By on August 17, 2016

2017 Ford Explorer Limited, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

I’ve long since given up on the idea that it’s possible to have a truly unbiased review of an automobile — or anything else, for that matter. Nevertheless, we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. In the service of that, I’m going to say up front that I completely despise this generation of Explorer. I didn’t like it when I reviewed an early model five and a half years ago, and I like it even less now that alternatives like the refreshed Grand Cherokee exist.

The worst thing about the Explorer is that it’s fundamentally a crappy version of the Ford Flex. The Flex is a thinking person’s station wagon. The Explorer is an idiot’s SUV. Perhaps a kinder, and more accurate, way to put it is this: the Explorer is a Flex remixed to appeal to women. I’ve yet to meet a woman who likes the Flex. In order to stop this from being a 1,200-word combo-diss-fest-and-Flex-hagiography, I’ve hired the infamous Danger Girl to offer some balance in my review of this brand-spanking-new-with-24-miles, $44,065, front-wheel-drive SUV.

Let’s do this.


2017 Ford Explorer Limited, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

Our Explorer came courtesy of the National Car Rental Executive Lane. It had a relatively strange option combination, being front-wheel drive with the optional 3.5-liter V6 and a dual-pane sunroof. Danger Girl absolutely dug it from the moment she saw it. She likes the facelifted front end, and on this we have to agree; the 2011 Explorer looked like it had already been in a mild collision with something that was both indestructible and steeply sloped. The rest of the styling is pretty standard modern-Ford issue, right down to the ridiculous 20-inch wheels.

2017 Ford Explorer Limited Cargo, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

The magic of the Explorer is that it takes a vehicle that has plenty of usable room for seven adults and turns it into a tumblehome-addled five-seater with a penalty box for a third row. Like it or not, however, we live in a world where successful people tend to avoid having large numbers of children almost as assiduously as they avoid having any truly close friends whatsoever. For the modern family load of two narcissists plus one helicopter baby approximately the size of a roast turkey, the Explorer fits the bill nearly as well as a 1978 911SC would.

2017 Ford Explorer Limited Center Console, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

There is a market out there that consists almost entirely of women who will not stop looking at their late-model iPhones no matter what is going on around them. They’re going to love this new Explorer. To begin with, the electrostatic-touch center stack that I thought represented one of the 2011 model’s few truly respectable features has yielded to a bunch of real buttons. The same thing has happened in the Navigator and the Expedition. It’s not right, not to my eyes, but it’s what the people want.

More importantly than that, we now have SYNC 3 with Apple CarPlay support. Danger Girl thought this was, approximately speaking, the eighth wonder of the modern world. This system, installed in a 1974 Mercury Bobcat with an active fuel-tank fire, would still impress her as the greatest thing ever. During our drive from the Nashville airport to NCM Motorsports Park, where I watched my brother win the first-ever SCCA Targa event, DG tirelessly iterated through every available control and feature, often chirping like an agitated cat as she did so.

I remind the readers that my wife is not the usual thirty-something suburban airhead. She actually owns an automobile with a current SCCA Pro Racing logbook, a distinction she shares with perhaps one-thousandth of one percent of the Best & Brightest. But she could not stop talking about how great it was to have the apps on the screen. Her sole complaint: She uses Google Maps, but SYNC only appears to integrate with Apple Maps. I considered pairing my Galaxy S5 to test Android functionality, but decided to stare out the window instead.

2017 Ford Explorer Limited Steering Wheel and Dash, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

Ford’s brilliance in targeting this vehicle at women was further proven by the differing opinion DG and I held of the cockpit. I thought it felt like sitting in the middle of a large, dark bucket. There’s so much wasted space in this vehicle. Surely no human being is so obese as to need all the air between the seat bolster and the door. DG thought it was “great” and “very secure-feeling.” We both liked the dual-pane sunroof, however. It’s large, bright, and remarkably quiet when open.

2017 Ford Explorer Limited Rear HVAC Controls and Connections, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

Rear-seat accommodations aren’t as spacious as they should be, but there were no complaints for the brief time that we had four adults in the car. The general look of the interior drew compliments, particularly the muted wood and chrome trim of the Limited spec, but DG’s inner racer started to come to the fore when she noted that some of the trim reflected sunlight in an unpleasant manner. “Distracting, to say the least.”

The engine/transmission combination also failed to charm her. Freeway traffic north of Nashville often runs at 95 mph. The 3.5-liter Ecoboost Explorer might be fine with that, but this normally aspirated version can’t cut the mustard. It often dropped a few gears at the slightest provocation and charmlessly moaned its way up the tach before CLONK-ing back to top. This, in a brand-new vehicle.

2017 Ford Explorer Limited Interior Trim, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

Our Explorer was assembled in a remarkably sloppy fashion. I’m not used to this kind of build “quality” in a modern Ford. The pictured gap between the passenger-side console and door was particularly egregious, but it wasn’t unrepresentative of the rest of vehicle. It made me wonder how something like that got out of the factory front door.

2017 Ford Explorer Limited, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

Should you buy this Explorer? Hell no. Not as long as the Flex is still around. Please. Look at the Flex. It does every single thing this Explorer does … and it does those things better … and it also does some things an Explorer can’t do … and, best of all, the Flex is slightly cheaper.

That’s my opinion, anyway. Danger Girl says: “If I was thinking about replacing my Tahoe, I’d absolutely consider this. It looks great, and the SYNC is just wonderful, and it has a lot of space inside.” My attempt to discuss the Flex was cut short with, “The Flex is sooooo ugly.” Heresy, I tell you!

So there you have it. I think it’s horrible. My wife thinks it’s great. I’d rather have a Flex or a Grand Cherokee; she thinks the Flex is hideous and the Grand Cherokee is cramped by comparison. The public, apparently, agrees with her and not me. But surely we can all see that this vehicle is now authentically long in the tooth. The next Explorer needs to be better. Ever since 1991, the Explorer nameplate has been consistently attached to cynical exercises in consumer manipulation and staggering gross profit. It’s time for Ford to do better. In the meantime, if you are seriously considering a 2017 Explorer … there’s probably no way I’m going to change your mind, is there?

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208 Comments on “2017 Ford Explorer Limited Rental Review – Female Body-Building...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “$44,065, front-wheel-drive SUV.”

    Aaaand it’s pointless.

    On Cars.com they’ve got reviews from a husband and wife team from the ’90s and ’00s era, best I remember. The reviews were written conversationally with points and counterpoints on their opinions.

    He Likes:

    She Likes:

    This is something you and your wife could do together, and put em up here.

    Edit: Found one http://www.cars.com/oldsmobile/bravada/1996/expert-reviews/?review=1&reviewId=35965

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Holy sh*t.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      $44,065, front-wheel-drive SUV. – More or less in line with the rest of its competitors once you start ticking off option packages. Not that I don’t think its a sad commentary but hey a BOF SUV starts at the price of this Limited.

      I’ll second the recommendation. I’d love a back and forth review from these two, maybe even the Baruth scion can occasionally add his two cents.

      • 0 avatar
        SSJeep

        Id like to think that most consumers would get this naturally aspirated Explorer Limited at a discount of around $6000 from MSRP. Enough haggling will get a purchaser there.

        But I know better unfortunately.

        Who would possibly want one of these without the Ecoboost V6 for $44000.00 and change?

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        How much will this porker sell for in two years? $19,999? Maybe $14,999 if gas goes over $4/gallon? I’d wait. I think even Ford electronics should stay good at least that long.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    The Flex is indeed a much better use of space. This thing is just bulky, claustrophobic, and probably wouldn’t sell half as well if it was called anything besides “Explorer.”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    My manager drives a Flex, but she used to work for Ford. She also has a Taurus, which is the largest subcompact car ever made.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      “…which is the largest subcompact car ever made.”

