By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 7.6
Ford’s 2017 Explorer SUV continues its sales success, with sleek styling, a bevy of trim and package options, and a choice of potent powertrains. The 7-passenger Ford Explorer has plenty of competition, but its Land Rover-like styling and incredibly plush interior place it in line with upscale competitors like the Mazda CX-9 and Hyundai Santa Fe. From the Platinum trim’s twin-turbocharged V6 to the Sport’s beefy wheel and tire package, the 2017 Ford Explorer is one crossover SUV with multiple personalities. Even the most inexpensive base model offers a high-tech 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, while the available Terrain Management System allows the Explorer to live up to its name both on- and off-road.
KBB Expert Ratings
With the exception of a new Sport Appearance package for the XLT trim, the 2017 Ford Explorer SUV carries over unchanged.
When it comes to horsepower, Ford’s 7-passenger Explorer SUV for 2017 delivers at every level. From the standard 290-horsepower V6 to the fuel-efficient 280-horsepower turbo 4-cylinder available in the base,...
... XLT and Limited trims, Ford places choice front and center. Need more “oomph”? Try out the Sport and Platinum trim’s 365-horsepower twin-turbocharged V6. Capable for sure, the Explorer delivers excellent passing and pulling power and its heavily weighted steering and taut suspension give this big SUV impressive cornering ability, although its high beltline and massive front bumper make maneuvers in tight quarters a bit harrowing. Ford has done an excellent job keeping road, engine and wind noise out of the cabin, and all but the rearmost occupants felt the seating was both comfortable and supportive. The Explorer’s adaptive cruise control works well, but we wish it offered fully autonomous braking like the Honda Pilot, not just collision warning.
With more and more SUVs moving to touch-screen-only interfaces, it’s rather refreshing to see sometimes the old ways are still the best ways. Sure, the 2017 Ford Explorer features a big 8-inch touch screen, but it also has easy-to-reach and -operate controls for the climate and audio.
TERRAIN MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Because Ford’s 2017 Explorer is a crossover SUV, it lacks the rugged body-on-frame design once common to off-road SUVs. To compensate, Ford’s Terrain Management System offers varying settings for the AWD system including snow, sand, mud, grass and gravel.
The Ford Explorer SUV for 2017 seats up to seven in its three rows, and thanks to its overall size even the third row offers room for adults. The second row comes as either a 3-person bench, or it can be had with two bucket seats. Fold both seating rows and you have generous cargo space. We're happy that Ford has moved to using actual buttons for most controls, and also like the looks of the digital screen integrated into the gauges. Other improvements are aimed at making the Explorer friendlier to drivers of all sizes, such as repositioned armrests.
Last year’s upgrades didn’t alter the Explorer’s basic silhouette, but the details are quite nice. The standard LED low-beam headlights, grille and bumper in front give this mainstream SUV a first-glance resemblance to a Land Rover Range Rover, pretty good company we'd say, although the lower part of the bumper looks too heavy. We like the addition of a front-view camera on the Explorer, as well as front parking sensors, both handy when maneuvering through a parking lot.
The 2017 Ford Explorer SUV comes in five models: base, XLT, Limited, Sport and Platinum. Base models come standard with the 3.5-liter V6 engine, a 6-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, LED low-beam headlights and LED taillights, 18-inch wheels, and a rearview camera that incorporates a washer to keep the lens clean. Other standard features include cruise control, air conditioning, a 6-speaker audio system, and Ford's Sync. Ford's MyKey allows drivers to program top speed and other parameters to help prevent young drivers from behaving recklessly. Other safety features include trailer Sway Control for easier towing.
As is often the case these days, moving up through the model lineup is the best way to get more on your new Explorer. The mid-level XLT is a good value, offering leather seats, navigation, blind-spot detection, inflatable rear seatbelts, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a dual-panel moonroof. Base, XLT and Limited models can substitute the 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder for the standard V6, and AWD is available across the board, regardless of engine. The Platinum model comes with the twin-turbo EcoBoost V6, plus high-end leather, a premium audio system, leather-covered dash and other luxury items.
The standard 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 on the Ford Explorer is fine for most people, offering decent power and acceptable fuel economy. The 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine makes a good argument for itself though. Despite being a little down on power compared to the V6, the EcoBoost four offers notably more torque. We expect this engine to be the choice for many buyers. Available on the Sport and Platinum models is the twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6, bumping power up to a more-than-adequate 365 horsepower. All Ford Explorer models can be equipped with all-wheel drive and include the Terrain Management System. Additionally, all models use a 6-speed automatic transmission complete with paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
2.3-liter turbocharged inline-4 (base, XLT, Limited)
280 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
310 lb-ft of torque @ 3,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/27 mpg (front-wheel drive/FWD), 18/25 mpg (AWD)
3.5-liter V6 (base, XLT)
290 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
255 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/24 mpg (FWD), 16/23 mpg (4WD)
3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 (Sport, Platinum)
365 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
350 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22 mpg
The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2017 Ford Explorer starts around $32,000 for a FWD base model with the standard V6 engine. The 2.3-liter 4-cylinder adds $495 to that total, while the AWD system tacks on $2,200. We think the XLT is a better entry point, at its base price of about $35,000. If you're looking for more power, the AWD Sport and Platinum models start at $46,000 and $54,000, respectively. That's competitive with the Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot, although the Hyundai Santa Fe starts just a few hundred dollars south of $32,000. The KBB.com Fair Purchase Price helps you get a good deal by telling you what other Explorer buyers in your area paid. Note that the Explorer's resale value holds up better than the Dodge Durango, and is right in line with the Chevrolet Traverse and Pilot, even if it's less than the Highlander.