The heyday for the Ford Explorer was around the turn of the century. In 2000, the Explorer sold more than it ever had before. After a brief dip about a decade later, the Explorer's numbers have improved every year since and are fast approaching 2000 levels. What's made this veteran of the SUV class so popular again? In this preview guide for the 2019 model year Explorer, we'll explore the answer to that question.
Rugged for Rugged Terrain
Unlike little crossovers and compact SUVs, the Ford Explorer goes places. Rugged places. And the Explorer's Sport trim is actually sporty. Consumers like the Explorer's engine options. On the base Explorer, you get the 290-horsepower V6 standard. The engine in the middle of the pack is a 280-horsepower turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder. If you want the best, that's the twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 making 365 horsepower. All these engine options are paired with a smooth six-speed automatic transmission.
Some of you are wondering about off-roading. The Explorer tackles that as well. Ford offers optional four-wheel drive with hill descent control and a terrain management system that tackles Normal, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Grass/Gravel/Snow modes. Keep in mind that the Explorer isn't a truck. But some light off-roading should be fine.
Quiet, Comfortable Cabin
Just because it has rugged chops does not mean the Explorer is hard as a rock on the inside. We think you'll actually be pleasantly surprised at how comfortable the Explorer can be. This mid-size SUV seats eight on three rows. Up front, you'll find plenty of head and elbow room. Though the Explorer can seat eight, we recommend the seven-seater, especially if you drive with more than two adults. The seven-seater substitutes captain chairs for the second row. You decrease available seating by one, but make up for it with comfort and easier access to the back row. What's more, the bucket seats are more comfortable, and they recline and slide forward and back.
The cabin looks great too. There's plenty of soft-touch materials throughout the cabin. The Explorer Titanium especially is awash with wood trim and matte aluminum. The front seats and captain's chairs are wide and comfortable with padded armrests. But nothing is mushy, so you won't ache after a long ride.
There are three things to look for in infotainment systems. They need to be quick to respond, easy to use, and straightforward in function. After all, you need to be able to quickly get back to the road. Ford's SYNC 3 infotainment system is all three. This system comes standard on a 4.3-inch touch screen, which can be upgraded to a larger size. The menus are intuitive and the system is timely to respond. A few years back, Ford dabbled in having a solely touch screen interface, but quickly realized that physical buttons and knobs are easier to use. Ford has found the sweet spot of infotainment systems, hitting everything in our infotainment wishlist.