      No, that honor actually goes to the Fisker Karma, which is actually classified as subcompact by the EPA for having so little interior room. I’m curious as to how the company will have fixed that with the re-launch.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Of course, I was half-joking, but you got me there with the Karma. I’m sure the re-launch didn’t address interior room, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Karma.

  • avatar
    cognoscenti

    Wow! I thought that the Baruth brothers were both incapable of delivering a critical review of any Ford product.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    “The public, apparently, agrees with me and not her.”

    How do you figure that? The Explorer outsells the Grand Cherokee and the Flex (the latter by a wide margin).

    Would I rather have a Flex? Probably, but I’d really rather have an Everest or at the very least, a Territory.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    How dare Ford design a vehicle for people who want things that Jack Baruth doesn’t! I can no longer suffer this injustice!!!!

    “the electrostatic-touch center stack that I thought represented one of the 2011 model’s few truly respectable features has yielded to a bunch of real buttons. ”

    Indeed! How dare Ford switch away from a much maligned gimmick back to the tried and true button, brimming with tactile, no look feedback!

    “so much wasted space in this vehicle. Surely no human being is so obese as to need all the air between the seat bolster and the door.”

    Indeed! The man with 4 cars, 1 motorcycle and 2,000 guitars has decreed what the rest of us “need”! TTAC’s own Bernie Sanders, decreeing the excesses of the proletariat from his 3rd summer home! Never mind that his recommendation in place of this is the even more massive and cavernous Flex, which is equally wasteful for the average family of 4!

    “The next Explorer needs to be better.”

    Indeed! Ford should torpedo their modern, market-targeted cash cow to appease the internet auto elites who wouldn’t take these things for free!

    Is this B&B satire or wat?????

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I agree with Jack. Compared to the Grand Cherokee, which I realize only seats five, the Explorer feels significantly more cramped.

      That said, it seems that the market loves the Explorer because, like you said, it’s a cash cow (although so is the Grand Cherokee). The Explorer outsells the “practical” Flex considerably. But I know a lot if it is down to styling. I wonder if customers actually *like* that bunker feeling. Or do they simply put up with the Explorer’s shortcomings because it looks good and has class-leading features, while wishing for a bit more space-efficiency and visibility?

      • 0 avatar

        “I wonder if customers actually *like* that bunker feeling”

        Women often have a profound reaction to vehicles that give an impression of security. I’ll listen to my wife and in-laws wax about things like “riding high” and “feeling enclosed”. It’s something the manufacturers have known about and catered to ever since the first gen Explorer. These vehicles tap into something beneath the surface.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Reminds them of the original 3D printer, the womb.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          Those reasons are no less silly than men’s obsessions with projections of masculinity and access to performance well beyond what’s legal. JB dumps on women for wanting Explorers but then turns around and brags about hitting triple digits on his motorcycle(s). Our irrational biases are no better or worse than anyone else’s.

      • 0 avatar
        SSJeep

        People like the Explorer Limited because from a distance it looks like the redesigned Range Rover Sport line. But once one gets close, they realize its just an Explorer, like everyone else’s.

        At least the Explorer will get the owner to work every day without side-of-the-road incidents….

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I resent the suggestion that I only have one car and four motorcycles.

      More like six and 5.5.

    • 0 avatar

      Long after the electric guitar becomes something akin to the accordion to a generation that thinks proper pitch is achieved through AutoTune, the Baruth Collection will be spoken of in hushed, respectful tones by antique collectors.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Flex v. Explorer is sadly largely about the gender of the person making the purchase decision.

    I was glassing over at the parade of GM Lambda and current Explorers dropping off students at my school this morning when “Mamma sure does need her minivan to be butched up, doesn’t she?”

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The Acadia is super tough. Just look how square the wheel arches are, and you know it’s good.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      which is why I laugh when people call big SUVs “pen!s extensions.” How can it be when the driver likely isn’t in possession of such an organ?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      (Edit cut myself off in speaking, was running off to a meeting, just needed to add.)

      Popped into my head.

    • 0 avatar
      Chris FOM

      Just for the record my wife is crazy about her EcoBoost Flex and is really going to miss it when we have to give it up for a minivan next year. She also drove the decision to buy it (I wanted a CX-9, but it was going to be her car and she got to make the decision).

      Although we’re both pretty ticked at Ford right now for throwing us under the bus when the Flex developed the stretched timing chain that’s apparently systemic to the 3.5L EcoBoost.

  • avatar

    DG has a Tahoe? In my book, any Explorer would be a letdown.

  • avatar
    Rocket

    I won’t disagree that the Flex is by far the better all-rounder — especially with the EcoBoost option. It’s also true that the Explorer’s packaging is remarkably inefficient given its size. That said, there is a vehicle in the class that has an even worse utility-to-footprint ratio, and that vehicle is none other than the Mazda CX9 you folks can’t stop praising. Is the Mazda a better driver? Absolutely. Does it look better? I certainly think it does. But it too has a nearly useless third row that serves no purpose other than to fill up the already small-for-the-class cargo space, and statistically speaking offers even worse passenger space. But the automotive media refuses to criticize anything wearing a Mazda badge no matter how justified that criticism might be. (Why is that, btw?) And for what it’s worth, Sync 3 blows the Mazda’s infotainment system out of the water.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      While I enjoy bashing TTAC’s biases as much as the next guy, I don’t think you’re being fair re the CX-9. The first couple paragraphs in this review mention its shortcomings:
      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2016/06/driving-2016-mazda-cx-9-signature-expensive-good/

      Sure, then it goes on to talk about how great it drives, but what do you expect from an enthusiast website? Regardless, they didn’t just gloss over its drawbacks.

      • 0 avatar
        Rocket

        But the vast majority of the automotive media has largely glossed over the CX9’s shortcomings. You’ll find minor criticisms here and there, but very few have mentioned it laughable lack of cargo room. (The foot-shorter Edge has as much cargo capacity behind the second row as the Mazda.) It has no ventilated seats, minimal passenger seat adjustments, no pano roof option, a mediocre infotainments system with no Apple Carplay/Android Auto, and multiple reviewers have commented on the A/C’s inability to effectively cool the interior. Plus, the auto braking is dangerously overaggressive. These are things that impact buying decisions. But hey, if you happen to have a smooth canyon road between you and the office, you’re going to love it!

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      If they shrunk the CX-9, they took away its biggest selling point, apart from its Mazda-ness. We ended up with a Santa Fe in our 3-row buying journey, but the old CX-9 was 2nd on the list due to the fact that it had a functional storage area even with the rear seats up.

      My wife’s ultimate decision was made on aesthetics though, as I imagine most Exploder purchases are as well. At the end of the day she thought the Santa Fe was the best looking vehicle in the segment at the time. To be fair, the white exterior on saddle-brown leather we have looks pretty darn good, and I’m a big fan of the vehicle.

  • avatar
    CoastieLenn

    Such a scathing review of such a HUGE product for Ford. I can’t say I’ve read a more negative review on this car. Having driven PLENTY of these things, I can say that there are only a couple points that I agree with you on, chiefly being alignment of seams on body panels and interior trim bits. Overall though, this is a mighty fine vehicle and sells in droves for a reason.

    I also don’t see anyone cross shopping the Flex and the Explorer… ever. I like the Flex a bit, but presented with the opportunity to own a Flex EB and an Explorer Sport, I’d pick the Explorer every time. I’m also one who thinks the pre-refresh version looks significantly better than this one.

    • 0 avatar

      yeah I’ve had several as rentals I don’t hate them. I had a limited once other then the console hitting my knee I liked it. The base ones I’ve had were a little meh thou.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      “Such a scathing review of such a HUGE product for Ford.”

      Makes me jump to the conclusion that Jack’s opinions have little relationship to the rest of the population. Makes his reviews valuable only to him. No one else.

