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 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"
1 person out of 3 found this review helpful
By LTee on Saturday, February 01, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 37,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Features, handling"
Cons: "Under powered, My Ford Touch /SYNC issues"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"My Explorer is now almost 3 years old, but I still love to drive it. It is a very comfortable and feature rich vehicle. My favorite features would probably be the heated seats and backup camera, but I also love the feel of the vehicle on the road. I'm not much of an off road driver, but I can say that in inclement weather, having a 4WD vehicle with traction control was comforting! I'm considering purchasing a new vehicle, and the Explorer will be first on my list as I start looking!"
By Idaho Joe on Monday, January 27, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Styling, features, handling"
Cons: "gear ratios, third row leg room"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I did a lot of research on the web to find what mid-sized SUV I wanted. This Explorer fit the bill perfectly. (Traded in a Toyota Sienna Van). First, the styling caught my attention and after 6 months I still find myself thinking what a great looking car it is. The interior was the most comfortable of several models I test drove (Highlander, Traverse, Grand Cherokee). I love the cockpit and Sync touch screen, works perfectly with my I-phone and Bluetooth music. The vehicle drives great for an SUV compared to past Explorers and truck frame based SUV's. The price and gas mileage fit in line with other car brand's similar sized models. The power could be a little better, although once you learn how the vehicle shifts (up-shifts very fast leaving car in a high gear at low speed) it does fine in normal driving conditions. It would be nice to have the eco-drive available on the less expensive trims. I have had no mechanical problems. I have done some variable conditions road driving (no serious off-road, snow and dirt roads) the car has handled great on icy roads and has multiple settings to help with conditions. A few features that I love are the keyless entry and starter, with the Bluetooth phone paring you never have to fumble to find your keys and phone, grab the door handle, push the start button and go! I love the sound system, my model has the premium sound and it is the best factory system I've heard. I love the cap-less gas valve. A few minor cons: the gas door is on the passenger side and most vehicles seem to be on the driver's side, it has caused some problems at busy gas stations. The door jams are very wide and it is a bit of effort to get out of the vehicle. The third row is for children only, very limited leg room and also makes the second row not comfortable for tall people. Overall I am really happy with the purchase, I got the vehicle certified used and it came with an excellent interest rate. I do not have any regrets buying this Explorer, great job Ford, buy American!"
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By vince on Sunday, January 26, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 38,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great look, very good ride and plenty of room."
Cons: "Bettor gas mileage and MY Ford needs refinement."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I really like the way my explorer rides and looks. The car has a good feel on the road and highway. The seats are comfortable and there's plenty of room all the way in the back. This car has good pickup and gets reasonable gas mileage. I wish it got bettor gas mileage on the highway. Mine gets 23-24 straight highway. Overall great value and I really like the look of the car inside and out. The electronics is some times a challenge but overall it works well and I like the nav,"
5 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Winter Traveller on Saturday, January 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 11,800overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Interior Room, Gase Mileage"
Cons: "Horrible in the snow."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"While stuck in 6 inches of snow on a slight incline in my sub-division, other front wheel drive cars EASILY drove around me. It took 5 men to push me to a point where I could get to even ground where I could still barely drive the vehicle. This car is the worst vehicle I have ever owned in the snow. Its great on gas mileage and room, but be careful in the Winter, the Traction Control engages too easily and, as far as I can tell, cannot be disengaged."
5 people out of 8 found this review helpful