2022 Ford Explorer

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2021
The Car Connection
2021
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Senior Editor
November 8, 2021

Buying tip

The new ST-Line version appears to address the workarounds we’ve recommended for years—bringing some of the look of the ST, without the big engine and big price tag.

features & specs

Base 4WD
Base RWD
King Ranch 4WD
MPG
20 city / 27 hwy
MPG
21 city / 28 hwy
MPG
18 city / 24 hwy
MSRP
$35,245
MSRP
$33,245
MSRP
$55,610

The 2022 Ford Explorer hits the spot for families who want more choice in a family SUV—although value for money isn’t a strong point.

What kind of SUV is the 2022 Ford Explorer? What does it compare to?

The Ford Explorer is built for busy families, and whether that means lots of space for outdoor gear, shopping bags, or extra friends and family, the Explorer has it covered. The three-row SUV is right smack in the middle of the family SUV segment and rivals the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, and Kia Telluride.

Is the 2022 Ford Explorer a good SUV?

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The Explorer earns a 6.8 TCC Rating, with plus points for its looks and refinement, but demerits for seating and, in most of its versions, value. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What's new for the 2022 Ford Explorer?

The 2022 model year brings a more affordable ST-Line version that matches the lesser 2.3-liter turbo-4 engine to the rest of the sporty ST package, for $45,845. The ST itself is now also offered in rear-wheel-drive versions, not just with all-wheel drive. 

Separately, Ford is bringing out the performance side in top-lux King Ranch and Platinum versions of the Explorer by giving them the ST’s 400-hp turbo V-6, versus a 365-hp version previously.

Ford’s Explorer has grown out of its boxy, “Jurassic Park” duds and into a longer, wider—but just as family-friendly—shape. But it’s not a simple one-size-fits-all SUV. Its wide range of trims and powertrains cover family needs ranging from an austere minivan replacement to a reasonably off-road-capable SUV to a sophisticated, luxurious vehicle that feels like it might bear a premium brand badge. As such, the Explorer is offered in base, XLT, Limited, Timberline, ST, King Ranch, and Platinum versions. Most Explorers on the lot will have a 2.3-liter turbo-4, making 300 hp and paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard, but many Explorers will come with all-wheel drive. A hybrid powertrain, combining a 3.3-liter V-6, electric motor/generator, battery pack, and 10-speed automatic, makes a combined 318 hp and can return an EPA rating of up to 27 mpg combined. 

The Explorer Platinum and Explorer ST have a 3.0-liter turbo V-6 that makes 400 hp. Although launch is a bit weak, it delivers a rush of passing power. The hybrid versions actually feel perkier from a standing start.  

Three rows of seats are standard in the Explorer, but the cabin feels smaller than it should, with the third row a kids-only space. Materials and trims are pleasing, if a bit understated in most versions, and the cabin is quieter than you’ll find in rival models. 

Every Explorer gets a touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In most models that’s an 8.0-inch unit, but as part of a tech package included in ST, Platinum, and King Ranch there’s a 10.1-inch vertically oriented screen. Heated front seats, power front seats, and second-row captain’s chairs that give easier access to the third row are standard on all but the base model. It’s that next-up model, the Explorer XLT, that we recommend for most buyers—minus the 20-inch wheel upgrade. Limited models add heated, power folding second-row seats, a navigation system, a heated steering wheel, and a suite of “Co-Pilot360 Assist” features including adaptive cruise control and additional forward sensing. The Explorer ST can be fitted with 21-inch wheels covering massive high-performance brake pads—which you’ll need in this heavy vehicle if tapping into all 400 hp.

How much does the 2022 Ford Explorer cost?

The Explorer starts at $34,345 (including the $1,245 destination fee) for the base Explorer, in rear-wheel-drive version. All-wheel drive adds about $2,000, depending on trim level (it’s standard on ST trims) and the most expensive Explorer Platinum and King Ranch versions start at nearly $55,000 and can reach near $60,000. 

Where is the Ford Explorer made?

The  Explorer is assembled in Chicago.

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2022 Ford Explorer

Styling

The 2022 Ford Explorer has the right proportions, along with sophisticated details inside and out.

Is the Ford Explorer a good-looking car?

The Explorer came in for a complete redesign two years ago, but unless you’re a fan or repeat buyer you might not see this model as particularly eye-turning and new. But it’s a 7 here, because while not head-turning it’s a step more handsome than the norm for family vehicles, inside and out.

