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 Johnny W on Wednesday, March 12, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 33,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Build quality, power, quiet, good handling for SUV"
Cons: "Touch screen takes getting used to"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Comfortable, reliable, easy-to-use AWD system. Mileage decent for an SUV -- I get close to 21 MPG overall. Very quiet and solid on the highway, adequate off road but, to me, not the kind of vehicle you take way off road into the deep woods. Some people don't like MyFord Touch -- I never found it difficult to use, but it does have some quirks that take getting used to. SYNC, on the other hand, is a real plus."
By explorer owner on Saturday, February 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "great safety and comfortable"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is my first suv. I have a 2012 and was rear ended by someone going at least 50 mph. I ended up having herniated disks in my neck and a torn rotator cuff in each shoulder. If it wasn't for the ford explorer, I might not be here today to tell this story."
By Bubba on Tuesday, February 04, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 45,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Love it"
Cons: "Wish my wife would let me use it more"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Bought this car because my wife had to have it. Is was a little nervousness because it was one of the first ones out. It has been a good car haven't had any probs with 46000 miles . It rides good had plenty of power and all the bells and whistles took it hunting and was amazed where it would go and what it would climb. Great SUV ford u guys really surprised me"
3 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By LTee on Saturday, February 01, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 37,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Features, handling"
Cons: "Under powered, My Ford Touch /SYNC issues"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"My Explorer is now almost 3 years old, but I still love to drive it. It is a very comfortable and feature rich vehicle. My favorite features would probably be the heated seats and backup camera, but I also love the feel of the vehicle on the road. I'm not much of an off road driver, but I can say that in inclement weather, having a 4WD vehicle with traction control was comforting! I'm considering purchasing a new vehicle, and the Explorer will be first on my list as I start looking!"
By Idaho Joe on Monday, January 27, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Styling, features, handling"
Cons: "gear ratios, third row leg room"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I did a lot of research on the web to find what mid-sized SUV I wanted. This Explorer fit the bill perfectly. (Traded in a Toyota Sienna Van). First, the styling caught my attention and after 6 months I still find myself thinking what a great looking car it is. The interior was the most comfortable of several models I test drove (Highlander, Traverse, Grand Cherokee). I love the cockpit and Sync touch screen, works perfectly with my I-phone and Bluetooth music. The vehicle drives great for an SUV compared to past Explorers and truck frame based SUV's. The price and gas mileage fit in line with other car brand's similar sized models. The power could be a little better, although once you learn how the vehicle shifts (up-shifts very fast leaving car in a high gear at low speed) it does fine in normal driving conditions. It would be nice to have the eco-drive available on the less expensive trims. I have had no mechanical problems. I have done some variable conditions road driving (no serious off-road, snow and dirt roads) the car has handled great on icy roads and has multiple settings to help with conditions. A few features that I love are the keyless entry and starter, with the Bluetooth phone paring you never have to fumble to find your keys and phone, grab the door handle, push the start button and go! I love the sound system, my model has the premium sound and it is the best factory system I've heard. I love the cap-less gas valve. A few minor cons: the gas door is on the passenger side and most vehicles seem to be on the driver's side, it has caused some problems at busy gas stations. The door jams are very wide and it is a bit of effort to get out of the vehicle. The third row is for children only, very limited leg room and also makes the second row not comfortable for tall people. Overall I am really happy with the purchase, I got the vehicle certified used and it came with an excellent interest rate. I do not have any regrets buying this Explorer, great job Ford, buy American!"
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By vince on Sunday, January 26, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 38,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great look, very good ride and plenty of room."
Cons: "Bettor gas mileage and MY Ford needs refinement."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I really like the way my explorer rides and looks. The car has a good feel on the road and highway. The seats are comfortable and there's plenty of room all the way in the back. This car has good pickup and gets reasonable gas mileage. I wish it got bettor gas mileage on the highway. Mine gets 23-24 straight highway. Overall great value and I really like the look of the car inside and out. The electronics is some times a challenge but overall it works well and I like the nav,"
7 people out of 7 found this review helpful