2018 Ford Explorer review with video

The basics:
Base price: $31,800 + taxes
As tested price: $52,754 + taxes
Average fuel economy over a week: 13.3 L/100 kms (17.5 US MPG)
Competitors: Chevrolet Traverse, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, etc.

In 1990, way before SUVs were the family car to own, the first Explorers started rolling off the lot. And while larger choices like the Expedition have since come on the market, if you look at the classic size of the Explorer, it obviously still resonates with people – year to date, Ford Canada has sold over seven times as many Explorers over its supersized sibling. And that’s despite the fact that the Explorer is running on some much older tech. This fifth generation has been around since 2011. So can it still hold up as a classic workhorse decades after its inception? Take a look at our video above and the report card below for the skinny.

– The Explorer is a confidence-inspiring, smooth rig to drive on the highway. It cruises along with a respectable 66 decibels of cabin noise at 100 kms/hr.
Although it is a little spongy when you make any quick changes of direction in the corners,
 that bit of body roll and extra ground clearance does mean that the Explorer holds its own on the back roads. It’s certainly more capable than many of the more city-minded crossovers that are coming out these days. And the optional terrain management system, for dialling in the traction control and throttle response to exactly the sort of terrain you’re driving through, is handy for bumping down a muddy logging road
– I also think, despite the fact that the Explorer is getting on in age, that it still looks pretty good from the outside. It holds onto those rugged, truck roots that a lot of other SUVs and crossovers are moving away from
– The second row may be tighter than we’d hoped (see below) but the payoff is a third row that’s actually quite good compared to others in the class
– And if it’s stuff you need to haul around, trunk capacity is really impressive in the Explorer. Behind the third row, there’s 595 litres of cargo space – which is bigger than a lot of sedan trunks and more than capable of swallowing up our standardized trunk test: a stroller, diaper bag, camera bag, two bags of groceries and a soccer ball. Then make the multi-stepped but still fairly easy conversion into a two row SUV and that trunk balloons to 1243 litres
– Flip that second row down and the load floor is flat and vacuous – at which point, you’re basically driving a covered pick-up truck

– As it stands for 2018, you can get into a base Explorer for $31,800. But that will change for 2019 when the base trim gets mothballed for the Canadian market. Four wheel drive will also become standard equipment. The fact is, you really don’t see a lot of those bare bones versions selling anyway, because it has two wheel drive and is SUPER slim on features. You’ve got to go up a few notches for simple things like two zones of climate control or heated front seats or Apple CarPlay or Android Auto – tech that we’re seeing as pretty mainstream base offerings these days
– If you want a bestselling XLT trim with 4WD, that starts at $42,000. But, as tested, we had almost $11,000 worth of options: a $1750 dual sunroof, a $500 powerlift tailgate, a $2,100 rear seat entertainment system, $1,200 for leather seats, a higher grade sound system… the list goes on and rounds up our as tested price to nearly $53,000 Canadian. Extras can get away from you in the Explorer, as is the case with many Ford products
– Meanwhile, if fuel economy is your main concern, there’s the 2.3 litre Ecoboost engine, putting out 280 horsepower, which reportedly sees 10.8 L/100 kms as your all-around average. But both the 3.5 litre Ecoboost and the run-of-the-mill V6 in our tester see much weaker numbers. We averaged 13.3 L/100 kms over a week
– A big reason for this is the pretty old-school 6 speed automatic transmission that comes on all Explorers. It’s a transmission not nearly as efficient as those we’re seeing in many of its competitors or, even in the Ford family, the 10 speed that’s available in the F-150 or Expedition
– While the outside still looks good, time hasn’t been so kind on the interior. The seats are very soft and unsupportive, the twin panel moon roof is also a bit of a blast from the past, and many of the plastics in the cabin feel really cheap and would scratch very easily with a rough-living family
– The optional micro-suede seats in our tester would be really tough to keep clean with a family. It’s hard to wipe down after a spill
– And perhaps most concerning for families is safety. In a time when a top safety pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has really become the expected norm, the 2018 Explorer received poor marks for passenger side small overlap front collisions and marginal marks on the driver’s side
– Speaking of your kids, jumping into the second row is a bit tighter than I’d expected. Fine for Roger in his front facing car seat, but with a rear facing car seat, we measured out 26.5 inches from the back of the  front passenger seat up to the glovebox. That’s going to be a surprising pinch for an SUV in this class
– Getting into the third row is a bit multi-stepped and not as convenient as we saw in the reimagined Expedition
– And
 while many in this class offer seating for eight, the Explorer maxes out at 7 

Family Wheels report card:
Family Wheels driver comfort score: 3/5
Family Wheels interior layout score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels infotainment system score: 4/5
Family Wheels interior noise score: 3.5/5 (66 dB at 100 kms/h)
Family Wheels performance score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels rear passenger score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels trunk score: 4.5/5
Family Wheels fuel economy score: 2.5/5
Family Wheels build quality score: 3/5
Family Wheels value score: 3.5/5

Family Wheels overall score: 34.5/50= 69%

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