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      I agree wholeheartedly with the statement that no one cross-shops the Flex and the Explorer. In most people’s eyes they aren’t even in the same segment, it doesn’t matter that we know they’re the same vehicle under the skin. No one cross-shops the Flex with anything, really, Flex people are Flex people. I also know plenty of women that love their Flex, but we still haven’t sold a new Flex in the past year at our Ford dealership. We generally sell an Explorer a week on average.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        “… but we still haven’t sold a new Flex in the past year at our Ford dealership.”

        Maybe because the sticker price is way too high? The ones I see on the lots around here are priced way above where they fit in the lineup. I’ve seen them priced higher than equivalently-equipped Explorers.

  • avatar
    Ian

    “I considered pairing my Galaxy S5 to test Android functionality, but decided to stare out the window instead.”

    Spoken like a married man, I can relate with this so much.

  • avatar
    IHateCars

    I’m with DG, I’d rather have the Explorer….the Flex may be more efficiently packaged but it’s butt ugly.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Did you mean classy? Because I think the Flex is classy.

      Baruth, I hate to be THAT guy but there was no 1974 Mercury Bobcat in the States, just in Canada. Unless you were catering to our Canadian overlords….

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        Ford sold more Pintos each year of production from 1971 through 1974 than they’ve sold of any car in fifteen years.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        The Canadian Bobcat being “first” had more to do with the logistics and economics of equipping the three Pinto assembly plants sequentially instead of simultaneously than giving any exclusive to the Canadian market. Ford marketers, though, sold the Bobcat as just that: a Mercury designed for Canadians. Amazingly, the identical hatch and wagon models rolled out of the San Jose plant, then the Edison New Jersey plant in 1975. Apparently a model designed just for Canadians worked just fine in the States.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    “the electrostatic-touch center stack that I thought represented one of the 2011 model’s few truly respectable features has yielded to a bunch of real buttons”

    This is probably not a bad thing in concept as the screen requires you to look at it, while buttons you can work by feel. In execution, Ford tends to use a lot of similar-sized buttons with tiny little labels, so net-net it’s about the same.

    Toyota does this well, or at least they used to. The result looked ugly but worked pretty much flawlessly.

  • avatar
    RHD

    45 grand+ for something less useful than a Grand Caravan. Oh, boy…

    Ford has somehow figured out the female market, though, and since so many wives tell their henpecked husbands what they can or can not buy, it’s a good business practice for them. The target audience will buy it if it’s “cute”, like a pair of pumps, no matter if the panels fit along the edges or not.
    The ghetto 20 inch wheels are absolutely pointless.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      “45 grand+ for something less useful than a Grand Caravan. Oh, boy…”

      The $100K S-Class is even less useful. Hell, a McLaren P1 barely seats 2, and costs over a million dollars.

      Even for a utility vehicle, utility isn’t the only metric that matters. PEople buying these things aren’t regularly hauling around 4×8′ plywood boards or shuttling around 7 passengers.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Neither of those vehicles has “utility” as part of its reason for being. An Explorer is rather lacking in utility, which makes it rather pointless. But if you want to spend $45K on this stupid thing, go right ahead, I own a chunk of Ford.

        This whole class is just minivans for people who are just too darned cool to drive a minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      5280thinair

      “Ford has somehow figured out the female market, though, and since so many wives tell their henpecked husbands what they can or can not buy, it’s a good business practice for them. ”

      Henpecked husbands? How about the main driver of said vehicle picking what they want for the reasons that matter to them. So long as the vehicle meets the need and fits within budget, why should the spouse who won’t be driving it much (male or female) try to talk the other out of it? We ought to be long past the days of husbands thinking they should be making decisions for their wife — or being called derogatory names for not doing so.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The other day I was walking out of a store and two late 30-early 40ish women who seemed to have ran into each other after not seeing each other for awhile. The one apparently had just got a new CUV or SUV because what I heard was words to the effect, “well I got to pick the color, it has 3 rows of seats and it is reliable, but it is not what I wanted”. So there are still husbands and wives where the man dictates what vehicle the woman will drive and she only gets to pick the color. Certainly it is not like it was in the past but it still happens.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        “We ought to be long past the days of husbands thinking they should be making decisions for their wife — or being called derogatory names for not doing so.”

        Actually, we’re in a very short interim period where that is not the case, or perhaps you haven’t looked at birth rates by race and religion around the globe.

        The future looks a lot like Saudi Arabia and/or China, depending on where you live.

        • 0 avatar
          Carzzi

          Exactly this. This is what American exceptionalism is (kinda, in this blip-in-history context). Much of Europe has already turned into Eurabia, well before Merkel, et al, began stuffing the EU with levantine émigrés. The Pakistani diaspora and the maghrebin are noisy minorities that dictate dietary labeling increasingly in the UK & France…

    • 0 avatar
      Drew8MR

      Hell, my wife can drive anything she wants as long as she pays for it. Do most of you really combine your car expenses then split them? I guess I’ve never been the sole breadwinner though.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Piggy back this review on the one about the Suburban and there should be zero reason for the Explorer to even exist.

    I briefly drove/leased an Explorer circa 1996. Could not get the seat belt buckled when wearing a winter coat. The shoulder, hip and backroom in the driver’s seat was just too cramped. Ditched it for another mini-van.

    And the Flex is made in Oakville.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Well, these Explorer rigs top out near $50K. That’s the *starting* price for a Suburban, and the Tahoe isn’t much cheaper. Really, the Explorer does not in any way compete with the Suburban.

      All of the large non-luxury BOF SUVs are now priced between $45K and $50K to start. So there’s a huge difference between spending that kind of money on a loaded crossover or spending it on a base BOF SUV. If you want one comparably-equipped to said loaded crossover, expect to pay as much as a $20K premium.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Kyree, didn’t the TTAC review say that the base Suburban was the way to go? Therefore surely the base Suburban at $50k ($57k in Canada) would be a far superior vehicle to an inherently inferior Explorer ‘tarted up’ to the $50k price?

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          That depends. It’s a “better” vehicle in the sense that it’s more capable and will last longer; however it is not appropriate for everyone.

          • 0 avatar
            duffman13

            And to add to what Kyree said, a mid-$40s AWD CUV is going to have a lot more feature content compared to a $50k BOF SUV.

            Just at a very superficial level, they’ll all have heated, possibly cooled, leather seats. $50k on a Suburban gets you basic cloth and 2WD. You’re pushing $60k before you have leather, butt warmers, etc., not to mention the infotainment and safety features you end up missing.

            You also end up with a vehicle that generally drives and rides worse, and is harder to park. But hey, you can tow stuff, if that’s your thing. If it was, you’d already have bought one though.

        • 0 avatar
          baconator

          The Suburban is gigantic compared to the Explorer in addition to being more expensive. The size becomes a real liability in urban areas and even older suburbs.

          And I say this as someone who longs for a GMC Yokon LXL to haul mso

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Kryee – the Explorer Platinum starts at $54K (including destination)and has options on top of that.

        Second there are several non-luxury SUV’s that top out at the mid $40’s (including AWD) – such as the CX9. The Explorer is expensive for its class.

  • avatar
    probert

    Rented one a few years ago for a camping trip through the west. What a horror show. I never use the radio when driving, but this car’s would come on spontaneously and randomly. Through the static, I thought I heard the words, “Kill me. please, kill me.”

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    My hetrosexual, educated, married, works, has 3 kids neighbor loves HER Flex.

  • avatar
    Driver8

    NAWALT but they really are.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    CTRL-F “ECOBOOST”

    AHHHAA…AWWWWWWWWW

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    This review is why get happy every time I see a Durango in the carpool lane.

    I’ve had a few prior-gen Explorers as rentals and hate them. In FWD trim, the lackluster 3.5 V6 somehow manages to spin the inside wheel through its open diff, triggering a hand of God ESC intervention that COMPLETELY CUTS POWER FOR A SOLID THREE SECONDS when you’re trying to pull into busy traffic. It has caused more than a few clenches.

