Gas mileage isn't the first reason you'd opt to buy a seven-passenger crossover like the latest Ford Explorer, but it offers at least one fuel-saving option for those patient enough to endure sluggish acceleration.
Last year, Ford outfitted the Explorer with a new engine option, a turbocharged four-cylinder, all in the name of extending the nameplate's EPA numbers. It did the same for the five-passenger Edge, and in both cases gas mileage goes up considerably. Since the Explorer outweighs the Edge by about 400 pounds, it doesn't quite hit the same 30-mpg heights on the EPA highway cycle.
However, the new turbocharged, direct-injected, 240-horsepower four-cylinder does earn estimated EPA ratings of 20/28 mpg, or 23 miles per gallon combined--about 25 percent higher than the last-generation Explorer did in base form. The combination is only available in front-drive form, and it's only rated to tow up to 2000 pounds, not the 5000 pounds the V-6 Explorer can.
The six-cylinder Explorer has gas mileage more in line with other seven-seat family wagons. With the 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic, it's rated at 17/24 mpg or 20 mpg combined; with all-wheel drive, it's pegged at 17/23 mpg and 19 mpg combined. The new twin-turbo Explorer Sport lowers the net for the lineup: it earns an EPA-rated 16/22 mpg or just 18 mpg combined, still an improvement over the old V-8 Explorers of a decade ago.