Ford has trimmed Explorer prices with the introduction of the new generation, but it's still fitted the wagon with a substantial list of standard features and goodies.
The entry-level $28,995 Explorer has standard power windows, locks and mirrors; a tilt/telescoping steering wheel; steering-wheel audio controls; cruise control; an AM/FM/CD player and an auxiliary audio jack; and keyless entry. For $31,995, the XLT piles on satellite radio; the sport-shift transmission mode; 18-inch wheels; and reverse parking sensors.
Atop the lineup is the Explorer Limited. At $37,995, it includes power-adjustable pedals; leather seating; ambient lighting; power front seats; a Sony audio system; SYNC; pushbutton start; MyFord Touch; a media hub with USB ports, an SD card slot and RCA jacks for gaming; and a rearview camera.
Ford's MyFord Touch system effectively replaces most of the knobs and buttons on the stock versions with a large touch-sensitive LCD screen. Using fingertips to push and swipe through menus, drivers can change climate, navigation and audio functions--or use buttons on the steering wheel to do most of the same functions. Ford's ultimate goal is to use both of these redundant systems to steer most drivers to voice controls, which MyFord Touch also coordinates via the SYNC system's Bluetooth connections.
The system's come under fire from Consumer Reports and other media outlets, for its apparent complexity and the minor glitches in touch sensitivity that have cropped up in the Explorer and the 2011 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX, which also offer the system. After a pair of long drives, we've become acclimated to the system, and have experienced some of the momentary glitches--like the navigation system locking up during routing to a destination. That said, the long learning curve pays off in less driver distraction; once you've digested the amount of information crammed into each screen, using it or the steering-wheel buttons--or the voice controls--becomes easier, and cuts down on the time your hands leave the steering wheel. If it's an imperfect first step to a safer infotainment experience, it's at least a step--and recognition that drivers want connectivity of all kinds, even when they're barreling down an Interstate.
The options list for the Explorer has more connectivity in its spreadsheet cells: the extra USB port allows you to plug in a 3G dongle for mobile Wifi connectivity. Also on the list are a power moonroof; a navigation system; a premium audio system; big 20-inch wheels; ventilated seats; a power third-row seat; active park assist; and coming soon, those inflatable seat belts.