The Explorer is offered in base, XLT, Limited, ST and Platinum models, but no matter the model, it comes with three well-designed rows of seating and room for up to seven (the second row comes with two bucket seats for adults). While the third row is kid-sized, it's easier to fold than those on just about any other model, thanks to the simple, single-button power-folding system. Parents will also note that LATCH fasteners for child seats are included in the second-row outboard positions. Both the second and third rows flip forward, giving a cavernous amount of cargo space.
The base 2.3L EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine makes a healthy 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, with fuel economy at a class leading 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway and a 5000-lb tow capacity this engine is real workhorse. A beefier 3.0L Ecoboost V6 is available on Platinum trimmed vehicles producing 365 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque, with tow ratings all the way up to a 5600-lb maximum when properly equipped and an even more powerful ST model making 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque.
The available Intelligent 4-wheel-drive system in the Explorer is available with all engines, and it is designed with the urban driving done by most Explorer owners in mind. The system includes a Terrain Management system that recalibrates itself for snow, sand or mud when needed. With 4-wheel drive, there's also Hill Descent Control, to help maintain composure on steep, slippery slopes.
Standard equipment on the Explorer is more extensive than what is found in most mainstream-brand vehicles. Cruise control, power adjustable driver seat, media hub system, five 12-volt power points, 8-inch touchscreen, FordPass Connect 4G, multi-zone climate control with separate rear controls, cap less fuel-filling and the MyKey control/monitoring feature are all standard on the base model.
Standard features included on the XLT include heated front seats, premium cloth upholstery and power lumbar adjustable driver's seat and power adjustable passenger seat.
The Limited trim adds many more features including heated/vented front seats, leather upholstery, ambient lighting, heated steering wheel, HD radio, amplifier sound system, Bang & Olufsen 12 Speaker system, rain detecting wipers, 360 degree camera system, front/rear parking sensors, traffic sign information and evasion assist.
The top-of-the-line Platinum trim includes 21-inch premium aluminum wheels, quilted leather seating, illuminated sill plates and directionally adaptive lighting.
MyFord Touch combines a host of vehicle, information and entertainment functions in an interface that appears a bit like that of iPads or other tablet computers. The system works together with Ford's Sync interface to interact seamlessly -- and with voice commands -- with media players, smartphones, and music on USB sticks.
All Explorers include both Roll Stability Control and Curve Control sophisticated stability control systems. Safety Canopy side-curtain airbags also cover all three rows and an SOS Post-Crash System helps alert authorities if the airbags deploy. Safety-related tech features on the Explorer include available Ford Co-Pilot 360 Assist, adaptive cruise control with a collision warning system that includes brake support as well as a Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert and driver attention alert.
Excellent Ride Quality
World-class Safety Features
EcoBoost Engine: Trailering Capabilities
For 2021, the Ford Explorer gets minor updates after its refresh in 2020. The XLT now comes with heated seats and adds an optional Appearance Package. Top trim levels also come with updates interior finishes and there are several more wheel options along with more paint choices available.
The Ford Explorer has been rated one of the safest utility vehicles at any size or price; it's the first vehicle in the world to offer rear inflatable seatbelts. Curve control -- a more advanced version of electronic stability control -- is also a Ford exclusive. Ford's MyKey system helps parents manage the teen drivers in the family.
The Explorer also stands out for being one of the "greenest" choices available. Ford claims best-in-class gas mileage for non-hybrids and notes that the Explorer EcoBoost will go 20 percent farther on a gallon of gas than the Honda Pilot.