Any SUV that stars in a Hollywood blockbuster like “Jurassic Park” is destined to sell, which is why Ford placed the original Explorer on the big screen. The year 1993 seems like yesterday because the Explorer still evokes fond memories for fans of the blue oval. It launched in 1991 as an SUV version of the Ranger, with 4WD and a capable unibody chassis. The current model is the 5th generation which has been in production since 2011. The skilled workers at the Chicago Assembly Plant sent us a 2017 Platinum Edition with 4WD for a week of exploring, and it was enlightening to see how far is has come.
If it looks like a Land Rover at a distance, that’s because Ford hired one of their chief stylists to create the sleek exterior. Ford owned Land Rover for a few decades, so the similarities are not by coincidence. In an attempt to appeal to a more conservative market, the V8 has been discontinued in favor of the EcoBoost V6. The 3.5-liter twin turbo is found in the Ford GT, Raptor, and the Taurus SHO, so you can’t deny its abilities. The turbos offer great response off the line, but they seem to run out of steam before redline. We have nothing against small turbos because they help to achieve better mileage.
If your intentions are on exploring the wilderness, we have a few points of concern. The current generation does not have any truck heritage. It is a taller example of the Flex crossover. If you were looking for a solid axle and a frame you will be mistaken. The Explorer has moved upmarket thanks to a supple ride and plush amenities. Illuminated sill plates and a heated steering wheel are unexpected luxuries, and a new Terrain Management system uses a rotary dial lifted straight from Range Rover. It controls an electronic center differential that can send 100% of power front or rear. Without a low range, the Explorer is technically AWD not 4WD, but Ford chose not to upset their fanbase.
At full boost, it cranks out 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. Those are nothing to scoff at, but they are only available in a narrow powerband once the boost arrives. The problem is that all of the added luxuries like heated/cooled seats contribute to a curb weight of almost 3 tons. Six cylinders are hard pressed to move six thousand pounds, which is why the Explorer sounds stressed when provoked. Fuel mileage is rated at 22 mpg on the highway and 16 in the city, but our results were somewhat underwhelming. Our fully loaded example had more safety and more entertainment options than most luxury crossovers, and for that, it commands a price of $55,420. We never thought a Ford Explorer would be $1,025 cheaper than a Corvette, but they aren’t exactly competitors. The Ford Explorer is as close to an American Range Rover as you will find, so contact our dealers to see if it is right for you.