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3/4 Front Glamour 2013 Ford Explorer

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Expert's Rating


MPG 17 City / 23 Highway
  • Light yet durable construction
  • Lots of cargo room
  • Above average towing ability
  • Many useful options available
  • Needs a little more torque
, Automotive Editor -
The Ford Explorer was synonymous with family transportation in the 1990s. Since then, it's been reborn as a three-row midsize crossover that combines carlike refinement with practicality and moderate off-road capability on four-wheel drive models. It has a variety of available engines, from a turbocharged four-cylinder to a turbocharged V6 that's new for 2013. In addition, the Explorer has comprehensive safety features and advanced technology that keeps it relevant as family transportation in this decade.


All Explorers are have three rows of seats and seat up to seven passengers. A 3.5-liter V6 with 290 horsepower, mated to a six-speed automatic, is the standard powertrain and it's available with either front or four-wheel drive. The four-wheel drive system doesn't have a low range, but boasts Ford's Terrain Management system that allows the driver to select the road surface. Electronics in the system alter the way power is sent to the wheels to cope with things like rocks and snow. It tries to give the car-based Explorer off- road capability more in line with a traditional SUV like a Jeep Grand Cherokee.

See what other SUVs are getting praise with our 2013 SUV buying guide

Optional on front-wheel drive Explorers is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, one of Ford's EcoBoost variants. Even though it's small, the engine packs 240 horsepower and gives the big Explorer best-in-class fuel economy of up to 28 MPG highway. This compares to the V6's highest rating of 25 MPG highway. Newly available is the EcoBoost V6, only available on the Sport model. It turns out 350 horsepower. Explorers can tow up to 5,000 lbs. with the V6, but 2.0-liter models max out at 2,000 lbs.

All Explorers get power amenities, air conditioning, six-way power driver's seat, 17-inch wheels, six-speaker audio system with AUX input and a raft of safety features that includes full-length curtain airbags, front and side front passenger airbags and a rollover protection program. XLT models add SiriusXM radio and rear parking sensors. Limited trim boasts leather seats, HD radio and MyFord Touch. The new Sport trim has the EcoBoost V6, sport seats and 20-inch alloy wheels.

In terms of the competition, the Chevrolet Traverse can seat up to eight, instead of the Explorer's seven. It also has more cargo space overall. But the Traverse doesn't have as sophisticated of a four-wheel drive system and only offers one engine. The Honda Pilot also seats up to eight and can be cheaper than a similarly equipped Explorer, but lacks many high-tech options and has hit-or-miss styling. The Toyota Highlander is quiet, soft-riding and offers a four-cylinder. But the Toyota is more cramped inside. The Mazda CX-9 is more agile and is less expensive than the Explorer, but its infotainment systems are a generation behind.

Overall, the Explorer is a solid choice for a three-row crossover if safety and having the latest in-car technology is high on the list. It is also a competent seven-seater that offers many engine choices and has a more sophisticated four-wheel drive system than other crossovers.

Which Style To Buy?

2013 Ford Explorer
Starting price

2013 Ford Explorer Base

Recommended for: Shoppers who prioritize seating and space

The base Explorer comes standard with everything to make seven people comfortable in a crossover. The 3.5-liter V6 is standard, but the Base comes with 17-inch wheels, air conditioning, power windows, mirrors and locks, cruise control, six-way power driver's seat, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, trip computer and a six-speaker audio system with AUX input. Even the least expensive Explorer also gets Trailer Sway Control. SiriusXM radio, Ford's SYNC system with phone integration and USB input, as is the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine on front-wheel drive models. An optional Class III hitch brings towing capacity up to 5,000 lbs. on V6s.

2013 Ford Explorer
Starting price

2013 Ford Explorer Limited

Recommended for: Buyers who want the most advanced features and a luxurious interior

The Limited gets most of the XLT's optional luxury items as standard, starting with the leather seats and heat and power adjustments for front-seat passengers. MyFord Touch with backup camera is standard, as are 20-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, remote engine start, power-adjustable pedals with memory, a 110-volt power outlet and a 12-speaker Sony HD audio system. The second-row bench seat gets an armrest with dual cupholders and interior ambient lighting. Equipment Group 301A adds cooled front seats, 10-way power front passenger's seat and MyFord Touch navigation. Equipment Group 302A bundles blind-spot monitoring, inflatable rear seatbelts, active park assist and lane-departure warning. A Luxury Seating Package adds a power-folding third-row seat and a second row console is an option, as is a dual-pane moonroof.

2013 Ford Explorer
Starting price

2013 Ford Explorer Sport

Recommended for: Shoppers looking for some speed with their family car

The new Explorer Sport adds a dose of performance that's rare in the three-row crossover segment. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 with four- wheel drive is standard. It has special 20-inch alloy wheels with a sport-tuned suspension and a black grille. Inside, there are sport seats. Equipment Group 402A adds MyFord Touch navigation, blind-spot monitoring, inflatable rear seatbelts and a power liftgate. Leather seats are optional, as is remote entry and start, a dual-pane moonroof, ambient lighting, power-adjustable pedals and heated and cooled front seats.

2013 Ford Explorer
Starting price

2013 Ford Explorer XLT

Recommended for: Shoppers looking for more style and technology

The XLT opens up more advanced features to Explorer shoppers. It adds 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, automatic headlamps, rear parking sensors, leather-wrapped steering wheel, a keyless entry code pad, SYNC with USB input and SiriusXM radio. A dual-pane moonroof is optional. Equipment Group 201A adds a backup camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, a nine-speaker sound system and the Driver Connect package – MyFord Touch and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Also available is a bundle with a blind-spot monitoring system and Ford's inflatable rear seatbelts. The Equipment Group 202A adds leather seats, heated front seats with a 10-way power driver's seat and six-way power front passenger's seat. MyFord Touch navigation is also available.

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