Of this generation’s full-size crossover class, the Ford Explorer is definitely one of better-looking, style-wise… and if a family mobile is what you’re looking for, it’s definitely a great alternative to the minivan with seating for up to seven adults.
We recently test-drove the 2014 Explorer Limited, the top trim of the model (though the Sport offers more performance), for a week to get a better feel and closer look at the brand’s iconic SUV. For 2014, there is just a few minor updates over last year’s version — including larger calipers (front and rear), heated rear seats (standard on Limited), standard automatic headlights, and new colorways (shown here in Sunset Metallic).
The Explorer has some decent power under the hood, thanks to a 3.5-liter V6 engine that delivers 290 horsepower and 255 lb.-ft. of torque, as well as a 6-speed automatic transmission. While we didn’t test the towing capacity, specs say it has an impressive 5,000-pound tow rating, putting it well above its competitors. Our model also had the 4WD system, which is optional, as well as a driving model knob that includes a hill-assist and descent control system. As for fuel economy, the Explorer boasts a fuel efficiency rating of 17 mpg city/23 hwy, and during a week of driving, those numbers are right on par with what we averaged — a tad over 19 mpg.
Driving the Explorer, we were impressed. It has a quiet, comfortable cabin with plush leather seats and ample space; good acceleration and power for cruising; and controlled and communicative steering. Overall, the driving experience was comfortable, engaging, and once again, smooth.
Inside the SUV, we weren’t exactly sold on the interior. Don’t get us wrong, it’s comfortable, but style-wise, it’s very simple. We were expecting a little more of the luxe details. It does, however, have some nice touches that make up for that — including a dynamic touch screen infomation system with a back-up cam, navigation, and SiriusXM; and ambient lighting in a variety of colors (ours came in Ice Blue) that highlights various elements of the cabin. Also, as mentioned, seating for seven makes it perfect for going on road trips; and, when you’re not transporting others, the second and third rows fold flat to give you over 80 cubic-ft. of cargo room.
The Limited model comes standard with 20-in alloy wheels, power-folding mirrors with memory, keyless entry/ignition, the MyFord Touch infotainment system with a touchscreen and a configurable gauge cluster, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera and a 12-speaker Sony audio system.
In its class, the Ford Explorer Limited is among our top choices, unless, of course, you’re looking to pay upwards of $50,000 for the BMW X5 or Porsche Cayene (for example). But, the Explorer is a solid choice, perfect for a family, long road trips, or someone looking for a mid-sized SUV with plenty of room, some style, and capable power.
The 2014 For Explorer Limited starts at $40,100, but with the added options to our test-drive model (and delivery charges), the total MSRP came to just over $46.000. For more info, visit Ford.com.
Ford provided us with the vehicle, insurance and tank of gas for this review.