Bottom line: Ford needs to roll out a new, foolproof MyFord Touch system quickly. As for the Ford Explorer, it is a vehicle that probably has seen its time. Ford has many ample replacements, including the Edge and Flex wagon/crossovers.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Ride and handling are excellent in lightly loaded mode (driver, front passenger, no cargo). Handling becomes a bit wobbly under heavy loads (500 pounds cargo plus two additional passengers). Highway acceleration is excellent.
Body style/layout: The Explorer is a front-engine, midsize-to-large sport-utility vehicle of car-like unitized body construction with four side doors and a rear hatch. It is available with front-wheel or all-wheel drive in three trim levels (for 2013) — base, XLT and Sport.
Engine/transmission: The rented 2012 Explorer Limited came with a 3.5-liter, 24-valve V-6 gasoline engine with variable valve timing (290 horsepower, 255 foot-pounds of torque). It is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission that can be operated manually.
Capacities: Seats up to seven people. Cargo capacity with all seats (including third-row, split-fold) in place is 21.0 cubic feet. That capacity can be expanded to 80.7 cubic feet with middle and third-row seats folded. The front-wheel-drive Explorer Limited can be outfitted to tow 5,000 pounds. The fuel tank holds 18.6 gallons of gasoline. Regular grade is recommended.
Mileage: Real-world mileage loaded was 20 miles per gallon on the highway. A lighter load gave us 24 highway mpg.
Safety: Standard equipment includes front and rear ventilated disc brakes, four-wheel anti-lock brake protection, side and head air bags (front knee bolsters for 2013), electronic stability and traction control, and electronic brake-force distribution.
Price: The 2012, front-wheel-drive Ford Explorer Limited has a base price of $37,855 and a dealer’s invoice price of $35,268. The 2013 model will start at about $1,000 higher. Hint: Sales incentives — financing as low as 1.9 percent or rebates up to $1,000 — are available on Ford Explorer models at this writing. If buying used (2011-12 models), choose a model that does not have first-edition MyFord Touch technology.