    I’m particularly sad to see these Explorer minivans taking the place of the Crown Vic in police fleets. Nothing says ‘community policing’ more than a blacked out crossover with a bull bar. An actual minivan would work much better for police work AND cost less – Montreal’s PD figured this out and seems to survive just fine without the magic all wheel drive that even Tennessee cops think is necessary to survive a light dusting of snow. I’d also bet lunch that a Pentastar Caravan could smack the snot out of an Explorer around a track.

    • 0 avatar

      My biggest annoyance with the Explorer PPV is that now I have to slow down every time I see an explorer, which is frequently. I saw a lot fewer Crown Vics, and it was a lot easier to tell if it was a bunch of octogenarians or Johnny Law.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      It’s been the same generation from 2011 onward, and that has been the only FWD Explorer to date. The major difference with this one is the 2015 facelift, the addition of SYNC3 for 2016…and that at some point, the 2.0T was swapped for the 2.3T from the Mustang and MKC.

    • 0 avatar
      krohde

      Also, who drives a people-mover so hard to notice the inside wheel spinning and cause the ESC to intervene? Can honestly say I’ve never had that happen in my life, in any car I’ve driven, in the snow or dry.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick 2012

        “Also, who drives a people-mover so hard to notice the inside wheel spinning and cause the ESC to intervene?”

        Really? It’s far from hard in a heavy vehicle with low-rolling resistance tires, particularly while turning.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      “I’m particularly sad to see these Explorer minivans taking the place of the Crown Vic in police fleets. Nothing says ‘community policing’ more than a blacked out crossover with a bull bar.”

      The Park Police here, because shooing the kids smoking pot around the basketball courts clearly calls for an separate 15MM dollar a year police department, have moved on from Crown Vics in yellowish khaki to Chargers and Explorers done up like TIE fighters.

      The cops driving them dress like ninjas to match, which on a 95 degree August day serves them exactly right.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      As my Police Chief cousin has said to me – it’s not that the Explorer is a GREAT police vehicle, it’s just the best of the available alternatives. The Taurus is just too small inside. The Charger is too small and the state police had terrible reliability with the few they bought. The Caprice is too expensive and here in Maine the AWD is genuinely useful. The Tahoe is too expensive and just plain overkill for patrolling a small town in Maine. So he buys Explorers, and is very happy with them. Slightly more expensive than Crown Bricks, largely balanced out by better fuel economy, but the cops like them about 50X more. Despite the B&B boner for those relics, they really are crap cars.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick 2012

        “Despite the B&B boner for those relics, they really are crap cars.”

        I agree the Panthers time went by the time the Clinton 42 left the White House. The wealthy town of 30,000 home to my employer uses 6.0L Caprices to patrol about 15 square miles with a maximum speed of 55 mph. A co-worker’s husband is on that force and loves it, particularly the LS roar, but in addition to the expense, the parts delay for Aussie-built cars is staggering.

        I’m waiting for some cash-strapped municipality to figure out a 4-cyl Camry LE would work just as well for 98% of police duties.

    • 0 avatar
      Hydromatic

      You’d figure police departments throughout the U.S. would just take the Mexican Federales’ approach towards cop cars and use full-size pickup trucks. They have just about everything cops need — loads of space for equipment, reliable V8 engines, a solid, durable chassis, plenty of ground clearance and the option of replacing the bed in favor of one of those prisoner transport modules the Australians use on their utes and pickups.

      Chevy has it almost right with the Tahoe PPV, but they need to break out a Silverado PPV. Ditto for Ford — a F150 Police Interceptor would be great right about now.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        There is a Silverado SSV and a Ram Special Service. I’ve never seen either one on the street though.

        gmfleet.com/specialty-vehicles/police/silverado-police-truck.html

        fleet.chrysler.com/FleetHome/Pages/Vehicle.aspx?vehicleID=ram-ssv

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        It was neat to see the Jalisco police cruising around in crew cab Ram 4wds when I was down there for work. I’m sure they have their hands full down in Puerto Vallarta these days, what with that big kidnapping thing right in a restaurant of rival drug cartel members.

  • avatar
    redliner

    The Snark About Cars.

    So your complaints boil down to:
    I don’t like the styling.
    It’s not the ideal vehicle to travel at 95mph. (Duh!)
    It has Android Auto, but I couldn’t be bothered to test it.
    It has actual buttons on the center console.

    At the risk of being labeled a malcontent…
    This has to be one of the least informative “reviews” in recent TTAC history, and that’s saying something. I learned virtually nothing except that the Flex is better because Man Wagon.

    On a separate note, the only people I have met that like female bodybuilders are other female bodybuilders.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      Pretty sure he didn’t like the inefficient packaging, which is a legitimate complaint.

      It was also apparently assembled by people with only a vague idea of what they were assembling.

      • 0 avatar
        redliner

        True, but neither of those things is news. The 2011 was just as space inefficient, and Built Ford Rough.

        Funny thing though, I agree with Jack… I would rather have a Flex.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I do tend to agree with Jack, I’m no Explorer fan. I hate them, even though I’ve never been in one.

    I have to rent one to see if they are that bad.

    It sounds underpowered, why not put a Lion V6 diesel in it and all of it’s 420ftlbs of torque? It would then make the ideal highway cruiser.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “I hate them, even though I’ve never been in one.”

      ???

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Well BAFO hates any Ford that actually carries a Ford badge, He also hates any vehicle that isn’t midsize pickup.

      • 0 avatar
        Drew8MR

        Some of us hate the entire segment (except for a few exceptions: Scout, 1 gen Bronco, Defenders, etc.) and would honestly rather ride the bus than buy one. I would never,ever buy any number of currently popular types: SUV,CUV,Crew Cab short bed, anything with a CVT, throwbacks. I’d drive a minivan any day over every one of those styles.

        • 0 avatar
          hubcap

          “… and would honestly rather ride the bus than buy one.”

          I’m going to take a liberty and call bullisht on that.

          You might think you’d rather take the bus than have your own vehicle, but you’d reconsider after actually doing so for any appreciable length of time.

          That is unless you live in a metro like NYC or Chicago and even then it’s the subway over the bus.

  • avatar
    MeJ

    I’ve never liked the Explorer, especially the late 90’s versions (barf). I also think the Flex is as ugly as the old Aztec, it looks like a brick. Having said that, if I was forced at gunpoint I wouldn’t mind this new Explorer. It’s the best looking version I’ve ever seen and reminds me a little of the Land Rovers.
    And the terrific fit and finish, I mean, c’mon, you can’t beat the big three when it comes to that now, can ya’?

  • avatar
    a5ehren

    The inability to use Google maps in Carplay mode is an Apple restriction, not a Ford SYNC one.

    Android Auto lets you choose between Google Maps and Waze, because Google owns both.

    Even Apple Maps is probably better than what Ford ships by default, though.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    The now-gone electrostatic buttons suck. Good riddance. They are a triumph of design arrogance over actual function.

    Every time my wife goes to use the touch screen in our MKZ to adjust her climate control, she brushes the area of the Eject button on the CD. She never notices (no tactile feedback) and, when the CD gets sucked back in, the music changes, often dramatically.

    I hate the fact that I have to look down, away from the road, to engage the defroster because there’s 1) no tactile feedback and 2) they couldn’t even be bothered to provide a visual clue as to *where* the edges of the “button” are. Is it *above* the text? Or below it? I’ll learn it eventually, but as a software developer, bad UI is a sore point with me.

    Long ago, designers of airplanes started shaping the landing gear control knob to look and feel like a wheel. It looks a bit out of place but it is unmistakable in its function by both look *and* feel.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I agree, bad UI burns me too, since I’m a UI / UX developer.

      This is strictly design-based, but I am particularly sore that Ford chose to give SYNC3 an all-new skin with a different design language, but couldn’t be bothered to re-skin the screens on the instrument panels. So there’s a disparity there on just about every vehicle but the new 2017 Continental.

