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 Mochita on Sunday, July 13, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 46,569overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Good gas millage."
Cons: "The stick has a sensor (+/-) is alredy broken."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"My Ford Explorer Limited Edition, it is comfortable. It rides quiet, the seats are comfortable. It is a reliable vehicle during the winter and snow days, and in the summer it cools off quickly. I'm glad I purchased this vehicle."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By Jack on Saturday, July 12, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 43,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Over all great vehicle."
Cons: "Original grill ugly! Bought all chrome snap-on"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"We are very happy with this SUV, even though we stepped down from a Yukon XL! This vehicle proves more than adequate in our retirement."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By MiningMama on Sunday, July 06, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 27,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "VERY Versatile, comfortable ride and great mpg"
Cons: "Small fuel tank, Slow acceleration"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I own the 2013 XLT 3.5 liter v6, and my family of 6 an I absolutely love this car! We get great gas mileage, especially for an SUV. We traded in our Minivan for our explorer, and not only is it more stylish, but it gets better gas mileage, is more comfortable on long distance trips (with twins in booster seats, and 5 other passengers, we all remained as comfortable as you could possibley expect on a 700+ mile road trip), it can pull our boat, and with 4wd, instead of awd, it is easier and cheaper to maintain, and drove with ease in 10" of snow. It Is VERY Easy and Comfortable To drive on all roads and terrain. Only negatives, is that it only has an 18 gallon tank, so even with great mileage, you have to stop and fill up 300 miles or so (that's with the v6), and when you accelerate, the transmission takes a few seconds to catch up. Other than that, no complaints, and I have previously owned cars, trucks, vans, and our Explorer is by far the best car we've had yet."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By McFordy on Sunday, June 29, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 126overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Everything, great looking inside and out"
Cons: "Would like tint on the front windows"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have been looking at reviews & pricing for this car for months and I finally pulled the trigger on the limited 2014. We absolutely love it, the technology is awesome and the sync touch screen is not nearly as bad as some reviews say. It is just like getting a new phone or computer, it takes about a week to get used to everything. My Ford Explorer is very comfortable and plenty of room in the back for my kids. It does feel a bit big on the inside like others have said but it is easier to drive than my small 350Z. I was initially going to get a loaded XLT but for roughly $2600 more you are in the Limited and it has some great features. This car has a lot of tech inside so if you are like my wife and have troubles with new advances then you might need help getting everything set up. If I would change anything I would like the front windows with tint on them but I understand why they did not add it and for $70 I will just drop it off at the tint shop."
8 people out of 13 found this review helpful
By BostonOne on Friday, June 27, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 7,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Features, space, looks, interior"
Cons: "Some plastic parts that are not that great looking"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3
"After testing couple vehicles of same size, that cost a lot more I have to say they Explorer is impressive. I love tech features and all the space. Blind spot monitoring and myford touch + sync are also great. For people that like technology Explorer will feel like great option. I test drove X5 and ml350, but there almost 50% price premium was not justified, especially since they don't even have some of fords features. Not to mention that maintenance of ford comparing to x5 is a lot cheaper. Oil change for example is 3 times less..."
3 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Disappointed on Saturday, June 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 6,000overall rating 2 of 10rating details
Cons: "Everything about this SUV is a CON to me"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I'm so disappointed with my 2014 Explorer. There is so much plastic on the body of this SUV it's pathetic. I traded in a 2003 mazda tribute. It was the best SUV I've owned. I read good reviews about the Ford Explorer and felt like Ford had a good reputation. I was wrong. For a $30000 + SUV the inside and especially the outside are CHEAPLY made. I can't wait to get rid of it and buy a well made SUV!"
3 people out of 12 found this review helpful