Ford Explorer: Crowd pleasing bread-and-butter SUV
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America’s bread-and-butter SUV – the model credited with igniting the country’s love affair with the segment – Ford Explorer is one of the best turned-out models in its category.
The 2018-model-year Ford Explorer soldiers on confident in its competence. This is particularly evident when the Explorer is experienced in Platinum trim. Just shy of being a full-on luxury sport utility, the top-of-the-line Ford Explorer Platinum features smart cruise control, upgraded leather, aluminum and wood interior detailing, a top-flight Sony audio system, and a dual-panel sunroof.
Power for Explorer Platinum is served up courtesy of a 365-horsepower 3.5-liter turbocharged V-6, which is good for 350 lb.-ft. of torque. All-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission complete the powertrain. We saw a pretty consistent 19 miles per gallon in mixed city and highway driving. Towing capacity is 5,000 pounds.
Owing to its genteel nature, we weren’t tempted to go rock crawling in the Platinum Explorer. This Ford is obviously geared more toward pavement than dirt, though it easily handled well-groomed trails. On the other hand, it rules on the highway. Exceptionally quiet and smooth, if you’re looking for a spacious ride in which to accomplish long-distance travel, the 2018 Ford Explorer Platinum is solidly up to the task.
Handling is also secure and in all frankness, Explorer tends to drive larger than it actually is. Drivers interested in experiencing more feel behind the wheel will appreciate the 2018 Ford Explorer Sport. Offering most of the same comfort and convenience equipment, Explorer Sport adds more aggressive suspension tuning, quicker steering, 20-inch wheels with low profile tires, and a tough-guy exterior treatment solidly telegraphing its intent.
A more welcoming host for the outstanding twin-turbo V-6, body roll is minimized, turn-in is sharper, and grip is substantially improved — without completely sacrificing ride quality. All-wheel drive is standard here too.
Interior fit-and-finish on the Explorer Platinum are among the best we’ve ever seen in a Ford product. Quality soft-touch materials abound. The look is decidedly premium. All controls feel nice to the touch and respond crisply when operated. The front seats are very comfortable — especially over long distances — and the passenger compartment is suitably quiet. Happily, the touch-sensitive controls of previous models were jettisoned in 2016 in favor of real buttons and dials for the audio and climate control systems.
Opting for the second-row captain’s chairs delivers adequate legroom for adults, even in the third row. However, you’ll only seat six with this choice as opposed to the seven you could accommodate with the rear bench seat. On the other hand, the bench renders the third row suitable only for children, so considering the stature of your passengers when choosing an interior configuration is a good idea. Maximum cargo capacity measures 81.7 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded.
All of this is stacked on top of self-parking (both parallel and perpendicular), blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning, and massaging front seats.
Thanks to the MyFord Touch interface system, voice activation and a high-res touchscreen provide even more of a premium vibe to the Explorer Platinum. The 2018 model year adds a 4G LTE hotspot to Explorer’s already-generous equipment list. Pricing for the 2018 Explorer lineup ranges from $31,990 to $53,940.
On the safety front, NHTSA gave the Explorer five stars overall, while the IIHS rated the Explorer “Good” (its highest ranking) in nearly all tests except its small overlap frontal offset event, in which it was rated “Marginal” (the second-to-the-lowest ranking). By and large though, you can feel good about pressing either the Explorer Platinum or Explorer Sport into service as family transportation. The love affair continues unabated.