Ford Explorer is the undisputed sales leader in the sport utility market. And our recent experience with a Ford Explorer Limited told us emphatically that this leadership has been won through hard work and smart thinking. The result is a product that has everything,-well, almost everything.
The Ford Explorer has many features and benefits that surprise and please. It looks good, feels good, performs well and has great affordability. The MSRP sticker price on the base Explorer is $28,535. The top of the line Limited package adds many goodies and almost $1,500 to that number. It totals more than the Chevy S-Blazer or the GMC Jimmy but it's less expensive than the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited and significantly less than the Range Rover.
Our four-door Limited was finished in Deep Forest Green Clearcoat Metallic. Despite some prejudices against green, this color really works on the vehicle. While somewhat less stylish than the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited, the Explorer Limited makes its own subtle statement well. Monochromatic moldings and bumpers and smartly styled running boards-yes, we said running boards-give Explorer Limited a pleasing yet substantial look and off-road protection as well. An integral air dam under the front bumper houses and protects fog lights. A standard 100-pound-capacity luggage rack may be fitted with an optional ski rack. Our Explorer Limited also had the optional tilt-up or completely removable sunroof-an important factory option for a vehicle meant to be used in the great outdoors.
At the rear of the vehicle, the bumper has a hitch platform for light trailer towing (serious towing should be attempted only with an approved aftermarket hitch). This platform also provides a handy step for entering the cargo area. The rear hatch may be lifted for full access to the rear, or the rear window may be lifted separately for quick, limited access-one of the many nice Explorer touches.
Explorer has the longest wheelbase in its class-112 inches. It pays off in a smoother ride and, especially, in interior room. Fold down the 60/40 split rear seatback and there is six full feet of cargo area length. That's 81.6 cubic feet of volume the roormiest available. This is thanks in part to mounting the spare tire underneath.
Ford listed our four-door Explorer Limited as a five-passenger vehicle. For some competitors who claim five in the same basic configuration, the fifth passenger riding in the rear must be very small and very still. And in the Explorer, entering and exiting is easy-whether you're seated in the front or rear-thanks in large part to those aforementioned running boards.
The Limited package includes standard air conditioning, six-way power front bucket seats, premium leather seating, an electronics group, an overhead console and heated outside mirrors. Everything is there and well thought out. Placement of instrumentation is very good, as are the positions of controls, switches and amenities such as cup holders. Visibility inside and out is excellent.
The Explorer Limited's many safety features include intrusion beams in the doors, a standard four-wheel anti-lock braking system and child-proof rear door locks. One significant item is missing, as it is on most sport utilities in 1994-a driver-side (and passenger side for that matter) air bag. We're told it's coming in 1995. We think it should be here now.
Our Explorer Limited proved to be a most pleasant sport utility to drive. The wheelbase helped eliminate a great deal of the choppiness found in other sport utilities. The Twin Traction Beam front suspension with axle/coil springs and rear two stage leaf springs provided a smooth ride with little body roll in turns.
The 4.0-liter 160-hp V6 is coupled with a four-speed automatic transmission, standard in our Explorer Limited. Pedal-to-the-metal provided swift, sure acceleration and great passing and merging power, but the power fell short of Grand Cherokee's V8. The engine did emit some noise as the power increased.
Our Explorer Limited had auto-locking front hubs with a Touch Drive transfer case for on-the-fly shifting from 2WD to 4WD and back at normal road speeds. Manual locking hubs and a manual shift transfer case are optional.
We took our Explorer on our favorite off-road course, and it performed flawlessly, climbing a rather steep grade with no trouble and negotiating a rock-strewn stream and a suspension-testing two-track. We're convinced Explorer can do anything any competing sport utility can -and probably better.
Trailer towing can be accomplished by mounting a ball on the step bumper, but capacity is limited to 3,500 pounds. Add an aftermarket load equalizing hitch and the cooling package, specifically a 3.73 rear axle and towing capacity is increased to 5,400 pounds for the 4x4; 5,600 for the 4x2.
Ford used the knowledge it gained from the Bronco II to create and build the Explorer. And the result is that the Explorer is everything the Bronco II wasn't. The Explorer is bigger and more refined. Room, comfort, power and features have been built in without major penalties in bulk and weight. The Explorer has been given utilitarian capabilities yet is stylish in the extreme. It works, and works well. The fact that Explorer predated the Jeep Grand Cherokee and still manages to compare very favorably-and perhaps most important, is the sales leader-is a good indication of the wisdom at Ford.
The test drive of our Explorer Limited included a weekend fishing expedition, and the vehicle was enjoyable on- and off-road. It accommodated four of us and our required trappings on a four-hour freeway ride, then over miles of back roads and two-tracks. There was easy access to the seats and cargo area, and ample power to get through mud and soft sand and up some short, steep grades.
The Explorer compares well in price to the Jeep, Grand Cherokee, although the Grand Cherokee we tested had the optional 220-hp V8 (Explorer is only available with the 160-hp V6) and some other extras. Our only real disappointment is the lack of a driver-side air bag. Funny, because it's on the Bronco now.
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|Build & Price|
2014 FORD EXPLORER$32,496 | 17,194 mi
2014 FORD EXPLORER$34,921 | 12,859 mi
2013 Ford Explorer$25,981 | 50,656 mi
2013 FORD EXPLORER$26,998 | 45,178 mi
2013 Ford Explorer$27,958 | 34,606 mi
2013 FORD EXPLORER$29,999 | 38,416 mi
2013 Ford Explorer$30,603 | 33,078 mi
2013 FORD EXPLORER$38,885 | 20,729 mi
2012 FORD EXPLORER$27,996 | 14,656 mi
2012 Ford Explorer$28,588 | 43,494 mi
2012 FORD EXPLORER$30,987 | 29,686 mi
2012 FORD EXPLORER$38,995 | 13,720 mi
2011 Ford Explorer$28,850 | 51,014 mi
2011 FORD EXPLORER$28,995 | 19,580 mi
2011 FORD EXPLORER$29,987 | 31,420 mi
2011 Ford Explorer$30,493 | 43,812 mi
2011 FORD EXPLORER$30,887 | 36,673 mi
2011 FORD EXPLORER$33,995 | 43,137 mi
2010 Ford Explorer$14,900 | 78,219 mi
2010 FORD EXPLORER$22,995 | 76,284 mi
2008 Ford Explorer$13,995 | 106,251 mi
2008 Ford Explorer$14,999 | 98,368 mi
2008 FORD EXPLORER$18,995 | 41,316 mi
2007 Ford Explorer$12,995 | 80,960 mi
2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac$13,721 | 116,258 mi
2007 FORD EXPLORER SPORT TRAC$14,988 | 94,225 mi
2006 Ford Explorer$7,799 | 129,073 mi
2002 Ford Explorer$4,500 | 120,113 mi