New for 2015
Changes to the Ford Explorer for 2015 have been limited to cosmetic items: the base model gets 18-inch alloy wheels; options now include heated second-row seats, rear seatbelt airbags, adaptive cruise control, and park assist; an XLT package offers the Sport model styling; and three new exterior colors have been added.
The Explorer is Ford’s three-row crossover that seats up to seven passengers. Also available as a higher-performance Sport model, the Explorer sits above the Escape and below the Expedition in Ford’s lineup.
The Ford Explorer is available with three different engines paired to a six-speed automatic and in front- or all-wheel drive forms. The volume Explorer gets a 290-hp 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 255 lb-ft of torque. EPA-estimated fuel economy for the volume 3.5-liter V-6 is 17/23-24 mpg city/highway. Buyers who want more efficiency can opt for the FWD-only turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost I-4 that makes 240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque, which earns EPA estimates of 20/28 mpg. The most powerful engine goes with the Explorer Sport: a 365-hp twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 that makes 350 lb-ft of torque, and demands the AWD system to assist in putting that power to the road. EPA numbers are 16/22 mpg.
The 2015 Ford Explorer has not been evaluated by the NHTSA or IIHS, but for 2014 received a five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA (out of a possible five stars), and in IIHS testing received four good ratings and marginal in the small front overlap category.
What We Think
The Ford Explorer is one of the best-selling three-row crossovers on the market, but it’s based off an old platform that dates back to 1999. New technology, horsepower, and a handsome exterior can’t make up for the Explorer’s functional shortcomings. Space in the second row, not to mention the optional third row, is inadequate, and several editors’ children complained when they were stuffed into the second row for road trips. Limited outward visibility also hampers the Explorer, which carries over into the Sport and the fact that the last thing you’ll feel comfortable doing is sporty driving.
In a 2013 Family Crossover Comparison (and indeed, every review of the current-gen Explorer) we complained about the MyFord Touch infotainment system. It’s not just inconvenient, it’s distracting. In the crossover comparison we matched the Explorer against a Honda Pilot, where the Ford lost. We cited deficient packaging, limited visibility, a wide center tunnel, high door sills, and the awful infotainment system as reasons for the loss to the admittedly logical, but appliance-like, Honda.
My advice is to consider one of the Explorer’s excellent competitors, like the Dodge Durango, or, if you want to stay in the Ford family, the excellent Flex.
- Handsome exterior styling
- Strong powertrain
- AWD capable in the snow
You Won’t Like
- Big on the outside, small on the inside
- Poor fuel economy
- Awkward design elements make it functionally difficult to use
- Honda Pilot
- Dodge Durango
- Hyundai Santa Fe
- Ford Flex
- Mazda CX-9