Every 2012 Ford Explorer has standard features you'd expect in a more pricey vehicle, but it's Ford's cutting-edge options that set the Explorer apart from the Pilot, Grand Cherokee and Highlander.
The seven-passenger Explorer carries a base price of under $30,000 and includes the usual power features; steering-wheel audio controls; cruise control; an AM/FM/CD player with an auxiliary jack; and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. Moving into the XLT edition brings satellite radio; 18-inch wheels; a sport-shifting automatic gearbox; and reverse parking sensors.
The 2012 Explorer Limited has a standard-equipment list fitting for its almost $40,000 pricetag. It has leather seating; ambient lighting; pushbutton start; a Sony sound system; power-adjustable pedals; a media hub with twin USB ports (the extra USB port on the Explorer lets you plug in a 3G dongle, turning the vehicle into a rolling wireless hot spot), an SD card slot and RCA jacks for gaming on the go; a rearview camera; and SYNC and MyFord Touch.
The MyFord Touch system has been a controversial addition to the Explorer. It swaps out many of the small buttons and switches formerly used to run audio, phone, climate and navigation controls with an LCD touchscreen. Drivers can operate those systems with the swipe or touch of a finger, via the steering-wheel controls, or with voice commands. It's an admittedly complex system that takes time getting used to, and our editors are split on the benefits of the system. Bottom line: it's a gamble on making infotainment systems less invasive for drivers while on the road, and some of us see the value, and some do not. It's an option on lower-trim Explorers, though, and if you still want the SYNC Bluetooth features, Ford's now offering that separately on less pricey models.
Other options include a power sunroof; navigation system; premium audio; 20-inch wheels; ventilated seats; active park assist; and a power third-row seat. Inflatable rear seat belts now come in a package with blind-spot monitors.
The important drivetrain option new for 2012 is the EcoBoost four-cylinder engine. Priced from just under $30,000 in base trim, under $34,000 as an XLT, and just under $40,000 as a Limited, the EcoBoost Explorer uses a turbocharged four-cylinder to provide more torque and nearly the same horsepower as the V-6 engine. If fuel economy's a concern, that amounts to just about a grand more than the V-6 powertrain.