      Grrr….

    • 0 avatar
      jjster6

      @ Bunkie

      What’s a MKZ? And what’s a CD?

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      I like my Ford and I like MFT, but I agree with bunkie on the electrostatic buttons. I HATE them. I shouldn’t have to look at my center console to make temperature adjustments (thankfully, there are three other ways to adjust the temperature).

      I also tend to rest my palm on the console, right below the touch screen, when manipulating MFT. It’s not uncommon for me to unknowingly hit the CD eject button. Having converted to MP3s on an SD card (sorry bunkie), there’s never a CD in there, so I get a big fat error message on the screen that takes a few seconds to go away.

      The people that decided these buttons were a good idea, never tried them while actually driving the car.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        CDs are those things that don’t squash the details out of music in order to save space.

        As for the MKZ, it’s a well-kept secret. Please don’t tell anyone.

        • 0 avatar
          jjster6

          But are inferior to a 196kHz 24 bit download right?

          Just playing with you. I don’t want to start a format argument. If it sounds good listen to it. And if you like the way it drives enjoy it.

  • avatar
    memremkr

    Rented one also. I’m 6′ 200 pounds and was lost in that front seat “bucket” you so aptly described. Could not find a comfortable armrest position unless I moved left or right and picked one side. I returned the rental thinking to myself that this really is a great….law enforcement vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      This right here.

      “I thought it felt like sitting in the middle of large, dark bucket. There’s so much wasted space in this vehicle. Surely no human being is so obese as to need all the air between the seat bolster and the door.”

      IT’s like Jack read my mind.

      Such a weird vehicle to sit in from an ergonomic point of view. It’s roomy, but in all the wrong places. The huge weird bulges in the a pillar corners are strange looking as well. Just a strange vehicle all around in this regard.

  • avatar
    krohde

    How ironic that the same guy who slams the Ford’s quality praises the Jeep, which is by far more likely to be the one with problems down the road, though I do get that initial quality/panel gaps is different than blown transmissions later.

    I’ve driven a ’16 Explorer Limited and a ’16 Grand Cherokee Overland and think they’re both damn good. The fact that the Jeep is just a little smaller and only has 5 seats is a big deal and would sell me on the Explorer, whether the 3rd row in it is that comfy or not. In my time with the Explorer, I thought it was extremely comfortable, quiet and really nice to drive for something in that class. The blind spots are pretty big, but that’s overcome by the blind spot detection system (which should be standard, not optional).

    I say all that as a guy that loves the Flex and has actually gotten my wife to agree it would be our first choice for a kidmobile when that time comes. But honestly, I don’t see that much difference between the two in everyday driving, other than a bit of ride height maybe.

    Of course the Explorer sells well – it looks like an off-road capable SUV and drives like the minivan 90% of its buyers should actually be owning. That’s what the crossover market is and Ford is good at it. 2 weeks after I drove the Explorer, I rented a ’14 4Runner and could not believe how rough it rode and how lousy it was to drive overall – I’d forgotten how much different a body on frame, true SUV is to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I don’t like cars in which I’m *forced* to get a blind-spot monitor, which is why I do not have a Challenger, even though I really like the design.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      http://www.jdpower.com/press-releases/2016-us-vehicle-dependability-study-vd

      I can’t help but to notice in my job that Ford now makes among the very worst vehicles on the market. JD Power seems to agree. If you really want a zombie brand car, get something from GM. They’re just as bad to drive, but they probably won’t strand you during your lease.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        Todd, your link doesn’t work.

        More importantly, you’re referencing a JD Powers dependability study??? Are you trying to start a fight? ;)

        Btw, when Ford was less reliable, they ruled the JD Powers study. They dropped more recently, because buyers don’t know how to work the gadgets (and the touch sensitive buttons do suck).

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          Try krohde’s link below. Ford is among the worst in all four categories of dependability, and cumulatively they’re only ahead of Dodge. They found a way to promote Land Rover, Mini and Fiat. I looked it up because I see how bad they’ve become almost every day.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Jeep Wrangler Unlimited: 9-year-old engine still going strong. 9-year-old transmission still going strong. 9-year-old soft top still intact with no leaks. And yes, it has been to Rousch Creek in Pennsylvania where it proved itself capable of handling obstacles bone stock that the previous TJ needed a minimum 2″ lift to overcome. I’ve had my complaints but they’ve rarely been mechanical and I blame Daimler-Benz for those since Daimler-Chrysler designed the beast. FCA made it good.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      “How ironic that the same guy who slams the Ford’s quality praises the Jeep, which is by far more likely to be the one with problems down the road”

      Completely false.

      26K miles and the only issue my Grand Cherokee has had was a rattle in the door panel.

      The HEMI has been reliable since the introduction, the 8-speed is the best transmission on the market, and uConnect is the best infotainment system on the market.

      • 0 avatar
        krohde

        While I agree about UConnect, you’re as wrong about Jeep reliability as I was about Ford; they’re both abysmal according to JD Power at least: http://www.jdpower.com/ratings/study/Vehicle-Dependability-Study-%28VDS%29-by-Make/846ENG 3rd and 4th from the bottom.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I really want a Flex to replace my parents Outback. I’m increasingly having to drive the both of them around to Dr. appts, etc., and the egress/ingress is terrible for an obese senior citizen that can only sit in front, and a senior disabled stroke patient with a leg brace that has to travel in the rear. That, and the CVT and droning boxer suck.

    When the Outback was purchased the rationale of the buyer was “it sits up high and the Accord was too low and hard to get in and out of” and I said no, you need high seats, but low floor (i.e. CUV or minivan) not a high floor and low seats, but the purchaser(being a senior citizen) is notoriously stubborn and minds were made up without any critical comparison shopping. My suggestion, if Subaru, was Forrester (boxier roofline and doors), but they didn’t even consider.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    Compare this to other SUVs, line by line, utility to rarity, and it loses(or wins) every time. Because modern consumer SUV merit is measured by grills, LEDs, dark windows and LEDs that all add to a base, non-minivan-like, rating.

    This Ford scores very high in these categories and I submit that one cannot meaningfully argue against the design proportions of this vehicle. But we certainly need reviews like this to bash people out of the uniquely American fantasy tied to the allure and invincibility of owning an SUV.

    Finally, the astute comparisons to the much maligned mini-van are the result of the inelegant economizing of a vehicle founded on the principles of utility and sportiness.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Hooo-boy! I’m going to agree with the Baruth on this one! I, personally, love the Flex except for one thing, it’s price. It looks like a ‘wagon’ should look, though I admit that boxy front end doesn’t help its fuel economy. Still, Ford could have rounded some edges and still made it look like a Flex.

    The rest of Ford’s lineup is, to me, hideous. I don’t like the looks of any other model, be it truck, SUV or car. Add to this Ford’s abysmal reputation for quality in everything less than an F-150 and I simply wouldn’t own one. Even the Fiat 500 is more reliable than most Fords, despite the consumer reports and other professional automotive analysts. I’ve never owned a Ford that didn’t have oddball maintenance issues.

    Yes, I’m biased. I am by far not the only one. I accept there are people who love their Fords, no matter how much they have to spend to keep them on the road. They can buy all the Fords they want. I currently don’t have any one favorite brand but I do have one I refuse to purchase new at any time. I have other issues with other brands but those issues aren’t centered around the quality of the product.

    • 0 avatar
      krohde

      Abysmal reputation for quality? Based on what besides your own bias? Granted, their quality ratings have been mediocre the past few years but still far ahead of any of the FCA brands, and most of those quality complaints were related to Sync with MyFordTouch. And that’s not a quality problem as much as a “I don’t like how this works” problem.

      Prior to the touchscreen issues, Ford’s quality ratings actually were equal to Honda/Toyota, according to one of the big rating providers, if memory serves.

