The Ford Explorer comes configured only as a seven-passenger wagon, leaving five-passenger duties to the smaller Edge. It's not quite as low or as long as the sleekly urbane Ford Flex, but the Explorer's laid out well, with excellent headroom and front-seat comfort to go with flexible cargo capacity.
Ford's learned how to make more supportive seats that are also more comfortable, a parting gift maybe from its long association with Volvo. In the Explorer, that means softer cushions that still have enough long-distance firmness, and on most versions the seats are power-operated with heating control. Head room soars in front and the middle row of seats, even with the sunroof option ticked, and the wide center console doesn't cut into knee room very much. The Explorer's head rests have grown easier to live with too--they're softer and protrude less than in the very first model year.
Space is no problem in the second row, either. The Explorer's about five inches wider than in its last generation, and it's a snap to fit two adults across, with room for a child between on the bench seat. Knee room is fine, head room is great--but the bottom cushion of the seat could be better tailored. It's short and angles down at its front edge. It lacks the thoughtful slide feature found in the Chevy Equinox, for that matter. A pair of buckets can be ordered for the second row, and have the same cozy feel as those up front--without the optional ventilation, though.
The third-row seat is pretty cramped for adults, but it's more than adequate for children, who can climb into the narrow space created when you flip the middle row forward via an easy lever.
For cargo duty, the Explorer comes with a fold-away third-row seat, power-operated if you want. With 21 cubic feet of space with the third row occupied by people, the storage space is fairly large, and lined with durable if inexpensive-looking plastic. Power or fold the back seat and the middle seats, and the Explorer lays bare 81 cubic feet of cargo volume--almost all of it available for big, flat packages, since the seats fold nearly flat and wear an invulnerable grade of carpeting on their backs.