- Independent rear suspension
- Interior styling
- Stable handling
- Power-folding third-row seat
- Ride isn't as smooth as car-based crossovers
- V-6 engine noise
As the perennial best-selling truck-based SUV, the Ford Explorer is still the one to beat.
You'd need to be an older driver to remember a time when our highways and byways weren't clogged with tall SUVs. The SUV craze started a few years after the minivan boom began, and most experts credit Jeep with building the first modern SUV (the 1984 Cherokee) and Ford with making it popular (the 1991 Explorer).
The 2008 Ford Explorer is now in its fourth generation, which is easily the best Explorer yet. The latest major change came with the 2006 model year, when the entire SUV was modernized and improved in just about every conceivable area.
Today, the 2008 Ford Explorer slots in above the Escape, Edge, and Taurus X, but below the full-size Expedition. Many consider the Explorer a mid-size SUV, but make no mistake, like drink cups at fast food joints, this mid-size SUV is pretty large even if it's not called as such. The wheelbase is 113.7 inches with an overall length of just over 16 feet. Towing capabilities of this body-on-frame design is an impressive 7,120 pounds.
The 2008 Ford Explorer is available in base XLT, Eddie Bauer, and Limited trim levels, and as either two- or four-wheel-drive configurations. For Ford, 2008 is the year they added the SYNC system, which uses Bluetooth and a touchscreen to control communications and entertainment systems (iPod jacks were already standard on all audio systems). New 20-inch wheels and a capless fuel filler system are also new items for 2008, but are subject to late availability. Voice activation is now offered on the Explorer's navigation system, and importantly, side curtain airbags have been made standard on all Explorers.
A 210-horsepower 4.0-liter V-6 is the standard engine for the Explorer, while an available 4.6-liter V-8 powerplant provides 292 horsepower and comes with a six-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 gets a five-speed automatic. There's a choice of Ford's ControlTrac four-wheel drive or full-time all-wheel drive if you want extra traction. The AdvanceTrac system with roll stability control is also standard. Performance in government crash tests was excellent.
Editors of TheCarConnection.com have been impressed with their exposure to the 2008 Ford Explorer. It's put together nicely, and the interior of recent Ford Trucks has been the best the company has produced. Details like the trim rings around the gauges and the surprisingly well-designed interior door handle releases show that somebody at Ford is paying attention. The exterior styling is clean and uncluttered.
The driving position is comfortable, and while the 2008 Ford Explorer drives like a truck, it's stable and pretty responsive for something that weighs 5,000 pounds. Some of the credit goes to the Explorer's independent rear suspension. However, if you're looking for something closer to what a sedan might deliver, many crossovers ride more smoothly than the Explorer.
Editors from TheCarConnection.com found the V-6 engine noisier than the V-8, as the smaller engine had to work harder to keep the Explorer hustling along. As expected, mileage wasn't anything to crow about. That clean exterior shape certainly helped keep wind noise to a minimum.
Feature-wise, the 2008 Ford Explorer offers just about anything a buyer might want in an SUV, including a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a power-folding third-row seat (which increases the Explorer's seating capacity to seven).
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is a worthy competitor to the 2008 Explorer if you don't need the extra room the Ford provides. The Jeep, as one can still expect, is far better than the Explorer off road.
With Ford's improvements, don't write off the Explorer because of quality concerns. This truck is designed and built to run among the best of the best, which is why one can compare it to the mid-size SUVs from Honda, Nissan, and Toyota. Generally, these imports do have a slightly higher-quality feel to their interiors, but the Ford outgrunts them all in terms of maximum capabilities.