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Ford Explorer Performance

Automotive journalists are impressed with the 2016 Ford Explorer's powerful engine lineup, composed handling and smooth ride. A few complain that the Explorer isn't the easiest SUV in the class to maneuver due to its bulk and poor outward visibility.

  • "The four-cylinder Explorer is a very competent road-going SUV that handles well, has room for six or seven, and, while not winning many drag races, has enough power to move off the line as well as pass." -- AutoWeek
  • "Driving the Explorer on a daily basis is pleasant, thanks to its quiet interior and comfortable ride." -- Edmunds (2015)
  • "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." -- Automobile Magazine (2014)

Acceleration and Power

The 2016 Explorer is powered by a standard 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. Two EcoBoost engines are available: a new-for-2016 turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder that makes 280 horsepower and a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that produces 365 horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard in all models. The base 2016 Explorer earns 17/24 mpg city/highway, according to the EPA, which is typical for an affordable large SUV. However, the four-cylinder EcoBoost model gets 19/28 mpg, which is great for the class.

Critics report that the Ford Explorer has ample highway passing power with its base V6 engine. They praise the EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, saying it feels like a V6 and has strong acceleration. A few test drivers comment that the EcoBoost V6 has the punch of a V8, and they find the six-speed automatic transmission makes good use of the Explorer's power.

  • "Power from the new 2.3-liter Ecoboost four-cylinder engine showed a sense of brawn that makes it clear that this little four-banger doesn't realize it's not a V6. We never felt underpowered along the routes, whether climbing mountain grades or accelerating to high-speed on the expressways. The six-speed automatic with Selectshift made for fun driving excursions while paddling the steering wheel-mounted flippers up and down as needed. The standard offering 3.5-liter Ti-VCT V6 offered plenty of around-town power not to mention adequate acceleration for on-expressway maneuvers." -- Left Lane News
  • "We drove the 2.3-liter with both front- and all-wheel drive and found this EcoBoost four to be up to the task of moving the hefty Explorer. Off-the-line acceleration-say, jumping out into traffic-is a little tepid, but once you're up to 30 mph or so, the Explorer moves along pretty well, and highway passing is no problem." -- Car and Driver
  • "The Sport and Platinum also come with the turbocharged V6, which offers V8-like acceleration. For most folks, though, the regular V6 is still satisfying." -- Edmunds
  • "The torque that the 2.3-liter engine makes is what keeps you from thinking you're driving an SUV with too small of an engine. In our hilly test drives, the four-cylinder provided enough power to pull away from a dead stop and made passes fairly easily. The pairing with the six-speed transmission helps, too, as there aren't as many gears to kick down through before the surge in power happens." -- Cars.com

Handling and Braking

Most test drivers report that the 2016 Explorer has controlled handling for a large SUV, even on winding roads. A few note that maneuverability is compromised by the Explorer's heft and poor forward visibility, but most say the Explorer has a comfortable, composed ride. Automotive writers say the Explorer's steering has been retuned and is well-weighted. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is available.

  • "The current-generation Ford Explorer has never had particularly good forward sight lines and the hood feels like it extends well beyond where it actually ends. It makes cresting hills, turning left or driving in traffic more of an adventure than any of these activities need to be. Once you get over that metaphorical hump, the Explorer rides very well. The Sport's ride was the most controlled, soaking up bumps without drama. Even the Limited trim handled highway imperfections with aplomb. There's some suspension softness, as you'd expect, without any of the wallowing aftershocks some other SUVs are guilty of." -- Edmunds
  • "Our experience on the curvy roads in the hills east of San Diego showed the Sport to be pretty much as we remembered: a surprisingly good handler for such a big boy-although the same actually can be said of the standard-issue Explorer. Nor have the suspension tweaks appreciably diminished the Sport's ride quality, which remains quite good even on 20-inch rolling stock." -- Car and Driver
  • "Overall the Explorer Sport was easy to handle due in part to the steering which Ford slowed down for better feedback." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The ride and handling compromise was and still is pretty much spot on for a family crossover." -- Autoblog
Review Last Updated: 6/8/15

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