The V8 creates 292 horsepower 300 pound-feet of torque. Kelley Blue Book concedes that the Explorer with the V8 "is the most powerful model yet," but points out that many drivers won't need it, saying, "We found the V6 had more than enough output to meet our daily-driver demands." Edmunds finds that the optional V8 "lifts the Explorer off the line with decent escape velocity, but the midrange passing power was noticeably less Mustang-like -- this truck's torque is used for towing." New Car Test Drive judges both the V8 and V6 "pleasant and competent," but also recommends the V8 for towing, adding that the "fuel economy hit is negligible."
The Environmental Protection Agency gives the two-wheel drive V6, with a five-speed automatic transmission, an estimated fuel economy of 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 miles per gallon on the highway. The V8 gets an estimated 13 miles per gallon in the city and 20 miles per gallon on the highway.
The V8 is matched with a six-speed automatic transmission, while the V6 is paired with a five-speed. Like many reviewers, Consumer Guide finds that, during acceleration, the "transmission changes gears smoothly" and "delivers quick part-throttle downshifts for fine around-town response." The says, "The auto six-speed is about as smooth as a continuously variable transmission." The selector lever is mounted on the floor. And while most reviewers are pleased with its performance, MSN thinks "the selector is too touchy when quickly moved from one gear to another and thus can cause a driver to 'overshoot' a gear."
Handling and Braking
The Explorer's 2006 redesign gave it a more rigid frame and redesigned front and rear independent suspension. "The big mid-size SUV is noticeably smoother and more stable out on the highway" because of the changes, says Kelley Blue Book. New Car Test Drive suggests that the Explorer "rides better. It also leans less in corners." U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman concurs, saying, "Handling is smoother than on the trucky Explorers of yore. There's less bounce and a tighter grip on turns, bringing the Explorer closer to the carlike handling that has made crossovers popular." However, Car and Driver argues, "You're still always aware you're driving a truck."
MSN comments, "The Explorer feels plenty solid," but then voices a common complaint: "The power steering allows quick moves, but is heavy -- especially at lower speeds." A reviewer at the says that the steering is "heavier than I would have liked, making for a tougher time when I wanted to park, for instance."
Thewrites, "Until I got the hang of the steering, I was letting the Explorer drift to the right and left edges of the freeway lanes." And while the says that the steering "demands constant attention," it concludes, "Otherwise, the Explorer posed no driving challenges. It's classified as an SUV, and while it seems larger once you're in it, it's quite maneuverable and handles abrupt directional changes smoothly. There is body lean and roll, but neither is extreme under normal driving conditions."
Four-wheel disc brakes with brake force distribution and brake assist do a good job of bringing the Explorer to a halt. MSN finds "stopping distances are OK," while New Car Test Drive writes, "The brakes work well, with much less pedal pressure and travel than before." The brakes "produced 60 to 0 stops in a fine 125 feet," according to Motor Week.
Beyond the asphalt, the Ford Explorer performs well. The The Auto Channel writes, "Ford's efforts to resist head toss, an aptly descriptive term, made our rough road driving a comfortable experience. In less sophisticated SUVs your head is tossed about like pins at a bowling alley. Explorer exhibits a very minimal amount."observes, "The off-road-capable suspension absorbed rough pavement and potholes competently during some very mild off-roading."
The Car and Driver says that the Explorer is "so adept at soaking up basketball-size boulders and potholes that it's like riding in a Range Rover." The agrees, "Off road proved no tough challenge; even in washed-out gravel, low-range four-wheel-drive was probably overkill."reports that the Explorer "gobbled up potholes and the mud 'n' ruts of a mild off-road course with barely a bobble."
Reviewers agree with New Car Test Drive's sentiment on towing: "Choose the V8 if you pull trailers." The powerful 24-valve engine can tow up to 7,300 pounds -- a figure that New Car Test Drive describes as "whopping" And "about as much as a Jeep Grand Cherokee with a Hemi." MSN credits this to a front suspension that "has stronger parts" and a rear suspension that is "more robust" than in the past.
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