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#18

in Affordable Midsize SUVs

MSRP: $30,015 - $41,675
Invoice: $28,288 - $38,862
MPG: 17 City / 24 Hwy
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Ford Explorer Performance

The 2014 Ford Explorer earns a fairly lackluster performance score, which is partially due to the fact that reviewers feel that the Explorer doesn’t deliver as refined a driving experience as some rivals. However, test drivers like that the Explorer offers a range of engine choices and a Terrain Management System that adapts the Explorer’s powertrain and brakes for driving on various surfaces, including pavement, mud/ruts, sand, grass, gravel and snow.

  • "It's not nearly as nimble as some rivals, but the Explorer has an adventurous spirit and snazzy off-road smarts." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The same is true of the Explorer Sport, but thanks to its sport-tuned suspension and steering, it reacts more quickly to inputs and generally imparts greater driver confidence. And while the Sport gives up a bit of that cushy ride quality, the ride is still well within the realm of acceptability for this class of vehicle." -- Edmunds
  • "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)

Acceleration and Power

Powering the 2014 Explorer is a standard 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 290 horsepower. A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 240 horsepower and a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that makes 365 horsepower are optional. All three engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The four-cylinder engine is only available on front-wheel drive Explorers. According to the EPA, a front-wheel drive Explorer with either V6 engine achieves 17/24 mpg city/highway, which is about average for the class. With the four-cylinder engine, the Explorer averages 20/28 mpg, which is excellent for the class.

Reviewers say that all of the Explorer’s available engines offer adequate power. One critic says that the base V6 strains at times, but is generally powerful in most situations. One test driver says that the four-cylinder engine should be strong enough for most buyers, and he’s pleased with the fuel economy that’s achieved with this engine. The turbocharged V6 gets mixed reviews, as one critic suggests it pulls as hard as a V8, while another says that it doesn’t make the Explorer feel any faster than other midsize SUVs. The six-speed automatic transmission earns praise for its timely shifts, though the transmission is faulted for downshifting abruptly.

See the full 2014 Ford Explorer specs »

  • "The standard engine is a 3.5-liter V-6 that is smooth and powerful enough to satisfy the majority of buyers." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The 2014 Explorer's base, 290-horsepower V6 feels adequate for routine driving, but has to work hard to move this vehicle's 4,500-plus pounds up steeper hills. A lower-horsepower but higher-mileage 4-cylinder is available, as is a potent turbocharged V6 introduced in 2013 Explorer Sport models. Four-wheel-drive (4WD) models have the slick terrain-management system." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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. And don't be quick to dismiss the idea of a four-cylinder powering this none-too-small SUV. It's not as strong as the V6s, but it provides adequate acceleration for daily use and, of course, better fuel mileage than you'd get with the V6." -- Edmunds
  • "Though Explorer has one of the most powerful V6 engines in the class, it doesn't feel significantly quicker than other midsize SUVs. Rather, it builds power smoothly and steadily. … The transmission is alert and smooth for the most part, but some downshifts can be abrupt." -- Consumer Guide (2013)

Handling and Braking

The Explorer comes standard with front-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive is optional. Ford also offers a Terrain Management System, which changes various engine, transmission and brake settings for different types of terrain, including sand, grass, gravel, snow and mud/ruts, as well as pavement. The Sport trim comes with a sport-tuned suspension. Reviewers say the Explorer has a generally comfortable ride that does a good job of softening the blow of rough pavement. Still, others mention that the Explorer feels less agile and generally less refined than others in the class. One reviewer says the brakes are strong and have good pedal feel. Another says the steering is responsive, but feels a bit too light.

  • "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
  • "The 2014 Ford Explorer rides very smoothly on the highway, with good composure over broken pavement. As such, Ford's crossover SUV is enjoyable on longer drives. It handles securely in typical driving situations, but overall, it feels larger and less maneuverable than similarly sized rivals." -- Edmunds
  • "Just as the latest-gen Explorer shed its old skin for a more refined, contemporary image, and so it goes when you hop behind the wheel. The Explorer feels more like a soft-sprung sedan than a rigid truck because its underpinnings are essentially the former. This makes for a comfortable - bordering on lumbering - ride." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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: 6/26/14

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