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Cars of Summer: The Ford Explorer Goes Antiquing

For most people, summer means day trips, road trips, drives to the beach, festivals, fairs, visiting friends and commuting in the bright sunshine. This summer, U.S. News is putting the cars we test through their summer paces and giving you tips and advice for making the most of your summer driving. In this installment, the new 2011 Ford Explorer goes looking for old finds in the antique shops of New Hampshire.

The 2011 Ford Explorer

The 2011 Ford Explorer has all the ingredients of a great SUV for antiquing. Its cargo space is massive, even with the second row of seats in use. It’s much more maneuverable, particularly in tight parking lots, than its size would suggest. The Explorer rides smoothly and its engine is quiet.

Still, two days of hard-core antiquing in the Explorer is an experience I don’t want to repeat.

Lots of interior space is great for cargo, but it’s not so great for drivers. In the Explorer, the driver’s seat was so wide that I couldn’t rest my elbows on the arm rests and keep my hands on the wheel. That wasn’t a big deal at first, but after several hours of having to hold my arms out in front of me, it became one. The driver and front passenger seats offered almost no support. My husband and I had planned on one long day of driving to antique stores, but after a few hours, we were so uncomfortable that we broke it into two.

Speaking of broken, the electronics cubby at the base of the center stack of the test Explorer was just that. In order to get to the outlet and USB port, I had to pry the cubby open with a house key. The fact that there were marks on the door leads me to believe that other testers had to do the same thing. The test car has about 13,000 miles on it, which is old for a test car, but I’d still expect all doors and latches to be working on a car of that age.

The buttons on the center stack were too sensitive.

The center stack had a relatively clean design, and featured Ford’s MyFord Touch system. The buttons on the center stack were ultra-sensitive touch pads. The test car didn’t have navigation and more than once, the power cord from my portable unit hit a climate control button, sending hot air blasting into my face without warning – not what you want in the middle of summer.

If cargo space and maneuverability are what you’re after, the Explorer is a good choice. If you want anything beyond that, check out another SUV.

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