|Some might mistake the Explorer for a Range Rover at first glance, but there are worse SUVs to emulate. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Scoff at Ford’s designers all you want, their plan is working. Last year the Explorer was the number one selling mid-size SUV in North America, while so far this year it’s edged past Kia’s Sorento to become the bestselling seven-passenger SUV in Canada. It’s about to set another modern-day sales record in the U.S. as well, the large mid-size model’s success seeming to know no bounds.
|Optional Ruby Red paint looks gorgeous, but it’s difficult to make out the lovely new LED taillight lenses. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
|New headlamp clusters with LED low beams and LED signature lights make a distinctive statement. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Those seats are perforated leather in Limited trim, my version finished in Medium Light Camel beige, as were the door inserts and majority of lower interior panels, the
|A new grille and front fascia design joined the updated headlamps last year, while these 20-inch alloys are attractive options. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Ford does a good job with switchgear and executes digital interfaces even better, the aforementioned infotainment touchscreen featuring the automaker’s latest Sync 3 operating system with bright, colourful, stylish graphics, plenty of apps, enhanced voice recognition, Siri Eyes Free, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, accurate and easy to use navigation with detailed mapping, a 180-degree parking camera, and more. Just below, 390-watt, 12-speaker Sony audio provides excellent sound quality, this system supported by satellite radio as well as Bluetooth streaming audio.
|Stylish new LED taillights cap off the revised rear design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Directly ahead of the driver a heatable leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel frames one of the more advanced semi-digital primary gauge clusters in the industry, a central speedometer dial the only analogue element. While the leather of the latter feels substandard and the wheel’s rim not particularly comfortable due to awkwardly formed thumb spats, the colour multi-information display to the left is brilliant, incorporating a small digital tachometer, fuel gauge, and temperature gauge that can be swapped around to a trip computer, four-wheel drive front/rear bias indicator, digital speedometer, or individual tire pressure monitor,
|The available two-tone interior colour scheme looks rich. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
The driver’s seat is 10-way powered and extremely comfortable, even providing four-way powered lumbar support that’s not available with a number of pricier premium-branded models, while overall ergonomics are excellent, or at least they were for my five-foot-eight medium-build frame, and visibility superb all around. My tester wasn’t upgraded with the $150 second-row console that splits the bench seat into two buckets, but Limited trim provides standard second-row seat heaters in the outboard window positions, while the third row gets a power-folding feature that’s really handy, especially for returning them to their upright positions.
|Premium materials and impressive digital displays set the Explorer Limited apart. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
You can start the engine remotely and access the Explorer Limited via Ford’s exclusive SecuriCode keyless entry keypad, or use the key fob that allows proximity-sensing access as well as pushbutton ignition, while the rear powered liftgate gets foot-activated hands-free proximity access. Additional Limited features include front and rear bright metal scuff plates, ambient lighting, driver’s memory for the seat, mirrors, powered steering column and power-adjustable pedals, power-folding side mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage
|The Explorer’s dual-display semi-digital gauge cluster isn’t new, but it’s still very current. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
My tester was painted in beautiful Ruby Red, a $595 option, plus fitted with a $2,250 301A package that adds auto high beams, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming driver’s-side mirror, multi-contour front seats with active motion, inflatable
|Navigation is standard in Limited trim, while the Sync 3 infotainment system is much better than the class average. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Ford’s naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 featuring 290 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque comes standard with the Limited as with lesser Explorer trim levels that include the base namesake model and second-rung XLT. This engine is plenty potent, even more so than a number of the Explorers’ many competitors, but why should
|Sony provides a great sounding 12-speaker, 390-watt audio system for all your listening requirements. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
All utilize a well-proven six-speed automatic transmission, my tester’s even sporting steering wheel paddle shifters, unusual yet very welcome in this three-row SUV class. It’s a smooth gearbox with quick, precise, snappy shifts when in Sport mode, transforming the big SUV into a really sporty ride when mated up to the free-revving 2.3-litre Ecoboost.
|Just pull the lever all the way back for Sport mode, while the dial just behind sets off-road modes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
All Explorers get a fully independent suspension that’s quite agile as far as car-base SUVs with real off-road capability go, and less weight over the front wheels always helps with handling. This is an SUV that provides good overall balance through tight, fast-paced corners yet hardly compromises in ride comfort, while its highway cruising prowess is also near top of class. It’s quiet too, helped out by active
|A comfortable driver’s seat provides 10-way adjustment plus heated and cooled cushions. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
The bottom two Explorer trims make 4WD optional, but the Limited comes standard with Ford’s Intelligent 4WD and Range Rover-style Terrain Management System that lets you select from five backlit pictographs atop a lower console-mounted rotating dial if pavement suddenly turns to trail. The first default image shows the SUV on a flat surface, which makes it the go-to option for pavement, while the next “Mud/Ruts” pictograph showing wheels in trenches and a tree depicts a more aggressive wilderness trail. You should leave the angled SUV and cactus “Sand” image for the finely grained granular stuff, whereas the final swerving tire tracks and snowflake graphic is best for slippery winter conditions and
|Second-row seating is spacious. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Speaking of swerving tire tracks, the Explorer comes standard with trailer sway control, aiding its $500 optional Class II and Class III trailering upgrades that can increase towing capacity up to 5,000 pounds (2,268 kg).
This leads me to cargo hauling, which is an Explorer forte thanks to a sizeable, upright shell and two rows of completely flat-folding rear seatbacks. This is where SUVs win out over most minivans, the latter providing more interior volume overall,
|Rear seat roominess is very generous for the class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
|No shortage of available cargo space here, plus the third row even powers down. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Accommodating, comfortable, well equipped, fun to drive, economical, and good looking, the Explorer has a lot to offer Canadian families. It does most everything well, which seems reason enough for its popularity.
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