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#17

in Affordable Midsize SUVs

MSRP: $30,700 - $43,100
Invoice: $28,935 - $40,191
MPG: 17 City / 24 Hwy
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Ford Explorer Performance

Test drivers say that the 2015 Ford Explorer offers a comfortable ride, precise steering and a base engine that provides enough power for most driving situations. However, they report that the Explorer feels bulky and difficult to maneuver when compared with many midsize SUVs.

  • "Driving the Explorer on a daily basis is pleasant, thanks to its quiet interior and comfortable ride." -- Edmunds
  • "Despite its size and weight, the Ford Explorer drives very well, if without excitement. The steering is well weighted and the standard six-speed automatic transmission is smooth, although the suspension can feel floaty. We previously criticized the Explorer for weak brakes and poor pedal feel, but Ford has addressed both issues for 2014 by upgrading the entire braking system." -- Automobile Magazine (2014)
  • "The Explorer is solid, quiet, and comfortable. Its base V-6 provides good power, but it feels a lot like a minivan, and it's not quite as versatile or easy to pilot." -- Car and Driver (2013)
  • "Large and lumbering, that's how this generation of the unibody Ford Explorer keeps feeling to me. Comparing to the previous edition, this one is larger -- actually longer and wider by 4 inches each way, but overall not as tall. That extra length and width really makes a difference, because I tend to feel like I'm driving an Expedition-sized vehicle in the Explorer, not the more svelte all-around midsize utility of yore." -- AutoWeek (2013)

Acceleration and Power

The 2015 Ford Explorer comes with a 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 240 horsepower is available on front-wheel drive models, while the Explorer Sport features a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that makes 365 horsepower. The EPA reports that the base 2015 Explorer gets 17/24 mpg city/highway, which is about average for the class. The four-cylinder Explorer gets 20/28 mpg, which is very good for an affordable midsize SUV.

Most reviewers say that the Explorer’s base V6 is responsive off the line and offers enough power for most types of driving, while the Explorer Sport’s turbocharged V6 earns praise for its strong acceleration. Auto writers agree that the six-speed automatic transmission generally shifts quickly and smoothly, though some report that downshifts can be harsh at times.

  • "The Sport also comes with the turbocharged V6, which offers V8-like acceleration. But the reality is that the base V6 is powerful enough in most situations." -- Edmunds 
  • "With the 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine or the standard 3.5-liter V6, the Explorer is never speedy, but the twin-turbocharged V6 in the Explorer Sport gets this nearly 5,000-pound SUV moving quickly." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The standard engine is a 3.5-liter V-6 that is smooth and powerful enough to satisfy the majority of buyers." -- Automobile Magazine (2014)
  • "The standard V6 engine has no problem moving the Explorer, with good low-end power and a transmission that responds quickly when more power is demanded." -- AutoTrader (2014)
  • "The transmission is alert and smooth for the most part, but some downshifts can be abrupt." -- Consumer Guide (2013)

Handling and Braking

The 2015 Ford Explorer comes with standard front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is optional, and comes with Ford’s Terrain Management System, which features four selectable drive modes for normal driving, sand, mud/ruts and grass/gravel/snow. Test drivers say that the Explorer has a comfortable, car-like ride and quick, accurate steering. A few report that the Explorer remains fairly composed on twisty roads, though many also write that the Explorer feels larger and more cumbersome to drive than many competing SUVs.

  • "From behind the wheel, the 2015 Ford Explorer feels much more like a car than an SUV. The comfortable and quiet ride isolates you from the road in the same way as a luxury sedan, and the Explorer never bangs over bumps or rattles over railroad tracks like its truck-based forebears." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "Unfortunately, there are some things that this tenured professor of SUV University doesn't do extremely well. While some crossovers have mastered the ability to drive smaller than they are, the Explorer is a bit the opposite and feels bulky and difficult to see out of and park." -- Edmunds 
  • "Steering is firm and accurate, and the vehicle handles curves reasonably well. From the driver's seat, however, the Explorer feels even larger than it is; that's due in part to the narrow side glass and the thick front and rear pillars, which impede visibility." -- AutoTrader (2014)
  • "Not as athletic as the pacesetting Mazda CX-9, but Explorer can more than hold its own on twisting roads. Its wide stance helps maintain good grip. Steering feel is on the light side, but it's quick to respond to desired changes in direction." -- Consumer Guide (2013)
Review Last Updated: 8/28/14

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