Some critics seem confused about why the Explorer is so popular, but there's just something about the Ford Explorer that makes people want to keep coming back again and again. After all, the Explorer is the best-selling midsize SUV of the year, which is admirable for a class crowded with competitors. What's all the excitement about?
For those who want a brawny SUV with plenty of space, the Explorer fits the bill. Buyers get three rows of seating, plus plenty of cargo space behind the last one. That's important if you want room for all your stuff without the hassle of folding down seats every time the grocery load or soccer bags get larger than you'd expected. The V6 engine is more than adequate while those who want a sportier option have the twin-turbo option in the Explorer Sport.
You can choose between five Ford Explorers in the 2018 model year. As you step up the trims (and notice that the price increase is sometimes steep), you'll get more tech features and better engines. The base and XLT trims share a 3.5-liter V6 engine, the Limited offers a turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost engine, and the Sport and Platinum both feature a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6. Which engine you choose depends on how sporty you like your ride.
In terms of technology, the trim comes with SYNC infotainment interface, a 4.2-inch display, voice commands, Bluetooth, USB port, six speakers, power-adjustable driver's seat, and rearview camera. Parents will appreciate Ford's MyKey, a teen safety system. The XLT adds satellite radio, leather-wrapped steering wheel, door keypad, proximity key, push-button start, and a better brake system. The Limited and Sport give you SYNC 3 interface with 8-inch touchscreen, two 4.2-inch driver displays, 12-speaker system, leather seats, hands-free liftgate, 110-volt household power outlet, heated and cooled front seats, heated outboard second-row seats, and power-folding third-row seats. Finally, the Platinum trim gets all the available safety features plus swanky wood and leather interior embellishments.
It's too early to call for the 2018 model, but J.D. Power and Associates gave the 2017 model an average score in reliability, with high marks for its powertrain and body but lower marks for mechanical systems. However, customer satisfaction among Explorer owners remains high, indicating that some reliability fears are never realized.
The Explorer is slated to tow up to 5,000 pounds, enough for some recreational boats or a small, hard-side RV. If that's not enough, the full-size Ford Expedition, a sport utility vehicle which can muster almost double the Explorer's towing capacity, may be your best bet.