2017 Ford Explorer
by John Davis
2016 marked the 25th anniversary for the Ford Explorer. While it was far from the first four-door SUV, it was clearly one of the first that made a case for being a family vehicle and more than just a rutted-roads runabout.
As the 2017 model year dawns, the current Explorer bears little resemblance to that truck-based original, now riding on a three row crossover platform that arrived for 2011. Recent styling updates have included more than just the usual front fascia; as hood, headlamps, and fenders are new as well.
Most everything else in back got freshened last year as well, including lift gate, bumper, and taillights. And of course there are new wheel styles too. 2017 goes a step further in adding a Sports Appearance Package with 20-inch wheels and Magnetic Grey highlights for the XLT trim.
A straightforward 3.5-liter naturally-aspirated V6 is still the base engine. More entertaining is this twin-turbo EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 with 365-horsepower. But, the newest and most efficient option is the Mustang’s 280-horsepower 2.3-liter EcoBoost I4.
The 3.5 EcoBoost makes the Explorer feel like a true performance-style SUV. Turbocharging may not be a total replacement for displacement, but our twin-turbo V6 felt plenty V8-strong. There is plenty of oomph available throughout the rev band, and a quick shifting 6-speed automatic to put it to best use, though all engines offer adequate power as well as all-wheel-drive.
The all-wheel-drive system features Ford’s Terrain Management System with settings for Normal, Snow, Sand, and Mud. In our experience, you pick your road conditions and the Explorer responds.
There seems to be no limit to how far manufacturers will go to add poshness to utilities, nor buyers’ appetites for the same. So, Ford has brought the Platinum treatment to the Explorer. It features real wood and aluminum trim, as well as premium Sony sound and quilted leather. Seating for 7 is standard, with 2nd row Captain’s chairs an option.
Cargo capacity scores well with a maximum of 81.7 cubic-ft.
A hands-free lift gate is available with XLT and Sport trims; standard on Limited and Platinum.
Platinum trim also includes enhanced Active Park Assist; and on the passive safety front, inflatable 2nd row safety belts are now available on all models. The Explorer won’t yet apply the brakes for you if a collision is imminent, but it will give plenty of warning, and provide full braking pressure once you initiate the stop. The Explorer is still a big and heavy SUV, so one must take care not to overdrive it.
For our complete test of the 2017 Ford Explorer, be sure to catch MotorWeek episode #3620 that begins airing on January 20, 2017. For a listing of the public television stations that broadcast MotorWeek, go to motorweek.org and click the “About The Show” tab at the top. MotorWeek is also seen Tuesday evenings on the Velocity cable network.
Even after a quarter of a century, Ford has found ways to significantly improve the Explorer without any turnoffs. The entire lineup still plays the large family vehicle part perfectly. We think that will keep Explorer’s market-conquering ways intact beyond the horizon.