"I waited till I owned this one nearly 4 full yrs to leave my comments, because I bought used and wanted to be certain of my experience. My Explorer is an Eddie Bauer AWD 4.6L with almost all options. It has no moon roof or 3rd row seating and the rear seats are not bucket.
The "rear air" is misleading, as it has no real controls beyond vents, but rear passengers have only been thankful over time. The quality of the vehicle is quite high with only one issue, the plastic cover on the lift gate has a crack through in the center and I see this on many Explorers with the same part. This is exterior and easily noted. Aside from that and the CD player having a stutter(which the dealer fixed immediately with no charge), I have just begun to note wear and tear inside the vehicle. It was built 7 years ago, so that's quality in my view.
I would never off-road this Explorer, but it has never been stuck in anyplace I have needed to take it, including dirt roads, snow, up/over seriously bad roads in W. Virginia to get to my dads farm. It was clearly built for traction and, while not the best off-road, it has traction.
The fuel economy is okay for this type of vehicle. Mine averages 17.3 overall and I do much highway driving. Keep in mind, AWD V8. The in vehicle record/monitor seems to be very close to accurate. Over nearly 116,000 miles, it's close, except the miles to empty part, which usually thinks I'll be out of fuel 50 miles or so before I would be. If it weighed under 4,000 lb rather than just under 5,000, I think mileage could be a bit better.
One of the best parts is the view I get from the driver seat(or any other). It makes driving much, much more enjoyable than our other car, a small GM product. Each is a 2004 model and hers has 40,000 plus fewer miles, even though we do the same work for the same company. This is our main driver. It's much more comfortable, but part of that is the ability to see around us without sitting like we're in a big truck.
It's a little jerky with my lead-foot issue, but overall, this Explorer has been the best vehicle I've ever owned for confidence inspired and comfortable driving. This would include my past Grand Marquis' from 89, 97 and 04, all purchased new by someone in my immediate family. That said, it's no F-350 SuperCrew or TownCar. It is a good mix, with some towing ability(and it does well) and truck like torque, to go along with it's "large car" feel inside. It rides nice for any SUV with the slightest rough road capability and I feel confident to take it just about anywhere I might need and/or want to go.
They're expensive, frankly, but worth owning if you need such a vehicle, or just really want one. If I buy an SUV next, I'm looking for a 2010 Explorer because Ford, well... RUINED it for the 2011 model by removing the frame, deleting V8 engine(though the new engines out-power my 4.6L(and totally lack its torque no matter what they may say) option, and WORSE by far, they made it FRONT WHEEL DRIVE standard... It WAS an SUV and now it will be a CUV, at best. Sadly, I'm convinced sales with drop even though the new ones look pretty. They cost more as well. For those reasons, I'm keeping my 2004 for now. Front wheel drive is GARBAGE compared to rear wheel drive. It always has been and it always will be. It hurts handling and increases costs with essentially zero benefits to any decent driver."
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