The 2022 Explorer has great proportions, and it looks more like a tall-riding boxy wagon than the larger Expedition. It also doesn’t go all-in on any garish details, so it’s a design that’s going to age gracefully. Ford has established some continuity in the design, with thick roof pillars, although the look is less bulbous than in previous forms. 

Cabin ambience tends to the warm and carlike, with a rather low dash compared to alternatives, even though there’s a clear family likeness in the dash design with Ford’s other trucks. Altogether, with upright seating, it results in great outward vision.

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2022 Ford Explorer

Performance

The Hybrid is set up for towing and hauling, but not smoothness; base-engine models offer the experience most expect from an Explorer.

The Explorer lineup offers three different engines and a lineup that gives you plenty of choice between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. We rate it a 7 for the smooth ride and handling and the strong, responsive 2.3-liter turbo-4 that’s the most popular combination. With a couple bonus points thrown in for that, it’s a 7 for performance.

Is the Ford Explorer AWD?

Performance-oriented ST models include it as standard; otherwise it’s offered as a $2,000 upcharge on nearly all models. 

How fast is the Ford Explorer?

The combination powering much of the Explorer lineup is a 2.3-liter turbo-4, borrowed from the Mustang (the gasoline version, that is) plus various other Ford and Lincoln models. Here it makes 300 hp and 310 lb-ft and works well enough and quickly enough with the 10-speed automatic transmission, in combination with rear- or all-wheel drive. It’s the smoothest and most certain performer in the lineup.

Explorer ST, Platinum, and King Ranch versions—or Limited versions when so optioned—have a 3.0-liter turbo V-6 that makes 400 hp and 415 lb-ft and technically brings a lot more performance. All-wheel drive is standard on the ST model, and it can hit 143 mph, according to Ford, and accelerate to 60 mph in well under six seconds; but from our observations the ST can feel unexpectedly sluggish—partly due to some clumsy delays from the transmission.

The Explorer Hybrid offered with Limited and Platinum trims pairs a 3.3-liter V-6 with an electric motor and a modest battery pack to make 318 hp and 322 lb-ft combined, and travel a modest distance, up to about 50 mph, with the gas engine off momentarily. The hybrid powertrain may be the most efficient, at an EPA-combined 27 mpg in rear-wheel-drive form, but it’s unexpectedly unrefined, with juddery behavior at city speeds and a tendency to be smoothest when driven hard—perhaps underscoring that Ford tuned it more for towing. 

What nearly all Explorers do well is ride and handling; it’s much improved over previous Explorers, which rode on a shorter wheelbase, and compared to other three-row SUVs the Explorer has a buttoned-down ride and, in ST versions, offers handling surprisingly close to a nimble, albeit heavy sport wagon. Just bypass the big 21-inch wheels if you value ride quality. 

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2022 Ford Explorer

Comfort & Quality

The Explorer has great seat comfort, provided you’re not in the third row.

The Explorer grew longer and wider in its last redesign, but it’s still not as big as rivals from Honda, Kia, or Subaru, let alone the new Jeep Grand Cherokee L. Compared to any of these contenders, it ends up lacking in third-row comfort. 

Despite that, the Explorer is an 8 for comfort for everything ahead of the third row, because of its comfortable seating for five, great cargo versatility, and especially luxurious front row accommodations. A somewhat bulky second-row arrangement is the only other quibble—so think about how often you might need to move them. 

Refinement is the Explorer’s strength compared to most other models you might match it up against, it has a quieter cabin and more plush ride than most models you might compare it to. There’s good fit and finish to all the materials and trims, too. 

The front seats and dash feel relatively low in the Explorer, compared to other SUVs, yet outward vision is good. Whether you go with cloth or leather seats, they provide good support for all-day driving. The popular XLT models now include heated seats, 10-way power adjustable for the driver but 4-way for the passenger. 

Behind the front seats, our thoughts on Explorer seating get a little more critical. A three-person bench is standard, but captain’s chairs are available—and preferred, as they just allow more flexibility to the third row. That said, they’re clumsy to fold down. Any adults making their way to the third row will find a knees-up position due to a scant 32.2 inches of leg room and low seating position. If it’s too small to think about using for a child seat and too small for adults, then that’s a very narrow use case. 

If you fold down the third row, the Explorer’s 18.2 cubic feet expands to 47.9 cubic feet—or a long 87.9 cubic feet that looks good for transporting a bike, furniture, or other weekend pastimes.

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2022 Ford Explorer

Safety

Good crash-test scores complement good standard active safety tech.

How safe is the Ford Explorer?

The Explorer has a great set of safety credentials, including strong crash-test ratings and automatic emergency braking standard across the lineup. That makes it an 8 for safety here.

