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 Rod on Sunday, December 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 36,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "comfortable and beautiful"
Cons: "back seats are too tight"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"I bought this car and it was love at first sight.It has great steering, a beautiful interior and exterior, but in the back the seats are too bunched up, but overall i love it!"
5 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Driver on Thursday, November 13, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 21,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "comfortable, space, stability"
Cons: "steering wheel design, door cup-holders, SYNC"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The vehicle has good driving. I drove from NH all the way to Orlando, FL and back, I didn't feel the road. The car is comfy. I am a detail oriented driver and therefore I get annoyed by small things in a car. Thinking of the Explorer, I can provide feedback on some "small" things that I believe need to change if Ford wants to have this vehicle as one of the best SUVs on the market (price/value/comfort/features). Before I go and list the things requiring a change, I want to state that this vehicle is still among the top five I would recommend to anyone. So, the annoying things for me as a driver are: 1.Small door cup-holders (height is not enough for a regular coffee cup or a small water bottle) 2. Weirdly designed steering wheel (unable to "lock" the steering wheel with my thumbs, holding my hands in 9-3 position. I have driven civic, accord, passatt, jetta and I could do that in all of them). In the Explorer, you are forced to hold the steering wheel like you are driving a truck 3. SYNC is not responding fast enough (you are forced to touch multiple times or wait as you are not sure if something was initiated or not) 4. Touch screen is not good for use while you are driving (if you want to change something on the screen, you better stop driving and do it. Old "buttons" approach would be more beneficial and efficient instead of the touch screen. In my Accord, I can changes radio stations, change the heat/AC, CD player etc. without looking at it) 5. Radio volume (it seems that I can not find the perfect volume while driving, it is either to low or it is to loud. This is not good when you have kids sleeping in the vehicle while driving ;-)) 5. Heated seats (maybe this is happening just to my Explorer but what I see is not having any heat on the lower back. Jetta's seats, for example, are heating the lower back as well) If you can live with these small annoyances, this will be a great vehicle for you. We all know that there is no such thing as a "perfect" matching car for anyone. The Explorer is close enough. Oh, and one more thing... I am averaging 21.2 miles per gallon after approx. 21,000 miles driven so far."
18 people out of 22 found this review helpful
By rdclk on Saturday, October 04, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 30,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Handles great. Looks great. AC seats"
Cons: "too small to list"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Handles awesome in the weather this past winter. Took a long road trip, and the 20" tires are so smooth on the highway. I have received so many compliments on the looks of the vehicle. Bluetooth is great. Has incredible acceleration. I love this vehicle."
16 people out of 23 found this review helpful
By Lewis on Sunday, September 28, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 22,800overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I always had a Ford Explorer, this new is my 4th, but so far, this one is the best car, reliable, trustful, confortable, so quiet, and really smooth to drive, good on gas, I got so far 20mph on city, and that's mean a lot to me, putting my self some upgrades, and looks great now....!! I'm glad I have this car and pretty much happy, as some one said, when you take it to wash, there is. The problem with the little roof in the back, but after all..... Love it...!!"
13 people out of 22 found this review helpful
By goran on Thursday, September 18, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "all great"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"after dodge, Nissan, mazda, jeep and Mercedes suv (all new) this is best car what I had. I change cars every 3 years due to high miles and this one is great on gas and everything"
15 people out of 30 found this review helpful
By Don on Monday, September 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 44,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, priced competively"
Cons: "Short Battery Life - less than 2 years"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"The 2013 Explorer design lends itself to have a smooth ride and well designed interior for sufficient room to carry 5 adults. The Explorer is very repsonsive to sudden braking and did not sway."
7 people out of 13 found this review helpful