It starts inside, where Ford offers up a seven-seat interior as spacious as that in some minivans, though without the sliding side doors. It's a tall package, and adults will sit with inches of headroom to spare, whether they're in the front bucket seats, or the second-row bench or buckets (depending on options). The second row will even leave room for a child between--and two kids will be perched happily in the third-row seat, especially if you've ordered the optional DVD entertainment system. Adults could squeeze in back there, but we're not sure why they'd want to, short of an emergency. The crossover has plenty of storage for small items, too, in the center console and in the deep door bins. We do wish Ford would put a little more length and a bit more tilt into the second-row bench seat, for better comfort. The third-row seat folds down to expand the Explorer's 21 cubic feet of space; fold down the second row as well, and there are 81 cubic feet for toting home all kinds of big-box goods.
All occupants will get class-leading safety, too. The Explorer has standard front, side and curtain airbags, as well as anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control. All-wheel drive is an option on some models, and it's a sophisticated setup with driving modes for everything from mud to snow. The Explorer also has the most comprehensive package of safety options found on any crossover: inflatable rear seatbelts are bundled with blind-spot monitors, there's a rearview camera on most models, and adaptive cruise control can be fitted, too. Maybe best of all, Ford's MyKey system lets parents set speed and volume limits that teen car borrowers won't be able to exceed. The IIHS gives the Explorer its Top Safety Pick, but the NHTSA hasn't yet rated it.