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2013 Ford Explorer Overview
One of the first SUVs to be considered a crossover, the Ford Explorer earns its living in 2013 with high-end technology, fuel efficiency and a boatload of practical value. Once again available in the Explorer Base trim, mid-level XLT trim and the top-shelf Limited version, this large, 7-passenger crossover again sports three rows of seating, a potent yet economical standard V6 engine, 80.7 cubic feet of cargo area with the rear seats folded and available full-time four-wheel drive (4WD). Since being introduced during a 2011 refit, the Explorer’s sedan-like unibody chassis offers the advantages of more interior space, less weight, better mileage and a sportier drive. Additionally, a front-passenger knee airbag now comes standard across the 2013 lineup, while the Limited offers available power-adjustable telescoping tilt-wheel steering, a heated steering wheel and auto hi-lo beams with the optional xenon headlights.
The equally spacious Chevrolet Traverse is but one rival to Ford’s accomplished Explorer, with the more muscular Dodge Durango and the sporty Mazda CX-9 also solidly entrenched in the market. Ford’s premier crossover, however, set the standard back when grunge bands began challenging punk and now offers what many reviewers and owners describe as the perfect utilitarian vehicle for those with champagne tastes and a beer pocketbook.
A significant factor in the 2013 Explorer’s appeal lies in its standard 3.5-liter V6 powerplant. When combined with the 6-speed shiftable automatic transmission, the six-banger throws out 290 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque, with the brake hill-holder feature tossed in for good measure. When the available Class III towing package, with its higher rear axle ratio, is selected, look for this hefty hauler to tow up to 5,000 pounds, while mileage is estimated at 18 mpg city/25 highway in standard front-wheel-drive (FWD) variants and 17/23 with 4WD.
But wait, there’s more. An economical turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder (I4) is also available across the Express lineup. Managed by the standard 6-speed automatic transmission, this thrifty turbo puts out 240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque to the EPA-estimated tune of 20/28. Keep in mind, however, that in the interests of fuel savings, neither the optional towing package nor the available 4WD system is offered with the four-banger.
Now for the good part: The handsome Base 2013 Explorer offers a standard rear spoiler, 17-inch steel wheels, a roof rack and power-adjustable mirrors on the outside, while three rows of seating, cloth upholstery, a power-adjustable driver’s seat and reclining rear seats grace the cabin. Convenience doodads include remote power door locks and power windows, with cruise control, front and rear air conditioning and telescoping tilt-wheel steering adding a goodly share of comfort. Finally, entertainment in this entry-level trim is provided by a single-CD player and 6 speakers.
The midlevel XLT, meantime, adds in standard 18-inch painted alloy wheels, premium cloth upholstery, power front seats and heated outside mirrors. Rear parking sensors, upgraded cabin trim accents, Bluetooth hands-free communications, satellite radio and a USB connection are also delivered standard with this amped-up trim.
The top-of-the-line Limited gets all of the above, while substituting leather upholstery for cloth and adding 20-inch alloy wheels, heated front bucket seats, power-adjustable pedals, high-end cabin trim and a universal remote garage door opener. Further standard amenities include a rear-view camera, tri-zone climate control and memory for driver's settings. For entertainment, this classy crossover offers a 390-watt Sony premium audio system and a total of 12 speakers pumping out tunes in 5.1 Surround Sound.
Options, of course, abound and include the popular Ford SYNC system with its voice-activated communications and audio control. The SYNC-integrated MyFord Touch dash-mounted LCD screens and an interactive 8-inch touchscreen display are available to the two higher trims, while the Base Explorer and XLT trims are eligible for several items that are standard on the Limited, most notably upsized alloy wheels. Both the XLT and the Limited can be delivered with optional voice-activated navigation, a power liftgate, power-folding third-row seats, a moonroof and rear-seat DVD entertainment. Meantime, as befits its upper-crust status, the Limited trim can additionally be equipped with available heated and cooled front seats, adaptive cruise control and heated power-adjustable telescoping and tilting steering wheel. For those nervous about curbside parking, the princely Limited also offers available Active Parking Assist.
Standard safety features throughout the 2013 Explorer lineup include, of course, 4-wheel antilock brakes (ABS), as well as traction and stability control. Cabin safety for all trims is enhanced with front side-mounted air bags, three-row head airbags, and the new passenger-side knee airbag, not to mention a post-collision safety system. Extra standard safety equipment on the XLT and Limited trims includes turn-signal-integrated mirrors and front fog/driving lights. BLIS (Ford’s Blind Spot Information System) is optional in the XLT and Limited, while high-intensity-discharge (HID) headlights with the auto hi-lo beam feature are available only to the Limited.
Owners of the 2012 Explorer find the SYNC system difficult to operate and, especially when combined with the MyFord Touch add-on, full of glitches and gremlins. Several owners complain that the interior seems a bit low-rent for the price, with several others disappointed that the middle second-row seat won’t slide fore and aft for a little more legroom. Finally, a disturbing wind rush from the windshield and a decided lack of horsepower in the turbocharged I4 engine keep a number of owners from being completely satisfied with their Explorer trims. Most owners, however, laud the V6's performance, outsize passenger room, handling prowess, ride comfort and styling in this venerable crossover. Its abundance of techno-features, glitches and all, traditionally garner their fair share of owner kudos as well.
by Eric Tallberg
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