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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
Explorers can be equipped with rear- or four-wheel drive
relative joy to drive compared to other truck-based SUVS
You're still always aware you're driving a truck.
Car and Driver
Along with tougher off-road capability and higher tow ratings, people still buy this type of SUV for its versatility and the high seating position. The 2010 Ford Explorer delivers on most of these. It's not very off-road-capable, but it's a good choice for towing a small boat or trailer of ATVs. Meanwhile, the ride is smoother than that of other truck-based utes, and the independent rear suspension adds to its stability and responsive handling, but make no mistake. Editors of TheCarConnection.com have been impressed with the interior quality of the Ford Explorer.
Once again, two powertrain options are available on the 2010 Ford Explorer: a 210-horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6, or a 292-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that neither engine is particularly impressive in terms of acceleration, and editors from TheCarConnection.com note that the V-6 engine is noisier than the V-8, as it has to work harder to keep the Explorer hustling along. Edmunds calls the engine performance on the Ford Explorer "mediocre" and says that the engines are "weak" when "compared to competing SUVs." Edmunds also notes "a 4WD Explorer equipped with the V-8 takes a mediocre 9 seconds to reach 60 mph."
Pairing up with the available engines are two transmissions on the Ford Explorer 2010 lineup, one for each engine type. Edmunds says "a five-speed automatic transmission is standard with the V-6 engine," while "the V-8 comes matched to a six-speed automatic" and "either engine can be equipped with a choice of two-wheel-drive or a four-wheel-drive system." While engine performance isn't exactly anything to brag about for Ford, reviews of the transmissions are much more positive. ConsumerGuide notes that the six-speed "changes gears smoothly and delivers quick part-throttle downshifts for fine around-town response." Car and Driver adds "the six-speed is a godsend during passing maneuvers and on long uphill slogs, where, with a little practice, you can elicit a single-gear kickdown."
Towing capability is dependent on which engine choice buyers make. The five-speed automatic that pairs with the V-6 helps the Ford Explorer "tow up to 5,395 pounds," according to Cars.com, which is nearly 2,000 pounds less than the V-8 but impressive nonetheless. Motor Trend states that "properly equipped Explorers achieve a maximum tow rating of 7,285 pounds," which Edmunds calls a "healthy tow rating."
As expected, mileage on the chunky Explorer isn't anything to crow about, and TheCarConnection.com editors experience lower mileage with the V-6 than with the V-8. The EPA estimates that 2WD Explorers return 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway with the V-6, and 13/20 mpg with the V-8, while both engines offer 13 mpg city and 19 mpg highway in 4WD mode. During their test period, ConsumerGuide reviewers find that "a 2WD V-8 Limited averaged 15.1 mpg, with 4WD, 15.0 mpg."
A truck-based SUV such as the Ford Explorer is rarely praised on the basis of vehicle dynamics, but the Ford Explorer lineup manages to impress reviewers with both its ride and steering. While ConsumerGuide detects "some body lean in turns and delayed reaction in quick directional changes," overall the "steering feel is responsive and accurate." Edmunds characterizes the performance of the 2010 Ford Explorer by saying that it is "a relative joy to drive compared to other truck-based SUVS" and further notes "the brakes inspire confidence through a firm and progressive pedal." Kelley Blue Book adds that the 2010 "Ford Explorer is noticeably smoother and more stable out on the highway than past versions."
For a truck-based SUV, the 2010 Ford Explorer rides, handles, and tows better than most of its competitors—though it doesn’t provide the nimbler feel of some newer crossover SUVs.