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        “Add to this Ford’s abysmal reputation for quality in everything less than an F-150…”

        You won’t choose Ford because they have an “abysmal reputation for quality”. Yet you choose FCA. The same FCA whose brands are usually bottom of the barrel in just about every quality ranking.

        The way I see it, you like to be punished and Ford just isn’t bad enough for you.

        You wouldn’t be a cuck would you? Or have cuckish tendencies. It would explain a lot.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          So far, hubcap, FCA’s products have given me better reliability than ANY Ford I have ever owned in the last 40 years.

          I used to swear by GM’s reliability and the last two GM vehicles I owned were better than you might have expected considering I put 160,000 miles on an aluminum-block V6 Camaro and 130,000 miles on a 4-cylinder Saturn Vue.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        http://www.jdpower.com/press-releases/2016-us-vehicle-dependability-study-vds

        Only Dodge is worse. I don’t mean only Fiat’s brands, but only Dodge. Ford is well on its way to being recognized as the horror show that it is.

        • 0 avatar
          krohde

          Damn. Hadn’t seen that study and love that it actually breaks it out into four different categories, all of which Ford does pretty lousy in. I’ve got nothing for that except surprise that they’re not better – I remember reading a lot in the 2009-2012 range how far Ford quality had come and that they were basically even with Honda/Toyota.

          Here’s that link you tried to post – wasn’t working for me so reposting if somebody else wants to see: http://www.jdpower.com/ratings/study/Vehicle-Dependability-Study-%28VDS%29-by-Make/846ENG

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Our Ford Edge finally got dispatched when the cooling system failed for the 3rd time in 5 years. Back to the Japanese we fled.

        Which is a shame because I’m a big fan of the Flex, F-150, Focus and Mustang styling.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        “Abysmal reputation for quality? Based on what besides your own bias? ”

        Based on everyone I know who has owned a Ford over the last ten years. Their trucks have been ok but every one who has owned one of their cars has reported rattles, squeaks, poor fit and finish and multiple mechanical issues under both the hood and the body of the car. I don’t know a single Ford car owner who hasn’t had a complaint about their car within the first year of ownership. Yes, they come off the lot feeling and sounding tight, but less than a year on the road and they start coming loose at the seams, figuratively speaking.

        I’ve learned not to trust those rating providers. I’ve had better luck with the cars they consider ‘poor’ and ‘not recommended’ than I have with the ones they give glowing reports. My 2002 Saturn Vue got one of the worst ratings ever when it came out, yet it gave me strong, reliable service for 12 years and 130,000 miles.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Cliff Notes: Jack calls his wife an idiot for liking the Explorer.

    Good luck, Jack.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Maybe he doesn’t think she’ll figure out the implications? I kid. It is possible for two people to disagree about tastes in cars without one of them being an idiot. It is also possible for two people to have differing tastes in pickup trucks and for both of them to be idiots.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Don’t put the kitty on a pedestal, is my motto.

  • avatar
    Dan

    “For the modern family load of two narcissists plus one helicopter baby …”

    Not terribly interested in the Explorer but +1 for this one.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      I thought parents helicoptered… babies can’t even hover, like at all, well unless in a bouncy chair.

      Still can’t get over the $44K price tag. There was a point in the 90s when the Exploder (tire pressure? who cares!) were a dime a dozen. Everyone had one, 2 door, 4 door, 2WD, 4WD, Eddie Bauer – thus I assumed Ford would keep such a key product like this affordable. Guess not.

      • 0 avatar
        krohde

        It’s been the best selling vehicle in its class every year since this gen came out in 2011. You realize the average cost of a new vehicle is approaching the mid-30’s now, right?

        Explorer starts at $31,000 + change, goes all the way up to the mid 50’s for the Platinum one.

        • 0 avatar
          EBFlex

          “It’s been the best selling vehicle in its class every year since this gen came out in 2011. ”

          That doesn’t mean it’s a good vehicle. It means Ford spends most of their money on marketing. Deceptive marketing.

          Same thing with the F-Series.

          • 0 avatar
            krohde

            Being in marketing myself, I love that you think it’s so powerful that it can make the F-150 the best-selling truck for almost 40 straight years, despite it being an inferior vehicle. Ford’s managed to sucker millions of tradespeople, farmers, outdoorsmen and weekend warriors for four decades based on great marketing? Wow.

          • 0 avatar
            EBFlex

            The F-150 is not the best selling truck for 40 years. Ford does not break down sales by individual model.

            Nice try though.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Bear in mind that MSRPs for the hot-selling Explorers were $30k ish for a 4 door 4wd trim with some options, that’s close to $50k in today’s money.

        Conversely, if anything I’m surprised at how affordable a new 4Runner is, especially considering they’re still building them in Japan. My Limited was $33k in 1996 dollars supposedly, that’s $50k in 2016. I could buy a $40k Trail Premium today and get a ton more features and the same capability (and then some) compared to my ’96.

        • 0 avatar
          White Shadow

          Yeah, but they should be affordable because they are still building them like they did 15 years ago. Ancient 5-speed transmission, old and underpowered V6. Still uses a old fashioned key in all but Limited trim. The price should be low.

          • 0 avatar
            krohde

            EDIT: he was referring to the 4Runner, not the Explorer. Sorry White Shadow!

            Wrong, wrong and wrong.
            – Explorer uses a 6-speed automatic,
            – The 3.5 V6 came out in 2007, made Ward’s 10 Best List that year, and has been updated significantly twice since then, now making 290 HP in the Explorer. I would not call that underpowered but maybe you think only a Hellcat Grand Cherokee will do?
            – Intelligent Access is standard on XLT, Limited, Sport and Platinum or 4 out of 5 trim levels on Explorer.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            #rekt

            (It had to be said.)

            Edit: I rescind my #rekt. But I’ll leave this comment here for posterity.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I’m 99% sure that White Shadow was referring to the Toyota 4Runner and responding to gtemnykh’s comment.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “Ancient 5-speed transmission, old and underpowered V6.”

            This outdated and ancient powertrain will out-accelerate the Explorer in this review, (4Runner knocks down a 7.5 second 0-60), and will actually slightly edge out a Pentastar Grand Cherokee with its more modern Pentastar V6 and 8spd auto. And if I was a betting man I’d say the 4Runner will outlast both the other trucks by quite a margin.

            Now, if you want to talk about how thin the sheetmetal is on the new 4Runner compared to the old and how much softer the paint might be, and to bemoan the loss of chromed steel bumpers, then I’m with ya.

          • 0 avatar
            White Shadow

            gtemnykh,

            I traded my 4Runner on a Pentastar GC and I can absolutely guarantee you that the 4Runner doesn’t have the nearly the same acceleration. Magazine numbers are often a poor way to compare two vehicles. Those vehicles are comparable!e in weight, but the Jeep has more power and much better gearing with the 8-speed, so it should be common sense that the Jeep will accelerate faster. So though, none of that matters because we’re talking SUVs, not sports cars. The fact of the matter is that the Pentastar is a much more modern engine and is immensely more refined that the old V6 in the 4Runner. Toyota really needs to step up and replace that old dog.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Aside from the very soft throttle calibration (basically permanent eco-mode), I’ve never got the impression that the updated 1GR 4.0L is either slow, or unrefined. Sure a 6spd could space the gears out a bit and further help acceleration. To be fair, I’ve never driven a pentastar+8spd GC.

            Again, I will take the tried and true Toyota motor any day of the week over the misfiring pentastar. The last thing I want Toyota to do is to kowtow to folks like you complaining about an “old” motor and end up cramming in the ‘high tech’ weak-kneed wonder that is the direct injected 3.5L out of the Tacoma.

  • avatar
    5280thinair

    I had one of these with this engine, but 4wd, as a rental last year. It looked sharp enough from the outside, but was definitely cramped on the inside. Worse, from behind the wheel it felt even bigger than it looks. Rear visibility was poor, and figuring out where the front corners were when maneuvering in tight spaces was a pain.

