2012 Ford Explorer Photo
Quick Take
It's a rifle shot at the heart of the crossover market: the 2012 Ford Explorer gives any SUV loyalist a reason to leap off their very high horse. Read more »
Decision Guide
Opinions from around the Web

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
$28,280 $39,855
FWD 4-Door Base
Gas Mileage 18 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:

Detroit's seen a major reinvention in the past few years, with wrenching change at GM and Chrysler. Ford hasn't been left out, except for the financial drama. It's dramatically reworked its lineup of cars to be more fuel-efficient, while subduing its dependence on truck sales.

The case study for change in Dearborn is the Ford Explorer, new for the 2011 model year and with major news for the 2012 model year. The Explorer ditched its old truck-based architecture last year for a set of car-like credentials, and got better in nearly every way as a result.

It's a convincing transformation. The Explorer's V-6 outmatches its old V-8s--and for 2012, there's a turbocharged four-cylinder that still generates horsepower and torque to beat old Explorer V-6s into the dust, while posting EPA-estimated highway gas mileage of 28 mpg. In 2005, 28 mpg got you...a Focus.

Since it shares running gear with the likes of the Flex, even the Taurus, the new Explorer can't quite hit the trails with the likes of the Grand Cherokee. That leaves it more equipped to excel at on-road handling, which it does convincingly with quick steering and terrific ride control that's due in equal part to an independent suspension and its still-substantial curb weight. 

It's one of the safest vehicles Ford builds, with inflatable rear seat belts and rearview cameras and blind-spot detectors. The 2012 Explorer also woos gearheads of another kind with MyFord Touch, the convoluted but promising system that uses voice, button or touchscreen control to govern infotainment and other vehicle functions.

The Explorer still looks reassuringly ute-like, though its rounded corners and subtle details register on a carlike plane, while the interior does its best impression of a Taurus sedan. And in truth, it does what the wide majority of us want to do in a crossover--it makes plenty of room for lots of people, or lots of stuff, and it does it much more efficiently than it ever did in the past, while holding on to a good bit of the mud-running bona fides that probably remained weekend ambitions for most of their suburban owners.

It's been named a North American Truck of the Year, as voted by this continent's most respected journalists, and it's truly a 21st-century SUV, as Ford wants you to think. A runaway sales hit, too, the Explorer is happiest when it's behaving on the highway--but it's more than willing to get a little dirty when you want to.


  • Great mix of SUV, crossover cues
  • Cabin is spacious, with plenty of headroom
  • Electric steering is wired for fun
  • MyFord Touch breaks down new tech walls
  • Gas mileage up strongly, EcoBoost or no


  • A soft-roader with less dirt under its nails
  • MyFord Touch's glitches and learning curve
  • EcoBoost costs more, not less, than V-6
  • Second-row bench seat needs a lifestyle lift
Next: Interior / Exterior »
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