Don't even try to compare the features in the 2014 Ford Explorer to what you'll get in the Toyota Highlander or Honda Pilot. It offers one of the widest, most technologically advanced set of features available in its segment--even more than some luxury models, really--and it's in a tight race with the Jeep Grand Cherokee for packing loads of convenience features in a relatively affordable family vehicle.Each Explorer comes with all the standard features you'd expect to find in a $30,000. It has power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; steering-wheel audio controls; a tilt/telescoping steering wheel; and an AM/FM/CD player with an auxiliary jack. The Explorer XLT adds on 18-inch wheels; satellite radio; a sport-shift mode for the automatic transmission; and reverse parking sensors.
The Explorer Limited runs around $40k but gains leather seating; pushbutton start; ambient lighting; a Sony sound system; a media hub with twin USB ports (one for 3G or 4G dongles that turn the Explorer into a mobile WiFi station), an SD card slot and RCA jacks; power-adjustable pedals; SYNC and MyFord Touch; and a rearview camera.
Other Explorer options include a power sunroof; a heated steering wheel; automatic headlamps; navigation system; premium audio; 20-inch wheels; ventilated seats; active park assist; and a power third-row seat. Inflatable rear seat belts now come in a package with blind-spot monitors.
The Ford Explorer Sport offers a turbo V-6 drivetrain, with standard all-wheel drive and Terrain Management. Along with its own wheels and styling filigrees--the "Explorer" name across the nose and 20-inch wheels--the Sport adds standard SYNC, MyFord Touch, and a media hub with dual USB ports, an SD card slot and a set of RCA jacks. Safety equipment includes a standard rearview camera and options for blind-spot monitors, active park assist, and a set of inflatable rear seat belts.
As for luxury touches, the Explorer Sport has power front heated seats; automatic climate control; and a Sony audio system with HD radio and 12 speakers. Options include a navigation system; a DVD entertainment system; remote start; rear heated seats; a dual-pane sunroof; a power tailgate; a tow package; active park assist; blind-spot monitors; inflatable rear seat belts; and adjustable pedals.
For 2014, some of the Sport's feature set is being expanded to Limited models. Second-row heated seats and adaptive cruise control are newly available on the Limited, and automatic headlamps have been made standard.
One feature that you'll need to come to terms with if you're considering the Explorer is MyFord Touch--a complex and controversial system in any Ford. The idea is to trade buttons and switches for LCD touchscreens, voice commands, and steering-wheel controls, so that drivers can run functions like audio or navigation more safely. Not only does it take time getting used to, the benefits of the system don't emerge after short stints at the wheel. The good news is that it's not mandatory; it remains an option on lower-trim Explorers--and if you merely want Bluetooth connectivity, that's well-integrated on those affordable models.