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2011 Ford Explorer Photo
8.6
/ 10
TCC Rating
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Reviewed by Marty Padgett
Editorial Director, The Car Connection
BASE INVOICE
$26,886
BASE MSRP
$28,360
Quick Take
The 2011 Ford Explorer a formidable shot right at the heart of the crossover market--one that's sure to pull some of the remaining SUV loyalists off their very high horses. Read more »
Decision Guide
Opinions from around the Web
Styling
Performance
Quality
Safety
Features
Mileage

Ford designers have wrapped the 2011 in muscular sheetmetal that makes the exit vehicle look as dated and dowdy as... well... it is.

Autoblog »

it’s finished in piano black which looks very classy.

Automobile »

Ford has been trying to make its interiors not just practical but more visually appealing, and it certainly succeeded here.

New York Times »

Its dashboard is trimmed in soft "pleather" with rounded edges, and its center console is shiny piano black that's pretty until it's smeared with fingerprints.

Los Angeles Times »

The reborn 2011 Ford Explorer may look rough and rugged on the outside, but beneath the skin, this three-row SUV has more in common with Ford's Taurus sedan than a truck.

Popular Mechanics »
Pricing and Specifications by Style
$28,360 $39,535
MSRP $28,360
INVOICE $26,886 Browse used listings in your area
FWD 4-Door Base
Gas Mileage 17 mpg City/25 mpg Hwy
Engine Gas V6, 3.5L
EPA Class Sport Utility Vehicle - 2WD
Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
Passenger Capacity 7
Passenger Doors 4
Body Style Sport Utility
See Detailed Specs »
8.6 out of 10
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The Basics:

Reinvention's become the calling card of Detroit in this new century. GM and Chrysler are fundamentally different companies than they were before their bankruptcies, and both are surging on the strength of new vehicles like the Equinox and the Grand Cherokee.

The reinvention's been most dramatic, though, at Ford. Without going through the agita of restructuring, Ford's simply banked everything it owns on a new range of Blue Oval-branded cars, trucks and crossovers.

None are more important to the company's image than this new 2011 Ford Explorer. In the 1990s, the Explorer nameplate fell out of the sky, after a devastating tire recall knocked it from the best-selling list. Then rising gas prices took their shot at the fallen SUV. And then Ford had its own near-miss with insolvency.

Today, Ford's house is in order, and the total transformation of the Explorer from truck-based sport-ute to family-friendly crossover is complete. And not just complete, but convincing. It's dropped most of its go-anywhere pretense, and instead sends reassuring messages to all those old Explorer owners--six million of them--that this new vehicle is better than ever on the pavement, while it still keeps some of its trail-riding talents on reserve.

The new Explorer is part of the car-based family that also counts the Flex, even the Taurus, as its members--but driving it in V-6 trim proves that it's "SUV" enough for anything short of the heaviest of off-road duties. It looks the sport-ute part, but drives more like the Taurus, with well-tuned electric steering and a finely damped ride. True to SUV form, it's also a little taller and stubbier than Ford's own curb feeler, the seven-passenger Flex, but still plenty spacious, not to mention handsome and well-fitted. It's also promising to be a safety leader, with new features like inflatable rear seatbelts--all the better to shine up its tarnished reputation. And there's no escaping the fascinating MyFord Touch, which lets you guide secondary controls with a fingertip or your voice, instead of buttons--even if it's forcing casual consumers to re-learn a few things.

From the same pieces, the seven-passenger Explorer is the yin to the seven-seat Flex's yang, even if the big boxes can't interlock with the same graphic perfection. It's a tremendous vehicle--and it's this year's North American Truck of the Year, as voted by this continent's most respected journalists.

Is the 2011 Ford Explorer the "21st-century SUV," as Ford likes to suggest--or is it a different strain of the same crossover DNA? We say the Explorer's no dainty roadflower, and it's more than willing to get some dirt under its fingernails--even if it's a bit shy to tackle the terrain extremes you'll see courtesy the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

 

Likes:

  • Fine blend of SUV and crossover styling
  • Tall, spacious cabin
  • Well-wired electric steering
  • MyFord Touch's tech revolution
  • Far more fuel-efficient than before

Dislikes:

  • Not quite the off-roader it once was
  • MyFord Touch's learning curve and glitches
  • ....wait, we're thinking...
Next: Interior / Exterior »
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