By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.4
Completely redesigned to better meet the wants and needs of today's increasingly sophisticated buyers, the 2011 Ford Explorer shares little but its name with a vehicle that ushered in the modern SUV era when it arrived 20 years ago. Still mid-size, the fifth-generation Explorer straddles the line between a traditional sport utility and contemporary crossover by moving from body-on-frame to unitized design. That transition yields a four-door/seven-passenger package which is significantly lighter yet stronger and more fuel-efficient than the 2010 iteration while providing greater comfort, luxury, and refinement plus state-of-the-art technology and safety features. Available in base/XLT/Limited trims, front- or four-wheel drive and offering a standard V6 engine, the 2011 Ford Explorer will face off against key rivals like the Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Acadia, Dodge Durango, Honda Pilot Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota 4Runner.
Those seeking a versatile mid-size vehicle that merges the most desirable functional elements of an SUV and a crossover with exceptional style, comfort and segment-leading fuel economy will find plenty to praise about the 2011 Ford Explorer lineup.
Hard-core off-roaders are still likely to prefer conventional body-on-frame vehicles like the Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota 4Runner – or unit-body alternatives like the Dodge Durango or Jeep Grand Cherokee that offer a dual-range 4WD system. Anyone needing to tow more than 5,000 pounds or wanting a rear-seat DVD entertainment system also should look elsewhere
A top-to-bottom rethink of the Explorer formula results in a thoroughly contemporary and far more desirable take on the SUV/crossover concept, creating a package that should help win over new buyers as well as bring former owners back into the Blue Oval fold.
Driving Impressions For all of the noteworthy changes Ford wrought on the 2011 Explorer, the transformation in its dynamic character is arguably the most profound. Moving to a unit-body configuration endows this...SUV/crossover with a far smoother, more compliant yet better-controlled ride. Match that with a bounty of standard computer-controlled handling aids, impressively weighted electrically-boosted power steering, capable anti-lock disc brakes and its world-exclusive Curve Control system and the new Explorer takes on any travel assignment with newfound confidence that belies its scale. Although ground clearance is a fairly modest 7.6 inches, our off-road experience in a four-wheel-drive variant proved conclusively that the new Terrain Management system will ensure the average Explorer owner successful access – and egress – when venturing into unpaved territory, as well. Factor in outstanding fuel economy, exceptional cabin comfort, user-focused functionality plus class-leading connectivity, and the 2011 Ford Explorer emerges as a most accommodating travelmate for its driver and passengers, alike.
My Ford Touch
This latest and most capable version of Ford's driver-connect technology is standard on the Explorer Limited and available on the XLT. It utilizes an even more advanced and expanded version of the automaker's SYNC voice-command system to allow and facilitate a broader range of input commands for the audio, navigation, climate control and phone systems.
A world-exclusive, this standard safety enhancement automatically senses when the vehicle is entering a given corner to quickly and automatically engage throttle and braking intervention to help keep it maintain the desired driving path.
A complete cabin recast puts even greater emphasis on style and comfort thanks to upgraded materials, exceptional fit/finish, lots more soft-touch surfaces and enhanced trim elements. The new instrument package, MyFord Connect (base) or available MyFord Touch (XLT/Limited) systems, a media hub, four 12V powerpoints and multiple stow cubbies add to the ambiance while decently supportive front buckets team with an adult-friendly 60/40 second-row bench and an adult-accepting 50/50 third tier across the line. Popping the Explorer's one-piece liftgate facilitates easy access to its 15.7 cubic-foot cargo bay, which can be expanded to a maximum of 80.7 cubic-feet by folding down both rows of rear seats.Exterior
Although its overall shape and scale carry over, the fully restyled 2011 Ford Explorer boasts a cleaner and classier appearance – along with 12-percent better aerodynamics. Slightly longer and lower with a significantly wider track, it backs that more assertive stance with greater flair thanks to more prominent body sculpting complemented by a rakish C-pillar and drama-boosting blackout A-, B- and D-pillar treatments. Slicker front and rear fascias gain higher-profile headlamp and tail lamp fitments while smartly flared fenderwells on the base, XLT and Limited trims are filled by 245/65, 245/60 and 255/50 tires on 17-inch steel wheels, 18-inch aluminum rims and 20-inch alloys, respectively.
In addition to its 290-horsepower V6/six-speed automatic transmission, the base Explorer boasts numerous power assists, MyFord driver connectivlty, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with media hub, air conditioning, cruise control, tilt/telescoping steering column and more. The XLT adds interior/exterior trim embellishments, auto headlamps, fog lights, 18-inch wheels/tires, rearview camera with zoom function, premium cloth upholstery, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, SecuriCode keyless-entry pad and the SelectShift feature. Leather-upholstered, the Limited gets all that and the XLT's Driver Connect and Comfort Packages –plus a Sony premium audio system with HD Radio. Safety items include AdvanceTrak with Roll Stability Control and Curve Control, Hill Start Assist, antilock brakes, front/front-side/side-curtain airbags and a rollover sensor.
