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2012 Ford Explorer

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2012 Ford Explorer Review

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KBB Expert Rating: 7.5

Twenty-odd years ago, Ford's Explorer introduced America to the new wagon, a truck-based SUV large enough to carry the family and all their gear, but not much larger than average mid-size sedan of the day. Over its long run the Explorer had its up and downs, but while the Explorer name carries on into the 21st century, the vehicle that now wears it couldn't be more different from the original. Instead of a truck chassis, the Explorer is wrapped in a unit body, meaning its construction is stamped and welded into a single frame making it both lighter and stronger. The 2012 Ford Explorer can still hold seven passengers or any number of bulky items, but its interior is now more sophisticated, as is its suspension, engine and available all-wheel-drive system. Set to do battle with the Dodge Durango, Honda Pilot, GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse, the Explorer has its work cut out for it. And, where the Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee offer a powerful V8 engine, no such muscle exists under the Explorer's hood. That's because Ford has chosen to go a more economical route, offering a V6 and a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that provide plenty of power with superior fuel economy. The Explorer also relies on a host of innovative electronic and technology triumphs that help it keep one step ahead of the competition. Ironically, the one vehicle that stands to lose market share to the Explorer is its own sibling, the Ford Flex.

You'll Like This Car If...

You'll like the 2012 Ford Explorer if you seek the tall ride height and useful interior space provided by a traditional mid-size SUV, but not the poor handling and fuel economy penalty. The 2012 Explorer is exceptionally well mannered, has a beautifully designed interior and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick.

You May Not Like This Car If...

While the 2012 Ford Explorer's available four-wheel-drive (4WD) system is one of the most versatile Ford has produced, it is not intended for serious off-roading. Those who need to tow more than 5,000 pounds will have to look to the Explorer's V8-powered competitors.

What's New for 2012

Ford's EcoBoost 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is added to the front-wheel-drive Explorer's option list. The EcoBoost engine produces 240 horsepower when fed premium fuel and is expected to return fuel economy figures in the high 20s.

Driving the Explorer
Driving Impressions

It takes only a few minutes behind the wheel of the 2012 Ford Explorer to realize this is no old-fashioned truck-based SUV. The stiff body banishes squeaks and rattles from...

... the passenger compartment, while the adept suspension aided by Ford's Curve Control system tackles winding roads like a lithe sports sedan. Match that with a bounty of standard computer-controlled handling aids, impressively weighted electrically-boosted power steering and more than capable anti-lock disc brakes, and the Explorer turns in a world-class open-road experience. Our short time testing the Terrain Management 4-wheel-drive system netted some pretty impressive results, especially considering the Explorer's modest 7.6 inches of ground clearance and somewhat soft suspension. Still, we wouldn't put this vehicle up against a Toyota 4Runner, for example, whose body-on-frame architecture and hi/lo transfer case make it more conducive to serious off-road challenges. Then again, few truck-based SUVs can match the 2012 Explorer's outstanding fuel economy, exceptional cabin comfort, user-focused functionality plus class-leading connectivity, all of which make the Ford Explorer a most accommodating travel mate.

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.

Curve Control
A world-exclusive, this standard safety enhancement automatically senses when the vehicle is entering a given corner too quickly and automatically engages throttle and braking intervention to help it maintain the desired driving path.

2012 Ford Explorer Details
2012 Ford Explorer photo Interior

Look inside a Toyota 4Runner or Nissan Pathfinder and you'll find the same dash and door panels as in their pickup truck counterparts. But, look inside the 2012 Ford Explorer and you'll see something entirely different. The elegant cabin is awash in high-quality, soft-touch surfaces, with careful attention to detail found in the most minute places. The Explorer's instrument cluster is clean and simple on the base models, and on XLT and Limited can be upgraded to include the MyFord Touch package that features configurable LCD screens in place of the traditional analog gauges. Features like the media hub, four 12-volt outlets and numerous storage spots speak to the needs of today's mobile electronics, while supportive seats in all three rows provide plenty of room for adults. At the rear, a single-piece rear liftgate opens to expose 15.7 cubic feet of cargo space, which can be expanded to a maximum of 80.7 cubic feet by folding down both rows of rear seats.

Exterior
2012 Ford Explorer photo

Where the Explorers of old were easily identified by their square edges and boxy upright cabins, the 2012 Explorer displays a different attitude. The lines are more elegant and the boldly rakish front end sets the tone for the rest of the Explorer's design, which includes reverse-raked C-pillars and blacked-out A-, B-, and D-pillars. The Explorer's tall doors and lower roof give it a slick, almost gangster look that mirrors the Ford Taurus, but the design is an optical illusion because there is plenty of head room inside as well as ground clearance below (7.6 inches to be exact). The Explorer's wide track benefits interior occupants with more hip and shoulder room, as well as greatly aids in improved handling and cornering. Finishing the exterior embellishments are standard 17-inch wheels on the base models, with 18-inchers on the XLT and massive 20-inch alloys on the Limited models.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

In addition to its 290-horsepower V6 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission, the base 2012 Ford Explorer boasts numerous power assists, MyFord driver connectivity, 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 headlights, foglights, 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, anti-lock brakes (ABS), front/front-side/side-curtain airbags and a rollover sensor.

Optional Equipment

All Explorers offer four-wheel drive (4WD) 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 rearview 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 liftgate 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.

