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Explorer Evolved: Ford's Midsize SUV Has Substance, Style, Strength PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark Maynard   
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 23:21

Photo Credit Creative Syndicate
The mainstream models of Explorer do most things well, with endearing rewards in the option packages

2014 Ford Explorer Limited 4WD

Looking like a cousin to the Range Rover, the Ford Explorer is a mainstream, doanything sport-utility vehicle. It has seats for six or seven, a broad cargo area and the power to tow up to 5,000 pounds. Ford has five "utility" vehicles, ranging from the compact Escape to the large, truck-based Expedition. The midsize -- and now carbased -- Explorer is the choice for families with teens and adventure seekers who pack it in to get away.

Because it shares a platform with the Taurus and other Ford-family vehicles, it gets four-door, carlike benefits, such as comfortable ride, refined interior materials and good soundproofing. The drive experience conveys safety and control. Explorer is sold in four trim levels in front- or all-wheel drive with three engine choices, all with a six-speed automatic transmission. Starting prices range from $30,495 to $41,675 for the performance-level Sport. Today's tester is a wellequipped Limited AWD, which was about $41,000 to start and was $45,560 with one desirable option package.

Equipment group 302A, $5,425, includes such extras as voice-activated navigation system, power fold third row, power liftgate, auto high-beam headlights, heated steering wheel and power tilt-telescopic steering wheel. Safety extras include blind-spot safety alert and second-row inflatable seat belts, lane departure alert and lane-keep assist. The all-wheel-drive system ($2,000) has electronic selections for winter, sand and trail driving, with downhill speed control and hill-start assist. The standard engine is a 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 with 255 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm.

Acceleration is dutiful as it hefts a 4WD curb weight of 4,610 pounds. Deceleration fuel-shut-off technology contributes to mileage ratings of 17 mpg city and 23 highway on regular unleaded. I was averaging 19 to 22-plus, which is in line with the EPA's 19 mpg combined rating. Front-drive models can be optioned with the EcoBoost 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which uses direct injection and turbocharging to spool up 240 horsepower and 250 footpounds of torque at 3,000 rpm. Fuel economy is 20/28, but premium fuel is recommended.

The Sport's 3.5-liter V-6 gets the tech treatment of twin-turbocharging and direct injection for 365 horsepower and 350 foot-pounds torque at 3,500 rpm. Fuel economy on the recommended premium dips to 16/22 mpg -- but the power would not be regretted. The mainstream models of Explorer do most things well, with luxury-class rewards in the option packages. The driver has commandof- road visibility and all-day support in the Limited's 10- way, heated power seat.

The passenger gets the bun warmer and six-way adjustment, but no lumbar. Traditional buttons and switches for interior cabin and audio controls have been replaced with "touch" technology, such as that used for cellphone dial pads and other applications. The system has been improved for more intuitive action, but it will take time for users to figure it out, with a good tutorial from their sales rep at the dealership.

Cabin capacity gives more than 41 inches of front headroom and generous elbowroom and well-padded armrests. Power adjustable pedals allow nearly all sizes of drivers to fine tune an ideal seating position. Just ahead of the console shifter, there is a covered electronics cubby with charging ports. And there is console storage and other slots and nooks. A passenger grab handle is thoughtful for hoisting into the 4WD platform.

The second row has 40 inches of headroom and nearly 40 inches of legroom on a raised 60/40 folding bench with a fold-down armrest. The pair of third-row seats can fold flat into the floor, creating a large, nearly level space that is good for gear or in-car camping (6-feet of length and 40 inches at the narrowest). The rear headrests fold to open rear visibility. The upgrades for power liftgate and folding third row are welcome conveniences.

The manual-folding second row takes a little too much oomph to lower and raise. Not much has changed for the 2014 Explorer. Among the highlights are improved feel and responsiveness to the electric power steering and larger, 12.8-inch vented brake discs front and rear. Stopping distance improves and there will be better control when towing, Ford says. Explorer was an SUV trendsetter in the '90s and it has evolved with substance and technology to a remarkable second life. Mark Maynard is online at mark.maynard@utsandiego. com. Find photo galleries and more news at MaynardsGarage

2014 Ford Explorer Limited 4WD

  •  Body style: midsize, 7-passenger, AWD SUV
  •  Engine: 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6; 255 footpounds torque at 4,000 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed SelectShift with manual mode
  • Fuel economy: 17/23 mpg city/hwy.; 87 octane
  •  Fuel tank: 18.6 gallons
  •  Cargo space: 21 to 43.8 cubic feet
  •  Front head/leg/shoulder room: 41.4/40.6/61.3 inches
  • 2nd row head/leg/shoulder room: 40.5/39.8/61 inches
  •  3rd row head/leg/shoulder room: 37.8/33.2/
  •  Length/wheelbase: 197.1/112.6 inches
  •  Curb weight: 4,610 pounds
  •  Turning circle: 38.9 feet
  •  Standard equipment includes: keyless entry and

           push-button ignition, remote starting, leather-trimmed

          upholstery, 10-way power driver's seat, 6-way power
          front passenger seat, heated front seats, 2nd row
          heated seats, 2nd row 60/40 fold flat, 3rd row 50/50
          fold flat, tilt-telescopic steering column, ambient lighting,
          cargo net, Sync with MyFordTouch, 12-speaker
          Sony audio system with satellite radio, rearview camera,
          20-inch wheels, fog lights, LED taillights, roof rack
          with side rails

  •  Safety features include: Seven air bags, advanced traction

           with roll-stability control, curve control, hillstart assist

  •  Base price: $40,995, including $895 freight charge;

           price as tested $45,560 (with $860 package discounts)

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 January 2014 18:11