Sharing its car-based platform with the Taurus sedan, the Ford Explorer sits squarely in the crossover realm, pitting it against competitors like the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot and Chevrolet Traverse. Front-wheel drive is standard, and the Explorer can seat up to seven people in three rows. All-wheel drive with Ford's Terrain Management System is optional.
The MyFord Touch system, with touch-sensitive and voice-activated controls similar to those in the Edge crossover, is also optional. Base, XLT, Limited and new-for-2013 Sport trim levels are offered. All three come with V-6 power; the turbo four-cylinder is optional on front-wheel-drive models.
New for 2013
Newly available features include a heated steering wheel and high-intensity-discharge headlights that automatically dim when oncoming traffic is present. The front-seat passenger gets a new knee airbag, too.
Styled similarly to the Edge, the Explorer projects a squatter, more carlike stance. The headlights and taillights narrow the lower you look, and the grille uses Ford's familiar three-bar design. It's gray on base models, silver on the XLT and body-colored on the Limited. Exterior features include:
- Standard 17-inch steel wheels and black plastic side moldings
- XLT models add body-colored door handles, painted black mirrors and 18-inch alloy wheels
- Limited trims have body-colored mirrors and 20-inch alloy wheels
The Explorer's dashboard can come outfitted with touch-sensitive controls and LCD gauge screens. It's part of the optional MyFord Touch. MyFord Touch puts, among other things, an LCD screen on each side of the speedometer and an 8-inch touch-screen in the middle of the dash. Drivers can configure what information — from a virtual tachometer to music and navigation information — goes on the screens in the gauge cluster.
With a second-row bench seat, seating capacity is seven. Second-row captain's chairs, optional on the Limited, reduce capacity to six. The third row folds down in a 50/50 split, with available power folding seats on the Limited. Interior features include:
- Standard cloth upholstery; optional leather seats
- Standard CD stereo with MP3 jack
- Standard air conditioning
- Optional heated and cooled front seats
- Optional dual-panel moonroof
- Optional Sony premium stereo
- Optional navigation system
Under the Hood
The Explorer's standard 3.5-liter V-6 makes 290 hp and 255 pounds-feet of torque; it's available with front- or all-wheel drive. On front-wheel-drive models, the optional turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder makes 240 hp and 270 pounds-feet of torque. Mechanical features include:
- Both engines drive a six-speed automatic transmission
- Available Terrain Management System adapts drivetrain settings to suit one of four environments: pavement, snow, sand or mud
- V-6 towing capacity is 5,000 pounds; four-cylinder's is 2,000 pounds
Antilock brakes, side curtain airbags and an electronic stability system with Ford's Roll Stability Control are standard. The stability system employs Ford's Curve Control feature, which aims to cut speed should a driver head too fast into a corner. Additional safety features include:
- Optional adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning
- Optional blind spot warning system with Cross Traffic Alert
- Optional backup camera
- Optional inflatable rear seat belts, which aim to spread crash forces across the body by deploying an airbag-like inflation device during a forward collision