    I did take it out on some pretty beat up mining tracks out in the desert, and the 4wd system acquitted itself reasonably well. Still, I wouldn’t buy one. There are many choices to get more interior room with less ponderous handling. Still, I see a lot of them on the road (with both female and male drivers) so somebody likes them.

  • avatar
    carguy

    “consumer manipulation and staggering gross profit. It’s time for Ford to do better.”

    Why would Ford change the formula that is delivering staggering gross profits?

    • 0 avatar
      RetroGrouch

      “Ever since 1991, the Explorer nameplate has been consistently attached to cynical exercises in consumer manipulation and staggering gross profit.”

      This gem should be the title of the article.

  • avatar
    yamahog

    Jack,

    We know you love to flex racing credentials:

    I remind the readers that my wife is not the usual thirty-something suburban airhead; she actually owns an automobile with a current SCCA Pro Racing logbook, a distinction she shares with perhaps one-thousandth of one percent of the Best & Brightest.

    But why does it matter? You didn’t really speak to any bit of the car that would really matter in a closed circuit race, and even if you did – to what end? a $45k, 4000 lb, FWD vehicle isn’t really anyone’s first choice for racing.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      The point is that even a female racer is not immune to the explorer’s manipulative characteristics.

      • 0 avatar
        yamahog

        I guess you were successful at communicating that (even if I was too obtuse to get it).

        It seems like the more racing someone does, the more they move away from the boy racer stuff – partially because the more prolific amateur racers normally have more discretionary income but the people I know who have race cars tend to drive Volvo wagons / midsize luxury cars / SUVs like everyone else.

        Whereas my friends with WRXs usually don’t even autocross them. Apparently they need the AWD and the speed to get to the vape store before it closes for a blizzard.

        Thanks for the response! Best of luck with your website!

  • avatar
    BoogerROTN

    Had to glance up at the URL addy after reading this “review” to make sure I wasn’t on Jalopnik (which is always a mistake). Bro’s gonna Bro.

  • avatar
    pmirp1

    I am a Grand Cherokee owner. A 2011 free revving Pentastar with the five speed. I think the difference between the Grand Cherokee and Explorer is for Jeep (Fiat/Chrysler), the Grand is the absolute top of their range. They will consider everything when they put the Grand together. They have thought about it and it is their top dog. It is the same feeling I get with Chevy and their Corvette or their Tahoo. Or Ford and F150 and Mustang. The Grand is the one (with the exception of the franchise, the Wrangler). The Explorer is just one of many. I agree the exterior looks are to die for now for Explorer. Looks like a freaking Range Rover. I don’t like the interior, still, it looks great from outside.

    And yet, I see so many parallels between your earlier review today (yesterday) of the Honda Element and your infatuation with that irrelevant Ford Flex. Neither sells, both are/will be discontinued shortly. The Flex looks like a station wagon, and only people who buy those things are used car buyers.

    People want the height of SUVs which Explorer brings, and Flex doesn’t. That is the number 1 criteria, when it comes to choosing SUVs, everything else is secondary.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      The Explorer is two inches taller and has a marginal amount of ground clearance above what the Flex. They are basically the same vehicle with a different hat. The Flex is also two inches longer with a five inch longer wheelbase.

      The Explorer sells because it is named “Explorer” and looks sort of like a Discovery Sport. If Ford made the Flex look more like a Range Rover and called it Explorer Luxury Sport or some nonsense, it would sell way more units. Better yet, if they made the MkT look like the Range Rover and called it Aviator…

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “I’ve yet to meet a woman who likes the Flex.”

    Well, as I’ve mentioned before, when shopping for a replacement for their Sienna, my parents looked at a Flex.

    My mom liked it.

    Dad disliked the styling.

    (I’m on mom’s side – I love the Flex.)

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      ” I’ve yet to meet a woman who likes the Flex. ”

      UNLESS..it’s a woman who already OWNS a Flex.
      I have not found one friggin person, male or female, that didn’t just worship their Flex. If given a chance, they would buy another. This car build loyalty more than any other vehicle I know.

      And you cant get em used.

      The trick is to get them to TRY one. Impossible, it seems. I cannot even get my wife to even look at one on the road, let alone at a dealer! As soon as I point one out, she responds before I say anything…tht thing is UGLY!

      I myself wish it was just an inch or 3 shorter. Love the entire concept and even its looks other than that.

  • avatar
    vstudio

    You are making some good points here, but overall I feel that Explorer is a great car. Maybe not in 2WD with plain V6, but… we are leasing the 2nd Explorer in a row, for my wife. First 2013, now 2016. This is highly atypical of me to stick with the same car for longer than 3 years, being a hopeless gear head. My stable included various German products, with stick shift, and now my other car is Chevy SS (just to paint a picture here).

    I cannot comment on the 2WD version, but our 4WD Explorer Sport has been nothing but good to us. Long trips, winters, hauling 7 people plus full trunk of luggage, daily errands, and more. Quiet and comfortable ride, powerful enough to feel confident in most situation, great handling for such a big car, decent brakes, plenty of safety nannies – what else can you ask for for about $45K? The previous version of the entertainment system from Microsoft, which generated so much bad publicity for the car is actually perfectly fine and logical. Its latest iteration works flawlessly, the screen is fairly responsive, and voice recognition is way ahead of the competition. Trust me. I tried.

    Yes, build quality can be greatly improved. I would love to show weld seams or panel gaps to someone from Ford and hear their explanation. Yes, there are a few shortcuts, like hard plastic or sticking out wires. I wish Ford hired someone obsessive about details to get the last 5% of the car right.

    But overall, the price/value of the current Explorer is hard to beat. I cross shopped it with Volvo, Audi, Mercedes, and other 3-row SUV’s. Nothing comes close for the money. All competition would cost at least $20K more with a similar level of equipment and engine options. Would Flex do the same? Likely yes, but its styling is polarizing indeed, while Explorer clearly benefits from some UK design heritage.

  • avatar
    zip94513

    Nice hit piece. That aside, I see new Explorer’s everywhere, including a new one in my neighbors driveway, and yes, a female purchased it with an egoboast motor and AWD. It’s parked next to the hubby’s F150.
    Myself, I think they’re overpriced, but as a Ford stockholder, if this is what the market wants, I’m happy.

  • avatar
    Kevin Jaeger

    I have to agree that it’s very shallow of women to want an Explorer rather than a Flex for such superficial reasons as styling. Compromising the actual utility of a vehicle just so you can be seen in something more stylish is the height of vanity.

    Signed – a Mustang owner.

  • avatar

    I like the look of the Flex – looks a bit like a half-price Range Rover to me.

    I’m curious, though, the main advantage of the Explorer seems to be the new Apple-compatible telematics system. I had a rental Chevy Impala and liked CarPlay a lot. It was the first system that’s allowed me to use my iPhone with the in-car controls without wincing. I would ask for it again next time I rent a car.

    Couldn’t you get that on the Flex, too?

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    Gotta say….I have a 2015 Grand Cherokee Overland and a 2016 Audi A5. The build quality on the Jeep is atrocious and in no way compares with my Audi. The Jeep came out of the factory with misaligned body panels, doors, trim, etc…and looks like it was put together by amateurs. It’s so bad that I went back to the Jeep dealer and noticed that every other Grand Cherokee is just as bad. From 15 feet away, they look great though.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      My ’15 Overland is virtually perfect. Only thing that needed to be addressed was a rattle in the passenger door panel.

      • 0 avatar
        White Shadow

        Take a closer look and you’ll see what I’m talking about. I’ve looked at more than 25 of them and they all had doors that don’t shut flush with the body. Chrome trim that doesn’t align. Rear bumper covers that stick out at the bottom sides, etc. If yours is truly perfect then it is one of a kind.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    My folks bought a 2011 Explorer Limited, replaced a line of 4WD BOF V8 Explorers. They love it, I’ve never gotten comfortable driving it and most vehicles I can adjust quickly. The 2016 Expedition that I’m renting right now is way better. I like Fords, I really wanted to like the SHO when we bought a 2012 Accord.

