Ford Explorer is a traditional midsize SUV with body-on-frame construction. Available with V6 or V8 power, the Explorer competes against the Chevy TrailBlazer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota 4Runner, and Nissan Pathfinder.
Explorer was completely redesigned for the 2006 model year and we were pleased with the new steering, new suspension, and new brakes, all of which were vastly improved over the previous-generation. The latest Explorer is quieter than previous models, and it rides better. It leans less in corners and the brakes are more responsive. The rear seats fold flatter, and the interior has been improved throughout. More important, it's a very nice vehicle that's pleasant to live with and it compares well with the competition.
All Explorers offer a smooth ride and decent handling for such big, heavy vehicles. The interiors are pleasant, with only oddly designed door panels to complain about. With five, six, or seven-passenger seating configurations, customers can outfit their Explorers to fit their passenger and cargo carrying needs.
With the V8 engine, the Explorer is rated to tow up to a whopping 7,310 pounds; that's about as much as a Jeep Grand Cherokee with a Hemi. And Explorer is rated to carry up to 1,531 pounds of payload.
Explorer has earned the best possible impact protection rating in the federal government's crash tests: five stars for the driver in a frontal impact, the front-seat passenger in a frontal impact, front-seat occupants in a side impact, and rear-seat occupants in a side impact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's 2006 model year New Car Assessment Program. Ford says the Explorer is designed to meet all known federal frontal- and side-impact crash requirements through 2010.
For 2008, Ford adds new standard and optional features. Side curtain airbags are standard on 2008 models, voice activation is added to the optional navigation system, and top-line Limited models get standard power adjustable pedals and a universal garage door opener. Due later in the 2008 model year are three new options: a capless fueling system, 20-inch wheels and Ford's Sync entertainment and communication system.
Though car-based SUVs, or crossovers, such as the Ford Edge are gaining in popularity for their smoother ride, better handling, and easier interior access, the Explorer remains a good choice for families that tow. Explorer's truck-based chassis gives it towing capability, while its clever independent rear suspension smoothes the ride for back-seat passengers.
The 2008 Ford Explorer lineup comprises the XLT 2WD ($25,755), XLT 4WD ($28,050), Eddie Bauer 2WD ($28,100), Eddie Bauer 4WD ($30,395), Limited 2WD ($31,870), and Limited 4WD ($34,165). All are available with the standard 4.0-liter V6 and five-speed automatic transmission or an optional 4.6-liter V8 with a six-speed automatic ($1,295). The four-wheel drive is a full-time system that can be driven on dry pavement and includes low-range gearing.
Standard equipment on the XLT includes air conditioning; cloth low-back bucket seats with manual driver lumbar adjustment; 60/40-split folding second-row bench seat with back-rest recline; power windows with one-touch-down driver window; remote keyless entry; AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with auxiliary input jack; cargo management system; two 12-volt power points; trip computer with two-line message center; one-piece liftgate with flip-open rear window; fold-away power exterior mirrors; black roof side rails; fog lights; and painted aluminum wheels on P235/70R16 all-season tires.
XLT options include leather upholstery ($695), a Convenience Group with keyless entry keypad, automatic headlights and auto-dimming rearview mirror; a Sun and Sirius Package ($560) with a power moonroof and Sirius satellite radio with six-month subscription; Class III/IV trailer tow package ($275); power adjustable pedals ($150); rear air conditioning ($695); fixed running boards ($495); remote engine starting ($385); rear DVD entertainment ($1,295); voice-activated navigation system with Audiophile AM/FM audio with six-disc in-dash CD player and auto-dimming rearview mirror ($2505); 50/50 split folding third-row seat ($875); P245/65R17 tires with machined aluminum wheels ($200); and a heated windshield ($300). The Audiophile stereo ($510) and Sirius satellite radio ($195) with six-month subscription are available separately. The Ironman Package ($1,495) for XLT celebrates Ford's sponsorship of the Ironman World Championship with Ironman logos; machined-aluminum wheels with P235/65R18 tires; two-tone leather seats; heated front seats; 10-way power adjustable driver seat; roof rail crossbars; and exterior touches that include a chrome grille, unique body side cladding, and unique front and rear fascias.
Eddie Bauer adds leather upholstery; 10-way-power seat for the driver; wood-grain interior accents; overhead console; automatic headlights; trip computer with four-line message center; auto-dimming rearview mirror; illuminated visor vanity mirrors; keyless entry keypad; fixed running boards; and painted aluminum wheels with 245/65R17 all-season tires. Optional is a Luxury Package ($1,290) that includes leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, universal garage door opener, driver's seat memory, heated mirrors, power adjustable pedals, and six-way power adjustable front passenger seat.
Limited adds heated exterior mirrors; unique interior wood-grain accents; dual-zone electronic climate control; Audiophile AM/FM audio with six-disc in-dash CD changer, MP3 playback and subwoofer; rear air conditioning; unique floor console; heated seats; leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise and audio controls; a third-row 50/50 split manual-folding seat; Homelink universal garage door opener; power-adjustable pedals; and machined-aluminum wheels with 245/65R18 all-season tires. Power retracting running boards are optional for Eddie Bauer and Limited ($695). Later in the model year, 20-inch wheels, capless fueling, and Ford Sync will be offered. Seating choices include a manually folding third-row seat ($875) on XLT and Eddie Bauer, standard on Limited. A power-folding third row is available on Eddie Bauer ($1,370) and Limited ($495). A four-bucket-seat configuration, with second-row captain's chairs, is available ($795) on Eddie Bauer and Limited. The third-row seat comes standard on the Limited, but can be deleted for credit (-$375), providing a flatter cargo floor.