It's easy to get caught up in the details with this new Explorer, as there are many little annoyances that detract from the core functions of this car. Unfortunately, even when you look at the big picture, the Explorer feels like less than what was promised.
We were told by Ford engineers not to fret that the SUV icon was switching from a rear-wheel-drive architecture to a front-wheel-drive platform; the all-wheel drive system, they promised, would still be sufficiently competent. Yet, under hard acceleration away from a stop, the Explorer continues to torque steers several seconds after the throttle has been matted. That should be plenty of time for the differential to allocate power to the rear wheels, but what the behavior reveals is that the system isn't robust enough to send the appropriate amount of torque to the rear wheels.
Sitting in the driver's seat, the Explorer feels absolutely cavernous and yet visibility isn't very good. It seems that in an effort to compensate for the Explorer's high beltline, the design team ordered up a tall roof. But all of that extra space over your head has little purpose.
Then there's MyFord Touch. There are two primary sins, in my mind, with this interface. The first is the technical inferiority of the touch screen, which doesn't respond to repeated taps if you're raising the temperature or cycling through heated seat settings. Secondly is the fact that the screen is far too cluttered and the icons are too small. Ford engineers and designers need to strip out as many nonessential functions as possible from each primary screen.
The handling limits of the Explorer feel pretty low and still the ride isn't all that soft. It's certainly livable, but the majority of crossovers do it better. The engine, transmission, and steering, on the other hand, all perform dutifully.
Despite it's shortcomings, Ford will certainly sell gobs of Explorers (I have already seen flocks of them all over Michigan), but given the recent excellence from cars like the Fiesta and Focus, this new crossovers comes of as underwhelming and even a bit disappointing.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor