By KBB.com Editors
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.You'll Like This Car If...
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.You May Not Like This Car If...
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 elsewhereWhat's New for 2011
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 It 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.Favorite Features
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.