in 2009 Affordable Midsize SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $12,142 - $17,455
Original MSRP: $28,470 - $39,180
MPG: 14 City / 20 Hwy
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2009 Ford Explorer Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The Ford Explorer rides smoothly for a traditional, truck-based SUV, but it's not quite as comfortable as other car-based crossovers in its class. Still, it can tow more than most of its midsize competitors.

  • "Explorer and Mountaineer are among the best-riding traditional SUVs. Explorer is compliant, even with 18-inch tires, and is devoid of sloppy motions." -- Consumer Guide
  • "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." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "Although the ... 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." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Performance is adequate, though the Explorer lags behind most rivals. We timed a V8-equipped 4WD Explorer at 9 seconds for the 0-60 dash. By comparison, a V8-equipped Nissan Pathfinder does the same run in 7 seconds flat." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

The base Explorer's V6 engine nets 210 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. The optional V8 creates 292 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. According to the EPA, the two-wheel drive Explorer achieves 14/20 mpg city/highway with the V6 engine and 15/21 mpg with the V8 engine. The four-wheel drive model achieves 13/19 mpg and 14/19 mpg with the V6 and V8 engines, respectively.

  • "We found the V6 had more than enough output to meet our daily-driver demands." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Both the V6 and the V8 are smooth and quiet. With the lighter V6, the Explorer is a bit easier to turn and maneuver, but both engines are pleasant and competent. Choose the V8 if you pull trailers. The fuel economy hit is negligible." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "The 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." -- Edmunds
  • "V8 versions provide ample power. A 2WD Explorer Limited did 7.4 sec 0-60 mph in our test. The transmission changes gears smoothly and delivers quick part-throttle downshifts for fine around-town response. Some testers say full-throttle downshifts take too long, however." -- Consumer Guide

Handling and Braking

The 2009 Ford Explorer rides smoothly and comfortably despite its truck-based underpinnings, although test drivers say the Explorer still has some room for improvement.

  • "The brakes work well, with much less pedal pressure and travel than before." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "Typical of a traditional SUV: some body lean in turns and delayed reaction in quick directional changes. Ford or Mercury, steering feel is responsive and accurate, but some testers want more road feel. Good brake pedal feel with no undue nosedive in quick stops." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The power steering allows quick moves, but is heavy -- especially at lower speeds." -- MSN


Beyond the asphalt, the Ford Explorer performs particularly well for an affordable midsize SUV.

  • "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." -- The Auto Channel
  • "The revised steering finally evinces a dedicated sense of straight-ahead, even in crosswinds. Off-road, the massaged IRS is so adept at soaking up basketball-size boulders and potholes that it's like riding in a Range Rover." -- Car and Driver

Next Steps: 2009 Ford Explorer

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