    We’ve talked about an SUV as both boys get older, my wife wants a 4Runner since the previous gen Explorers are getting difficult to find. I’m good with the 4Runner, not so good with taking over the Accord.

  • avatar
    tnk479

    I’ve always heard it as, “we should not let perfect be the enemy of good enough”.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Freestyle 2.0

    The Explorer’s success has everything to do with Ford’s marketing and nothing to do with the merits of the vehicle itself. Overall it’s a poor quality, noisy, harsh riding, mediocre SUV with far less capability than it had before it turned into a glorified Taurus wagon.

  • avatar
    MWolf

    The Explorer isn’t at all what it used to be. Want to make it better? Take the good traits from the first and second generations. You know, a real SUV. 4 wheel drive and moderate offroad capability. Great! Now modernize it and put a reliable transmission in it this time.

    You have the Escape, Flex, and Edge for the things this version of the Explorer exhibits, albeit in varying sizes. Make an SUV that isn’t some half-hearted rehash of some other thing you make. And make it do what it used to do more reliably than it used to do it.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      There’s hope that Ford will get back into the BOF midsize SUV game with some rehashed variant of the global Everest. I’d love to see a return of the likes of the Montero Sport, Explorer, Blazer, Rodeo/Trooper, BOF pathfinder to our market. Hopefully strong 4Runner sales and WRnagler Unlimited encourage that direction. Admittedly, it is a much more niche market than it used to be. I also blame Nissan for not investing even a bit of money into the Xterra to keep it competitive on any basis other than price.

      • 0 avatar
        krohde

        If the Bronco rumors are true, then your wish will come true. However, the Explorer far outsells the 4Runner and the Wrangler is its own unique phenomenon so I will be very curious to see how well it actually sells.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      The Flex is going to die and the Explorer is going RWD. You aren’t going to get a BoF Explorer though. That’ll have to be the Bronco.

      • 0 avatar
        mason

        Has it been announced the Flex will be discontinued?

        • 0 avatar
          Adam Tonge

          Not yet. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if 2017 was the last model year.

          • 0 avatar
            MWolf

            Well, the stair climbing Grand Cherokee was unibody, if I remember right. I mean, I prefer BoF, but if that’s not possible, a RWD biased 4 wheel drive with a nice, non-slanted rear liftgate for cargo and a decent towing capacity would be fantastic. I bet it would sell like crazy. (I know. They aren’t big on RWD platforms right now. They might go and make something awesome with that. We simply couldn’t have that, could we?)

            I had a first gen Explorer. We put a sofa inside of it once to haul it home. The liftgate closed fully. Now THAT is what a midsize SUV should be. Never got stuck. Could tow 5,000 pounds. Nice leather seats that wore well with a bit of care and all the goodies.

            My only complaint was the awful transmission.

  • avatar
    Snavehtrebor

    I’ve had several Explorers as rentals, and was completely perplexed by the odd proportions. This vehicle’s roofline is easily 4″ taller than it needs to be. I’m 6’2″ and with the seat adjusted properly, I could wear a sombrero without it touching the headliner. I’m not totally convinced that the Explorer isn’t just a trim package for the Transit.

    The comments are interesting too. My wife gave a “meh” to the Explorer, and was slightly intrigued by the new Edge. Then we bought a Grand Cherokee, which is nicely finished and has been trouble-free over the first 18 months of ownership. Except for the MONOPOST GEARSHIFT OF IMMINENT DOOM which has only tried to squish me twice.

  • avatar
    mechimike

    An additional $5000 would put you behind the wheel of a vehicle that is right-wheel drive, offers a V8 that gets nearly identical real-world fuel economy, will tow 4 tons, and seat 8 (or 5 and a good-sized haul from the local home improvement store).

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2016/08/ace-base-chevrolet-suburban-ls/

    What’s the point of the Exploder again?

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      But why would you want a vehicle that only drives the wheels on the right side?

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      The Explorer would definitely be much easier to maneuver and less intimidating to drive. And consider that a lot of them that are purchased are the lower level XLT, or have a ton of rebates available where I think the more realistic out the door price for a V6 AWD model is in the $35-40k range. A Suburban is substantially more at that point.

      I’d rather compare the Explorer to something like the Pilot, which seems to have more interior room, better fuel economy, (probably) a better/more satisfying powertrain, and will retain value better. Or heck compare it to a Chevy Traverse which is equally soft riding and quiet, has more space, and can probably be bought cheaper. And the interior is less weird feeling to sit in to boot.

  • avatar
    Shawnski

    My DD is a ’13 Boxster S and I pretty much dispise my wife’s ’14 Expl Sport for its bulk and cheap materials. However, it drives like a vault in terms of structure and quietness, has really accurate steering, excellent brakes, an unruffled ride and that effortless 3.5 EB motor. In other words it is a great road trip vehicle. We paid $41 for ours with AWD and twin turbo. Nothing comes to my mind that betters it overall for our needs.

  • avatar
    427Cobra

    lots of opinions on this issue… may as well opine…

    I think the Flex is hideous, stylistically speaking… tho I can appreciate the versatility of the platform when Real Housewives load up their screaming helicopter brats.

    I have ’13 Ford Edge Limited… I like it… tho I don’t necessarily love it. Not a single issue over the last 3 years tho. Everyone bitched about the smooth touch panel, as it required one to look away from the road, so I understand why buttons made a comeback. The 3.5L V6 is barely adequate in the Edge… it must be an absolute pig in the Explorer… and IS, according to my next door neighbor who has a ’14 Explorer XLT. I never understood the continual carping about MyFordTouch. Yes, it’s a little under-processored, but I’ve always been amazed at how well it worked. I have UConnect in my ’16 Ram 2500… I find its abilities slightly more crude by comparison, tho faster in response.

    Yes, the pricing is high these days… what isn’t. My ’13 Ford Edge Limited stickered for over $43k… my base trim level ’16 Ram 2500 stickered almost $46k… everything’s expensive.

    I guess there are those who like a bright, cheery interior replete with a daisy in the vase on the dash… to each his own. I like the cool, dark cave… it’s cocoon-like… comfortable, quiet as a tomb, and with a surprisingly decent stereo. I could care less about the panoramic glass roof. I didn’t want it… but had to take it to get the options I DID want. That roof just turns the interior into a massive heat sink. I hardly ever used the sunroof on my last SUV… so knew it would be a waste on this one… c’est la vie. … and smaller wheels would increase the visual weight of the vehicle… it would look like a clown car on tiny little wheels. I’m not advocating 24s, but I think the 20s strike a good balance.

  • avatar

    I sat in one of these when they first came out, they are obviously made for tall people. I’m almost 5’6″, and when I adjusted the seat and steering wheel to where I could see over the tall dash and could reach the controls, I discovered I literally could not get out! My leg was pinned in!

    No thanks.

  • avatar
    i_say_uuhhh

    Funny you say that. My wife is enamored with the Explorer, while I am enamored with the Flex. My parents bought one years ago and I love how roomy and comfy it is. It just makes sense to me in every way, and when I checked out the Explorer I just couldn’t get why it was so much bigger looking yet has a smaller interior. However we recently came to agree on to only have 1 or 2 kids so I’m trying to convince her to instead get something smaller a bit funner and better on gas such as the Mazda CX-5.

  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    Is that a Red Oxx Tres Hombres in the back of the Explorer?

  • avatar
    danio3834

    This latest re-style went back to it’s roots, full Freestyle.

    I’ll always hate SYNC/MFT from my time spent with it in the early years. The look of this latest version is pretty plain, looks unpolished and unfinished. Which I suppose is representative of the product.


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