The Ford Explorer blows most of its competitors out of the water in terms of available technology. In some cases, it offers even more than you can find in some luxury vehicles, leaving it to compete almost exclusively with Jeep Grand Cherokee in terms of convenience features in a relatively affordable family vehicle.
Prices range from $31,995 for base Explorers to $53,915 for a Platinum edition with all-wheel drive.
Each Explorer comes with all the standard features you'd expect to find in a $30,000 SUV. It has power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; cloth upholstery; a rearview camera; steering-wheel audio controls; a tilt/telescoping steering wheel; SYNC with Bluetooth connectivity; and an AM/FM/CD player. The base model is offered with front- or all-wheel drive, and either the turbo four or the non-turbo V-6. Major options include a tow package, satellite radio, and rear-seat inflatable safety belts.
The Explorer XLT adds 18-inch wheels; satellite radio; a sport-shift mode for the automatic transmission; keyless ignition; power front seats; and reverse parking sensors. Major options include MyFord Touch; premium audio; remote start; front parking sensors; blind-spot monitors; 20-inch wheels; a power tailgate; a sunroof; and navigation.
The Explorer Limited adds leather seating; 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 wi-fi hotspot), an SD card slot and RCA jacks; SYNC and MyFord Touch; navigation; a power handsfree tailgate; and a front-view camera.
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. 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.
Finally, the new Platinum edition gets a standard dual-pane sunrooof, adaptive cruise control, digital instrument panel, premium Sony sound, aluminum and ash-wood trim, park assist, lane-keeping assistance, and 20-inch wheels.
One feature that you'll need to come to terms with if you're considering the Explorer is MyFord Touch, which is 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 some Explorers and isn't offered on base or XLT models—and if you merely want Bluetooth connectivity, that's well-integrated on those affordable models.
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.