From the 1990 original all the way to the current 2014 Ford Explorer, the shape of this American family vehicle has evolved quite profoundly--in several distinct generational cutoffs. Today's model honors that original, yet you can't ignore that it has carlike details woven in everywhere. While the former version was a trucky ute trying to look a bit more carlike, this is eseentially the opposite.
Up close, you'll see that the Explorer 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 (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.
The high-performance Explorer Sport makes the most of the car-like side of its persona, with glossy black trim, 20-inch wheels, and mesh grille inserts. 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 sedan or a minivan.
Inside, the current Explorer makes no attempt to give nod to the past--and that's perfectly fine. Early Explorers had miserable, plasticky interiors, which got better as it was groomed upmarket. 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.
Audi and BMW are in its crosshairs, Ford says, 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.