By Matt Degen
KBB Expert Rating: 7.3
Ford's latest Explorer is a far different vehicle than those of the generations before it. What used to be a rough and rugged truck-based vehicle is now a sleeker, softer and more fuel-efficient crossover SUV. Gone are features like a 2-speed transfer case and V8 engine that enabled the old Explorer to climb mountains. In their place are more pragmatic features like a rearview camera and the MyFord infotainment system that help parents navigate school parking lots and keep the kids entertained once loaded in back. Like rivals such as the Chevrolet Traverse, Nissan Pathfinder, Dodge Durango, Toyota Highlander, and Honda Pilot, the 3-row 2014 Explorer happily accommodates families. It's not nearly as nimble as some rivals, but the Explorer has an adventurous spirit and snazzy off-road smarts.
If you're seeking a roomy, versatile and technically advanced SUV that's more comfortable and fuel-efficient than truck-based vehicles like the Chevrolet Tahoe or, well, a 2010 Explorer, Ford's latest will fit the bill.
If you want your family hauler to feel nimble (at least for this class), check out the Mazda CX-9 or Honda Pilot. Both are easier to maneuver when parking lots get crowded and lighter on their feet when roads turn twisty.
Only minor changes are in store for the 2014 Explorer. Among them are automatic on/off headlights with wiper activation that become standard on all models, and 2nd-row heated seats that are now included in Limited models.
Driving Impressions Just as the latest-gen Explorer shed its old skin for a more refined, contemporary image, and so it goes when you hop behind the wheel. The Explorer feels more like...... a soft-sprung sedan than a rigid truck because its underpinnings are essentially the former. This makes for a comfortable – bordering on lumbering – ride. Visibility to the front and sides is good thanks to a commanding view from the driver's seat. But rearward visibility suffers from blind spots. We quickly became thankful for the wide-view mirrors and available blind-spot monitoring system. The 2014 Explorer's base, 290-horsepower V6 feels adequate for routine driving, but has to work hard to move this vehicle's 4,500-plus pounds up steeper hills. A lower-horsepower but higher-mileage 4-cylinder is available, as is a potent turbocharged V6 introduced in 2013 Explorer Sport models. Four-wheel-drive (4WD) models have the slick terrain-management system (see Favorite Features below for why we like it).
TWIN-TURBOCHARGED V6 ENGINE
Introduced in 2013 in the range-topping Explorer Sport trim, this 365-horsepower engine provides much-appreciated power to Ford's big SUV while returning respectable fuel-economy figures.
TERRAIN MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Similar to the advanced system used in Land Rover vehicles, this feature enables drivers to optimize 4-wheel-drive Explorer models for snow, mud, or ruts with the twist of a dial.
2014 Ford Explorer models feature three rows of seats and hold six or seven passengers depending on configuration. Even the 2-passenger third row is livable for adults. The second row features a 3-person bench or, and for added comfort, can be had with two bucket seats. Both rear rows fold nearly flat to create a vast 80.7 cubic feet of cargo area, and both have power-folding availability. The large front seats are split by a wide transmission tunnel with built-in armrests and two of the Explorer's eight cupholders. Seat material is cloth in lower trims and leather in higher versions.Exterior
While not as boxy as past versions, the 2014 Explorer still has an athletic presence thanks to well-defined sheet metal that's bolstered by bulges in just the right places. Of particular prominence are creases running along the sides just aft the front wheels that convey muscle and motion. At the rear is a one-piece liftgate. Below, dual exhaust tips lend a sporty look. Sport models are edgier with an ebony grille, darkened wheels, and headlights with blackout treatment. Wheels range in size from 17 to 20 inches.
The 2014 Ford Explorer is available in four trims: Base, XLT, Limited and Sport. Just over $30,000 for a base version buys you quite a bit of vehicle with a V6 engine, single-zone climate control with rear auxiliary climate control and power driver's seat. Standard audio is a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD system with aux and USB inputs. Walking up trim lines can net you leather, dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable pedals, and Ford's Sync entertainment and communications system. Standard safety features include Roll Stability Control and Curve Control, the latter of which can slow the vehicle if it senses you're taking a corner too quickly.
Depending on the depth of your pockets, the Explorer can be a relatively basic people hauler or an amenity-filled technological thriller. Optional on V6 models is 4-wheel drive (standard on Sport editions) in place of front-wheel drive (FWD). The smaller, more fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engine can be had on all but Explorer Sport trims. Adaptive Cruise Control and blind-spot monitoring are available, as is a lane-departure system that can nudge you back into the lane should you wander. Rear-seat inflatable seatbelts are also noteworthy. The power liftgate with height adjustment is always appreciated when you're arms are full. Rear-seat passengers can be spoiled with a dual-screen DVD system and dual-panel moonroof.
