The new Explorer rides very, very smoothly, much better than any Explorer of the past. That's to be expected, though, when you compare a unibody vehicle to a body-on-frame design. This is a nice enough crossover vehicle, but I'm honestly having a hard time understanding why Ford is selling it alongside the Flex. Both seat seven passengers, both start at just under $30K, both receive nearly identical EPA fuel economy ratings, both are available with front- or all-wheel-drive, and both can be equipped to tow a respectable load. Obviously, Ford isn't going to ditch the Explorer name, but it could have renamed the Flex as the Explorer. Whatever. I suppose it's best to think of the polarizing Flex as a niche vehicle and leave it at that. Ford obviously isn't the only carmaker selling very similar products alongside each other. I'd feel better about the whole thing if I liked the Explorer half as much as I like the impressive Flex, though.
The powertrain is unobtrusively adequate (the upcoming Ecoboost four-cylinder should help inject the Explorer with some energy and also separate it more from the Flex). The third row offers adequate space for me (I'm only five-foot-six), but the second-row accommodations aren't the best, emphasizing the desirability of sliding second-row seats that offer increased legroom when there's no one sitting in the way back. This test vehicle had lots of options (nav, leather, heated seats, and much more) but lacked a power liftgate, which would have been particularly handy. Also, the interior looks and feels inferior to those of Chrysler's new Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango.
Count me as another of the many critics who don't like MyFord Touch. Phil nailed it in his description. But I'll also add that the interface is slow, and it's way too easy to hit the wrong button and flub a command while you're reaching for the temperature-change button, for instance. Fortunately, it's standard only on Explorers of the Limited trim level. Opt out of MyFord Touch, dear consumer.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor