2013 Ford Explorer Styling

8.0
Styling

With each generation, the Ford Explorer has softened its take on the iconic SUV shape of the 1990 original. Today's model? It's a jet-age view homage of that past, with all kinds of carlike details woven into the barest of sport-ute outlines. It's no longer a trucky ute that's trying to look like a car. It's just the opposite.

No matter which way you see its finer lines and details, the Explorer still hits some high points of crossover SUV style. It's a dialect of sharp angles and straight lines, the opposite of softly rounded wagons like the Volvo XC90 that's actually a distant cousin to it. The Explorer's visual DNA may be purely on loan here, but the tall body, big glass areas and the three-bar grille peg it as a Ford as much as its outline. It has more in common with a Taurus SHO than with a big Expedition SUV, down to winged taillamps and a perforated grille, but the Explorer still avoids looking like a sport sedan. Or, worse, a minivan--the cardinal sin of crossovers. The Explorer Sport amps things up even a bit more, with glossy black trim, 20-inch wheels, and mesh grille inserts.

The latest Explorer neatly reimagines its heritage in modern lines and shapes; the interior's one of Ford's best yet.
The Explorer's cockpit does away with truck stuff for good. Early Explorers had miserable, plasticky interiors, which got better as it was groomed upmarket. This time, Ford says Audi and BMW are in its crosshairs--and the Explorer delivers, in almost the same way the Flex and F-150 do. The cabin's a knockout, smoothing off transitions between dissimilar plastics and putting the curvy goodness into an interior that could have been confused for a shoe-store stockroom, in the past. That it manages to be more handsome than the cluttered, confusing Audi Q7 dash is a big achievement--nevermind the ungainly dashes in the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander. It's up there with the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango in tailored good looks, with maybe a half-degree more of the contemporary in its win column, thanks to those exclamation points of metallic plastic on the center stack.

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