With top “Good” ratings on all six crashworthiness categories and "Acceptable" headlights, the Explorer manages to make the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ honor roll, ranking it among the safest models on the market.

Automatic emergency braking is rated “Superior” by the IIHS in avoiding Every Explorer is equipped with automatic emergency braking that the IIHS rated as “Superior” in front crash prevention in nearly all categories of testing. The “CoPilot360 Assist+” package, adds active lane control and adaptive cruise control, plus “evasive steering assist” that might help avoid crashes. 

The federal government formerly gave the Explorer a five-star overall score, but that and its five-star frontal performance haven’t been carried over for 2022. It does achieve five stars in the side crash category.

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2022 Ford Explorer

Features

The Ford Explorer covers all that you’d expect in a well-rounded family vehicle—with more sporty stuff for 2022.

The 2022 Ford Explorer covers a very wide range of prices and models, from base models up to King Ranch and Platinum models, with sporty ST and ST-Line models expressing a fun-to-drive side. About the only thing missing from the Explorer lineup is a focused off-road model—although for that Ford has the Bronco.

Base-model standard features deliver all that’s expected in a good family vehicle—including an 8.0-inch touchscreen system for all versions. That brings an extra point, as does the sheer potential to dress this model with options however you please. That makes it a 7. 

Which Ford Explorer should I buy?

The Explorer spans a dizzying array of possibilities, starting with the $34,345 base model and ranging up through the XLT, ST-Line, Limited, Timberline, and ST models—all in the $40,000-$50,000 range—and reaching up to top King Ranch and Platinum models, both starting around $55,000. The best value for most people will be the XLT. Add the Sport Appearance Package and top safety package and you get a sharp-looking, safe, and comfortable SUV for the family for less than $45,000. 

With three rows of seating, an 8.0-inch touchscreen system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, wi-fi hotspot capability, and two USB ports, the base Explorer is true to its name in providing a frugal approach. All-wheel drive is optional at $2,000 on much of the lineup.

The XLT adds flattering 18-inch wheels, upgraded seats, and trim that frames the vehicle better; it also adds two rear USB ports, heated front seats, and second-row captain’s chairs. Next up is the Limited, adding ambient lighting, upgraded interior finishes, leather upholstery, heated first- and second-row seats, cooled front seats, and a heated steering wheel. It also makes the active-safety package standard, with adaptive cruise control, a lane-centering system, and more. A power tailgate and power-folding third-row seats, a memory driver’s seat, and 20-inch wheels are available in one of several option packages—including one for the Hybrid that brings active noise cancellation. 

ST performance models bring a sport-tuned suspension, 20-inch machined aluminum wheels, and blacked-out trim, along with the 400-hp twin-turbo V-6. Starting this year an ST-Line model brings the same look, but with the turbo-4, at a price that’s $2,575 less.Timberline models bring a tow package, a surround-view camera system, and off-road front struts and rear shocks, along with a more rugged lower-body look. 

How much is a fully loaded Ford Explorer?

King Ranch and Platinum versions straddle the summit of Explorer ownership, adding a vertically oriented 10.1-inch touchscreen that we find easier to use, plus multicontour seats, 21-inch wheels, and a 980-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system. It’s the Platinum that takes it just a bit higher—to about $58,000 when optioned with the twin-panel moonroof.

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2022 Ford Explorer

Fuel Economy

There’s an efficient hybrid, but most of the lineup is no standout for gas mileage.

Is the Ford Explorer good on gas?

Compared to other three-row SUVs or crossovers, we’d call the 2022 Explorer on par. Although there’s a hybrid in the lineup, we rate the Explorer a 4 here because those non-hybrid versions are presented as the more popular picks in the lineup.

Although we don’t see the need for all-wheel drive here, versions with the turbo-4 and AWD are likely to continue being the most popular; as such, the Explorer earns 20 mpg city, 27 highway, 23 combined. Rear-wheel-drive versions do 1 mpg better all around. 

Hybrid Explorers are the most fuel-efficient in the lineup and rate at 27/28/27 mpg with rear-wheel drive or 23/26/25 mpg with all-wheel drive. But don’t have high expectations with the turbo V-6 in the ST, Platinum, or King Ranch; there it’s rated at just 18/24/20 mpg.

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$33,245
MSRP based on Base RWD
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6.8
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 8
Features 7
Fuel Economy 4
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2022 Ford Explorer Pricing Insights

  • 2021 Explorer in stock; 2022s can be ordered
  • Lease: From $339/mo
  • Rebates: Up to $1,000 off
  • Finance: From 0% APR
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