Three engine choices reside under the hood of the 2014 Explorer. Standard is the 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 that is adequate for most peoples' needs, but not overwhelming. Optional is a smaller, turbocharged 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine whose headline is a 28-mpg highway EPA rating. The top dog, exclusive to the Sport model, is the turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost good for 365 horsepower. All 2014 Explorer models have a 6-speed automatic transmission. Those with a V6 engine feature Ford's SelectShift version that enables drivers to shift gears manually. The souped-up Sport model takes that notion further with paddle shifters for those instances you want to mimic a racecar driver. All engines can run on regular unleaded, though premium is recommended for the EcoBoost variants. Tow rating is 2,000 pounds for 4-cylinder models and 5,000 pounds for V6 versions.
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
240 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
270 lb-ft of torque @ 3,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28 mpg
290 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
255 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/24 mpg (FWD), 13/18 mpg (E85), 17/23 (4WD), 12/17 mpg (4WD E85)
3.5-liter turbocharged V6
365 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
350 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22
The 2014 Ford Explorer has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $30,495 for a base version with front-wheel drive. The mid-level XLT version starts at $33,495, and a top-trim Sport model is $41,675 before options. At these prices, the Explorer doesn't stray far from competitors such as the Chevrolet Traverse, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander, and Honda Pilot. Hyundai's new 7-passenger Santa Fe, meanwhile, starts a few hundred below the $30K mark. If you're just looking for a new, 3-row crossover SUV with a rock-bottom price, a basically equipped 7-seat Dodge Journey can be had in the low-$20,000 range. Before buying, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price to ensure you get the best deal. In terms of resale value, the Explorer's value is predicted to hold up quite well with residuals ahead of the Dodge Durango, in line with the Traverse and Pilot, but below the Highlander.
By FordOwnerAgain on Monday, February 16, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Ride and acceleration (Sport with twin turbo)"
Cons: "Touch screen and steering wheel functions"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I've owned 3 SUVs in the past 3 years (the 2 others were Chrysler products). I got out of the others because they were low quality and unreliable (I had to bring my 2014 Jeep GC in over a dozen times for transmission issues). I've only owned this vehicle for about a month, but so far, I'm very happy with it. I own a 2015 Explorer Sport, and by far the best things about it are the ride and the acceleration. Even with the stiff suspension, the ride is smoother than other SUVs, and the twin turbo delivers smooth acceleration, turning an otherwise lumbering vehicle into a much quicker one. Handling is good for it's size, but I can't say it's nimble. The seats are among the most comfortable I've sat in, although I've had trouble finding a comfortable driving position. That's the one area where I think they could improve - interior design. Having bought the Sport version, I like to drive, and like to have my hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel or on top at 12. Everything about the steering wheel is laid out for a lower hand position - maybe 8 and 4. The steering wheel also appears to be less vertical than other vehicles that I've driven - again dictating a lower hand position. This makes it hard not only to get into a comfortable driving position, but also more difficult to use the steering wheel buttons. Having buttons on the rear of the steering wheel like other SUVs do would be a big plus. My other complaint has to do with the touch screen. Because the steering wheel functions are hard to use (I have to go into a menu and hit a button 4-5 times just to changes devices - FM to Sirius), I find myself using the touch screen. The buttons on the touch screen are too small, and I find myself really having to focus on the screen in order to hit the correct button instead of focusing on the road. This is something that could be fixed with bigger buttons, and steering wheel functions that are easier to use. Since the performance of the car is what's most important to me, overall I'm happy, but with some design changes, Ford really could have it a home run with this one."
10 people out of 18 found this review helpful
By BArney on Monday, February 09, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 21,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Debendable, comfortable to drive"
Cons: "Fuel economy , power"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Little low on power and gas mileage could be better. Overall great vehicle comfortable to drive, plenty of room"
28 people out of 52 found this review helpful
By Goski on Sunday, February 08, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 30,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Ride, dependability, comfort, versatility, perform"
Cons: "Audio in sync system"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Extremely satisfied overall. Only flaw in the system is the audio in sync system. I use it when I have to and am busy with traffic. It is cumbersome to use and is in itself distracting."
3 people out of 5 found this review helpful