KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
Despite the recent downturn in SUV sales, a somewhat aging platform and less-than-stellar fuel economy, the 2009 Ford Explorer continues to populate Ford showrooms. Powerful owner loyalty, a reasonable size and the option of a potent V8 engine all contribute to the Explorer's appeal, and it makes a great choice for families looking to get away from a full-sized SUV, as well as for those who need the ground clearance and four-wheel-drive capability that only a body-on-frame SUV can provide. Although the Explorer has plenty of newer competition, both domestic and foreign, few offer the combination of an attractive price, three-row seating, a powerful V8 engine and the Explorer's 7,300-pound tow rating.
You'll Like This Car If...
Whether you're drawn to the 2009 Ford Explorer for its truck-like towing and cargo-hauling capabilities or its minivan-like versatility, you'll find more of what you're looking for in the latest incarnation of this quintessential SUV.
You May Not Like This Car If...
Although the 2009 Ford Explorer succeeds in being both smoother and more responsive than any previous model, it still drives like a big, truck-based SUV when compared to a select few of its competitors, many of which deliver almost sedan-like ride and handling.
What's New for 2009
Trailer Sway Control is added to the Explorer's AdvanceTrac stability system. New optional features include the next-generation navigation system with SIRIUS Travel Link and a new XLT Sports Package.
Thanks to a sturdy frame and recently revised suspension, the 2009 Ford Explorer is noticeably smoother and more stable out on the highway than past versions. It's also quieter, making for easy conversation between occupants in separate rows. Moreover, the Explorer is more responsive around town and, when equipped with the V8 and six-speed automatic transmission, is the most powerful model yet, although we found the V6 had more than enough output to meet our daily-driver demands. While both ride and handling are improved all around, the balance remains very much in favor of comfort, with handling characteristics that fall short of more car-like competitors, such as the Nissan Pathfinder.
Power-Folding Third Row
Not only do the two rear rows fold almost perfectly flat, but the third row is available with a power folding option that makes it easy to transform the Explorer from people-mover to cargo-hauler and back at the push of a button.
Interior Peace and Quiet
Considering its vast interior volume and all the opportunities that exist for outside noise to creep inside, the 2009 Ford Explorer is impressively, refreshingly quiet.
The 2009 Explorer's interior sports traditional Ford angular styling along with a few new interior options. Front-row seats feature extended seat tracks to better accommodate a wider range of occupant heights, while the second row is available in three seating configurations and the third row offers a power folding feature. In addition, both rear rows of seats now fold almost completely flat (just two degrees from horizontal), so cargo is more likely to stay in place. The only functional sore spot we noted was the awkward placement of the front inside door handles.
The 2009 Ford Explorer remains a very obvious descendant of the first Explorer that materialized some 17 years ago and revolutionized the industry. The biggest and most obvious change is up front, with two grilles – each assigned to a particular trim level – inspired by Ford's F-150 pickup. Distinguishing this generation from the last is probably most difficult from the side, but look closely and you'll find thicker roof rails, larger and more distinct wheels and bigger side mirrors. Around back, large taillights and a big nine-inch blue Ford oval further differentiate the new model from previous Explorers.
Notable Standard Equipment
Standard equipment on a base-level Explorer XLT includes a 4.0-liter V6, five-speed automatic transmission, two-wheel drive, power windows, locks and mirrors, remote keyless entry, AM/FM stereo with MP3-compatible CD player, air conditioning, cruise control, AdvanceTrac electronic stability control with RSC (Roll Stability Control), 16-inch painted aluminum wheels, cloth bucket seats with driver-side manual lumbar support, tire pressure monitoring system, digital compass, outside temperature indicator and front, side-impact and two-row side-curtain airbags.
Notable Optional Equipment
Trim-level, package and stand-alone options include a 4.6-liter V8 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive, third-row seat, leather seats, woodgrain interior accents, voice-activated navigation system, DVD rear-seat entertainment system, premium sound system with six-disc in-dash CD/MP3 player, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, dual-zone automatic climate control, auxiliary rear climate control, reverse sensing system, glass sunroof, six- or 10-way power driver's seat, six-way power passenger's seat, heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors, adjustable pedals, driver-position memory, power-folding third-row seat, automatic headlamps, fog lamps, electrochromic rearview mirror, entry keypad, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, trip computer and 17-, 18- and 20-inch wheels.
Under the Hood
The 4.0-liter V6 engine delivers decent mileage and, according to Ford, produces fewer emissions than the previous-generation V6 Explorers. The 24-valve V8 delivers a marked increase in horsepower, along with increases in maximum towing and payload capacities, to 7,300 and 1,520 pounds, respectively.
210 horsepower @ 5100 rpm
254 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/20 (2WD), 13/19 (4WD)
292 horsepower @ 5750 rpm
315 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/21 (2WD), 14/19 (4WD)
With a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting below $28,000, a base 2009 Explorer XLT is priced well within most budgets. The top-of-the-line Explorer Limited with the V8 and all-wheel drive starts closer to $39,000 and, with all the options, tops out around $45,000. Fair Purchase Prices for the Ford Explorer reflect real-world selling prices in your area, so be sure to check them before you set out to buy. In terms of resale value, we expect the freshened Explorer to hold its value just slightly better than the similarly-priced Chevrolet Trailblazer and Dodge Durango, but to fall below the Toyota 4Runner and Honda Pilot.