All Explorers offer four-wheel drive with multi-mode Terrain Management System and Hill Descent Control. Base model upgrades include SIRIUS Satellite Radio and a tow-prep package while XLT buyers can add the Driver Connect (MyFord Touch/SYNC, premium audio, dual-zone climate control and rear-view camera) and Comfort Packages (all that plus heated leather seats). The Limited's Luxury Seating Package (perforated leather, heated/cooled front buckets, power-folding third-row seat, power lift gate and voice-activated navigation system) is available with/without the 302A Group (Blind Spot Information System, adaptive cruise control, Auto Park, HID headlamps and rain-sensing wipers). Single XLT/Limited options include navigation, dual-panel power moonroof, power liftgate, inflatable second-row outboard seatbelts and the blind spot system.
The 2011 Explorer's standard engine is Ford's high-tech 3.5-liter Ti-VCT (twin-independent variable camshaft timing) V6 that makes 290 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. Despite 80 more ponies than the outgoing 4.0-liter six – and just two less than the 4.6-liter V8 – it's also 25 percent more fuel efficient. Backed by a six-speed automatic, it earns class-leading 17/25 mpg city/highway EPA numbers in front-drive Explorers and 17/23 mpg marks in the 4WD versions, serves up 60 mph in roughly 8.0 seconds and gives the Explorer a 5,000-pound max-tow rating. "Some time next year," Ford will offer an optional 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder that churns out 237 ponies and 250 pound-feet of twist. While limited to front-drive models, Ford anticipates this lighter-duty alternative will deliver 30-percent better fuel economy that the old V6.
3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6
290 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
255 lb-ft of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25 (FWD), 17/23 (4WD)
By Scott on Thursday, April 03, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 16,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Dependable, comfortable, awesome in the snow!"
Cons: "Wish I could have afforded more options..."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I would recommend this vehicle for several reasons. This vehicle provides a smooth and comfortable ride. I travel approx. 600 miles a week for my job. I am currently assigned to a region in the USA which has an abundance of snow and bitter cold temperatures. This vehicle has never had trouble despite seeing numerous others along the side of the road! In my opinion, it's the overall best buy for a SUV."
3 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Ford Dude on Friday, March 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,741overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Acceleration, better gas mileage, luxury, quality"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I traded my 2002 Explorer for a newer model because the one I've drove and owned for 12 years was trouble free there wasn't any mechanical problems was an reliable SUV. Now I am happy with my 2014 Explorer its best in more technology features includes my FordTouch is best with interface and controls are really neat every available option fully loaded on Platinum package bought on this model. The SUV has more acceleration with great gas mileage, comfortable seats, heated seats, navigation, dual panoramic moon roof, moving object detection and much more. I love my 2nd Explorer being more restyled and it rides better given me a quieter drive and upgraded interior on everything so best on my Explorer. There are lots of room, great features and sync system is awesome too looks exactly like a BMW having LED lights and top of the line in its new quality."
4 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By jcorcione on Thursday, March 13, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great Ride quality"
Cons: "A bit pricey NAV should come standard."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"We really love the explorer. It really has an exceptional ride quality I was not expecting. A pleasure to drive. We had some issues with the APM which is part of the SYNC system and have had several software upgrades to the unit (covered under warranty) other than that we have been very pleased with the vehicle with regard to ride, comfort and quality. We plan on trading the vehicle in on an explorer sport."
7 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By Johnny W on Wednesday, March 12, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 33,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Build quality, power, quiet, good handling for SUV"
Cons: "Touch screen takes getting used to"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Comfortable, reliable, easy-to-use AWD system. Mileage decent for an SUV -- I get close to 21 MPG overall. Very quiet and solid on the highway, adequate off road but, to me, not the kind of vehicle you take way off road into the deep woods. Some people don't like MyFord Touch -- I never found it difficult to use, but it does have some quirks that take getting used to. SYNC, on the other hand, is a real plus."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By explorer owner on Saturday, February 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "great safety and comfortable"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is my first suv. I have a 2012 and was rear ended by someone going at least 50 mph. I ended up having herniated disks in my neck and a torn rotator cuff in each shoulder. If it wasn't for the ford explorer, I might not be here today to tell this story."
By Bubba on Tuesday, February 04, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 45,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Love it"
Cons: "Wish my wife would let me use it more"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Bought this car because my wife had to have it. Is was a little nervousness because it was one of the first ones out. It has been a good car haven't had any probs with 46000 miles . It rides good had plenty of power and all the bells and whistles took it hunting and was amazed where it would go and what it would climb. Great SUV ford u guys really surprised me"
5 people out of 7 found this review helpful