Ford’s largest crossover is also the best-selling model in the midsize SUV segment. The 2018 Explorer offers a strong stance backed up by powerful engines, competitive trailering capabilities, and the latest technologies.

Best Value

The 2018 Ford Explorer is available in five trims: Explorer, XLT, Limited, Sport and Platinum. The Explorer seats seven, but is ideal for five with ample cargo space available.

The Explorer XLT starts at $34,020 (including a $995 destination fee). Our best value choice is the Explorer XLT as it comes with LED lights, a V6 engine, keyless entry with push-button start, and a reverse sensing system.

  • Model: 2018 Ford Explorer XLT AWD
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6
  • Output: 290 hp/255 lb.-ft.
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • MPG: 17 city/24 highway
  • Options: All-wheel drive ($2,150), Equipment Group 201A ($2,300, remote start, power-operated and heated side mirrors, 18-inch painted aluminum wheels, a power liftgate, unique front bucket power seats with driver lumbar support, a SYNC 3 infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, a seven-speaker audio system, and dual-zone climate control), Ford Safe and Smart Package ($1,295, automatic headlights, lane-keep assist and alert, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning)
  • Base Price: $37,165 (including $995 destination charge)
  • As Tested: $40,790


Toyota Corolla

We found the V6 delivers capable off-the-mark acceleration and sufficient passing power, although the transmission tends to get lazy, taking longer time to move between gears than what we like. Operating in sport mode brings discipline to this powertrain, but at a slight sacrifice to fuel efficiency. An available 2.3-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder provides a more fuel efficient option, but it lacks the oomph to really get the Explorer moving.

The 2018 Explorer rides smoothly in most instances and the steering responds quickly to small and big inputs alike. When you need to tow, you have a 5,000-pound towing capacity to work with, same as most competitors, including the Nissan Pathfinder, but much less than the Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Interior and Exterior

Now in its eighth year, the current-generation Ford Explorer is showing its age. Nevertheless, its stance is one of the most powerful entries in the segment, as it eschews the rounded edges and soft lines of many competitors. This model looks handsome with its sporty grille, flared wheel wells and aluminum wheels. Available features include 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, a panoramic sunroof, and a hands-free foot-activated liftgate.

The Explorer offers room for seven with the most comfortable seats in the cabin up front. We found the second-row seat tilted slightly forward and thinner than what we’d like. The third row is disappointingly cramped, but the same applies to most models in this segment.

Standard cargo space measures 21 cubic feet behind the third-row seat and that’s more room than the GMC Acadia. Behind the second-row seat is 43.9 cubic feet, topping out at a roomy 81.7 cubic feet behind the first row.

Key features include full power accessories, cloth seats, a power driver’s seat and Sync 3 infotainment. Options include a power tilt-and-telescopic steering column, 12-speaker Sony audio system and a voice-activated navigation system.

The Best and Worst Things

More isn’t always better, but the three engine choices for the 2018 Explorer ensure that robust performance is never lacking, no matter which engine you choose. On the other hand, buyers may find disappointment with the fuel economy of the turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

Right For

Toyota Corolla

Anyone wanting an SUV with burly good looks. Front to back and top to bottom, the Explorer projects confidence. Unlike most other models which have made the transition from traditional to modern SUV, the Ford has succeeded, at least in the looks department.

Wrong For

Customers desiring a modern model. The Explorer’s floor is high and that affects passenger space, although cargo room is sufficient. The similar-sized Ford Flex provides a more comfortable cabin than the Explorer.

The Bottom Line

As old as this model is, Ford has kept up with updates, enabling the Explorer to maintain its place as the top-selling three-row crossover. Premium features on top-trim models enable the Explorer to punch above its weight, but at a cost that can top $50,000.