Under the Hood

The 2012 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. Teamed to a 6-speed automatic, this engine earns a class-leading 17/25 mpg city/highway EPA numbers in front-drive Explorers and 17/23 mpg marks in the 4WD versions; it also serves up 60 mph in roughly 8.0 seconds and gives the Explorer a 5,000-pound max-tow rating. Optional on front-drive models is the new 2.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine that churns out 240 ponies and 270 pound-feet of twist, but is recommended to run on premium fuel. Fuel economy ratings for the EcoBoost are an estimated 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.

2.0-liter turbocharged in-line 4
240 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
270 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28

3.5-liter V6
290 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
255 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25 (FWD), 17/23 (4WD)

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2012 Ford Explorer Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
8.1
Out of 10

Based on 197 Ratings for the 2011 - 2015 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    7.9/10
    Quality
    8.1/10
  • Reliability
    8.4/10
    Performance
    8.5/10
  • Comfort
    8.6/10
    Styling
    8.6/10

great vehicle, super smooth ride, beautiful, quiet

By on Monday, June 13, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 48,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "easy & fun to drive, smooth comfortable ride"

Cons: "nav syst hard to use, elect 3rd row not removable"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"Only 2 negative comments. I did not realize the 3rd row electric seats could not be removed, but the electric ones stow easily, and the and the navigation system is a lot more difficult to use than my Garmin Nuvi, it did get a little better after I read the directions, so I usually just use my Garmin. Rides so comfortable and quiet. I had an Explorer Sport Trac years ago and I really wanted that comfortable ride again, only Yukons ride better but I didn't want the larger size because of the parking headaches (and dings) that come with it. The black carpet and dash show dirt and dust easily so a lot of extra vacuuming and wiping down the dash."

5 people out of 5 found this review helpful

Great family vehicle

By on Wednesday, May 4, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 112,500

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
7/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Great Price! Very roomy vehicle."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"One owner vehicle, that's always been garaged. All maintenance records available. It's a nice ride with lots of room for up to 7 people. Pricing under resale to move quickly. Tires are fairly new and have lots of tread still left on them. Very powerful, yet economical V6 engine"

8 people out of 12 found this review helpful

Great car for the size and options

By on Monday, February 22, 2016

I owned and sold this car
Reason: upgraded interior space

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
8/10
Value
5/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "fun to drive, awesome trim options, comfortable"

Cons: "1st year tech glitches, design issues"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"I purchased this car after driving trucks and large SUVS because I could get ALL the bells and whistles for the same as a base price larger vehicle. I LOVE it but as my boys grew up, leg room became an issue. I have a few complaints, but I believe Ford addressed them in later models. The SYNC system wasn't interface friendly all of the time and the voice commands didnt always work. The third row had a strange unused space under the rear of the seats and when folded all the way down, the seat backs were not sturdy enough to handle heavy cargo OR my large dogs. The DC outlet in the second row always popped it's cover and without the cover, would shock you. Otherwise, the technology in the car was AMAZING in the Limited trim style and I loved everything about it and honestly, that is what is keeping me in the Ford family. This car handled great, had good power, was easy to park and had decent interior space. The BLIS and auto park as well as terrain options were great and I drove this car everywhere from highway to beach to snow also using those heated and cooled seats. It just wasn't spacious enough to accommodate a family of 5 with 3 large boys! In case you didnt know...the spare key is INSIDE of your Key Fob! Love this car...just had a lot of first year glitches that made me want to get a model with more space and where they ironed out the glitches."

20 people out of 23 found this review helpful

Very good on gas; clean still smells new

By on Monday, February 1, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 26,500

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"I had added the extra road assistance on when bought. We have SOLD our condo in Paradise Valley AZ and do not require the car anymore."

10 people out of 12 found this review helpful

my local garage loves this car

By on Thursday, January 14, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 48,000

10 6.0
overall rating 6 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
6/10
Value
6/10
Reliability
6/10
Quality
3/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "looks sharp inside and out"

Cons: "sync is worthless, car deteriorated way too fast"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2

"We've owned this car for about 3 years. It was our first Ford. We really liked the style inside and out and the kids loved the comfort and moon roof. We actually got compliments about the 20" wheels and sharp white paint. After about the 2nd year we've found that we're replacing the back brakes every 6 months and the calipers annually. The inside leather is splitting in odd spots along the door, the hood is rusting (??) and the moon roof won't function anymore. And as luck would have it, replacing those tires when they get punctured (3 times already) is an experience because the tires are special order and the spare is lower than the other three, so a flat puts you in the shop. Pretty much everything we liked about it is either now broken, an eyesore or an audible reminder that this was not the car we should've purchased."

15 people out of 20 found this review helpful

I would have passed on it

By on Saturday, January 2, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,000

10 2.0
overall rating 2 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
2/10
Value
2/10
Reliability
3/10
Quality
2/10
Performance
5/10
Styling
4/10
Comfort
5/10

Pros: "comfortable ride"

Cons: "too pricy for return"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1

"Rust on front lip of hood is apparently a common occurrence; Ford will not replace, only repair... killing re-sale value. Issue with exhaust creeping into cabin area, in shop for 2nd repair shot and also the topic of a class action. The truck is pretty and comfortable but the manufacturer does not stand behind it with any loyalty. For the price, I would have selected a different vehicle. I don't have the space to go into all the other issues that have brought this vehicle back to the dealership...."

17 people out of 20 found this review helpful

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