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2015 Ford Explorer

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2015 Ford Explorer Expert Review

By

KBB Expert Rating: 7.8

In the world of midsize 3-row crossover SUVs, the 2015 Ford Explorer remains a tough act to follow. While no longer the rugged off-roader of its ancestry, the Ford Explorer remains an important player in the market, particularly against other crossover SUVs like the Chevrolet Traverse, Nissan Pathfinder, Dodge Durango, Toyota Highlander, and Honda Pilot. Like those vehicles, the Explorer puts greater emphasis on on-road refinement with features like a rearview camera, a quiet and comfortable ride, and upscale options like a rear-seat entertainment system and MyFord Touch. While no longer a "real" off-roader, the Explorer's Terrain Response System ensures it can still tackle moderate off-road trails, proving this car-based crossover still has a little of its truck-based SUV DNA.

You'll Like This Car If...

The 2015 Ford Explorer is a roomy, comfortable, versatile, and more fuel-efficient SUV than its truck-based ancestors, or even modern vehicles like the Chevy Tahoe. If that's what you need, the Explorer fits the bill.

You May Not Like This Car If...

While it's certainly big and comfortable, the Explorer isn't particularly nimble. If you need better parking-lot maneuverability – or if you plan on trying your hand at busting a few trails here and there – a Honda Pilot or Mazda CX-9 might be better choices in midsize SUVs.

KBB Expert Ratings

  • 7.8
  • 8.3
  • 8.1
  • 8.6
  • 7.1
  • 7.7
How It Ranks

#57

out of 67

Fuel Economy

#12

out of 66

Horsepower
View all rankings

Consumer Rating

8.1 out of 10
View all
consumer ratings
2015 Ford Explorer Low/wide front photo What's New for 2015

The 2015 Ford Explorer rolls into the new year with only one noteworthy change: a sport-appearance package that's available for the XLT model. It adds new 20-inch wheels, black body-side molding, and roof rails, along with dark Magnetic paint on the grille, mirror caps and liftgate.

Driving the Explorer
2015 Ford Explorer Front angle view photo
Driving Impressions

From behind the wheel, the 2015 Ford Explorer feels much more like a car than an SUV. The comfortable and quiet ride isolates you from the road in the same...

... way as a luxury sedan, and the Explorer never bangs over bumps or rattles over railroad tracks like its truck-based forebears. With the 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine or the standard 3.5-liter V6, the Explorer is never speedy, but the twin-turbocharged V6 in the Explorer Sport gets this nearly 5,000-pound SUV moving quickly. While visibility to the front and sides is good, you'll be thankful for the wide-view side mirrors and blind-spot detection that compensate for the lousy view toward the rear. Likewise, that comfortable ride also means the Explorer lumbers around town, and its outward bulk makes it ponderous in parking lots. The 4-wheel-drive system offers a terrain-management system that helps this big SUV tackle various surfaces.

TWIN-TURBOCHARGED V6 ENGINE
The Explorer Sport comes with a 365-horsepower twin-turbocharged V6 engine, and it's by far the best thing about the package. With the extra juice, the Explorer transforms from a lumbering brute into, well, a more fleet-footed brute. Surprisingly, fuel economy takes only a moderate hit compared to the standard V6.

TERRAIN MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
While the Explorer's hardcore off-road days are long gone, the Terrain Management System allows drivers to optimize the Explorer's 4-wheel-drive system for snow, mud, or ruts with the twist of a dial.

2015 Ford Explorer Details
2015 Ford Explorer Dashboard, center console, gear shifter view photo Interior

For the most part, the 2015 Ford Explorer puts its bulk to good use inside, offering three rows of seating for up to seven passengers. Surprisingly, the 2-passenger third row offers enough room for adults. The second row comes as either a 3-person bench, or it can be had with two bucket seats. Both seats can be equipped to power-fold flat, and when down, you have 80.7 cubic feet of cargo area. Throughout, the Explorer's width is put to good use too, maybe too good, as some shorter drivers may find it's a stretch to rest an arm on the door.

Exterior
2015 Ford Explorer photo

Nobody could call the 2015 Explorer "sleek," although its streamlined shape does a good job of hiding its overall bulk. Bulges in just the right places hint at muscularity, and the long horizontal creases along the sides convey motion. New this year is a sport-appearance package for the mid-level XLT, which adds bigger wheels, a darker grille and other touches to give the Explorer a sportier look. However, it's not as bold as the Explorer Sport, which adds a black grille, big wheels, and a don't-mess-with-me demeanor.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

You can get the 2015 Ford Explorer in base, XLT, Limited and Sport models. The $31,000 or so you'll pay for a base model gets you a V6 engine, single-zone climate control with rear auxiliary climate control, and a power driver's seat. The standard 6-speaker audio includes auxiliary inputs. It also comes with Ford's MyKey, which allows drivers to program top speed and other parameters to help prevent young drivers from behaving recklessly. 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.

Optional Equipment

Base-model Ford Explorers are limited in their option selections to just the basics: a towing package, Sync and satellite radio. The mid-level XLT is a good value, expanding the options list to include leather seats, navigation, blind-spot detection with inflatable rear seatbelts, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Limited and Sport models offer a luxury-seating package, active cruise control, and heated and cooled front seats. All V6 models can be equipped with 4-wheel drive – it's standard on Sport models – and a smaller, fuel-efficient 4-cylinder can replace the V6 in all but Sport models.

Under the Hood
2015 Ford Explorer Engine photo

The standard 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 on the Ford Explorer won't blow you away, but it's adequate for most people's needs. It's available with front-wheel drive (FWD) or 4-wheel drive (4WD). Optional is a smaller, turbocharged 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine with a 28-mpg highway rating, however, we're not sure the economy gain is worth the sluggish acceleration. Sport models come exclusively with 4-wheel drive and a turbocharged 365-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost. Regardless of engine, all 2015 Explorer models have a 6-speed automatic transmission, and V6 models get Ford's SelectShift that enables drivers to shift gears manually. Sport models get steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Regular-unleaded gasoline works for all Explorers, although both EcoBoost models prefer premium. The 4-cylinder can tow 2,000 pounds, while V6 models can haul 5,000 pounds.

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

3.5-liter V6
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 (FWD E85), 17/23 (4WD), 12/17 mpg (4WD E85)

3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6
365 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
350 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22

The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $31,500 gets you into a base 2015 Ford Explorer, but the XLT's wider availability of options makes it a better place to start at $33,500. The Limited model starts around $39,000, and the powerful Explorer Sport begins at about $43,500. This is all before options get added, and they can add up quickly. The 4-cylinder EcoBoost is a $995 option, for example, and 4-wheel drive adds $2,000. That's in line with competitors like the Chevy Traverse, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander, and Honda Pilot, but both the Hyundai Santa Fe and 7-passenger Dodge Journey start below $30,000. Check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to get the best deal in your area, and note that the Explorer's resale value holds up quite well – better than the Durango, less than the Highlander, and right in line with the Traverse and Pilot.

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2015 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

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