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2017 Ford Explorer Overview
Ford’s fifth-generation Explorer crossover has come a long way since it launched in 2011. A new engine has been added, and interior and exterior have been refreshed. Now, the Explorer’s evolution continues into the 2017 model year, with an important new trim level that expands on the appeal of the great-looking Ford Explorer Sport.
The Ford Explorer continues to be one of the largest crossovers available. It is 79 inches wide and 198 inches long, affording plenty of room for passengers in all three rows. Unlike some competitors, Ford does not try to turn the Explorer into an 8-passenger vehicle by squeezing a middle seat into the third row. The Explorer is also very capable, thanks to the top-spec 3.5-liter Ecoboost turbo V6 engine and standard Class III trailer hitch (a combination which provides a max towing capacity of 5,000 pounds). The Explorer's efficiency, large size, and tough demeanor have given its popularity and sales another boost.
Ford’s 2017 Explorer will come in five trim levels, the Base, XLT, Sport, Limited, and Platinum. Prices will start at just over $31K for a bare-bones base, running well over $50k for a fully loaded Platinum. Also available are three drivetrains, starting with a 3.5-liter V6 producing 290 hp and a relatively low 255 lb-ft of torque. Next up is a 2.3-liter Ecoboost 4-cylinder turbo with 280 hp and a stout 310 lb-ft of torque. And at the top is a 3.5-liter Ecoboost turbocharged V6 with 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. All engines are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive (FWD) is standard on the Base, XLT, and Limited, and Ford’s Intelligent 4-wheel-drive (4WD) system is optional. Sport and Platinum trims include 4WD and the 3.5-liter Ecoboost as standard equipment.
The Base trim lacks most luxury features; you'll have to opt for the XLT trim to start receiving amenities like push-button start, a dual-panel moonroof, and optional navigation. Notable features on higher trims include a hands-free tailgate that lifts when you swipe a foot under it, power-folding third-row seats, hill-descent control and terrain management (with 4WD), and adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warning (full auto-braking is not available). Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system is available on most Explorer trims.
Limited, Sport, and Platinum trims are very plush and upscale. Ford says that 30% of its current buyers opt for the pricey Sport or Platinum. According to Ford’s Explorer Brand Manager, Omar Odeh, exterior appearance is the number one consideration among shoppers, one reason why Ford has added a new 2017 XLT Sport trim package, with blacked-out and grayed-out trim and components. Large 20-inch Magnetic Gray wheels and a Magnetic Gray grille, mirror caps, and rear trim are offset with a black Ford hood badge, black roof rails, and black body-side cladding. Inside, the Explorer XLT Sport features Dark Earth Gray leather seats with suede inserts (made by Salerno) and matching panels on the doors. Umber contrast stitching adds a little character. The only engine available on the XLT Sport is the base 3.5-liter non-turbo V6.
Large 4WD SUVs tend to have an inherent safety advantage during collisions. Such vehicles, however, are rated for safety in comparison to their peers in order to provide shoppers with more accurate information. The Ford Explorer was rated in 2016 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and could not earn the top safety designation for two reasons. First, it scored only Marginal on the important small frontal-overlap test, and a score of Good is required on all tests in order to make the top tier. The Explorer’s forward-collision warning system also does not meet to the requirements for earning the Top Safety Pick Plus rating. We have seen nothing from Ford to indicate that either of these two important ratings will change for 2017.
John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. In the early 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric race car from scratch. In addition to his work at CarGurus, John covers automotive news at Torque News and GM-trucks.com and is a contributor to CarTalk and BestRide. Aside from all things automotive, John loves fishing and hockey, preferably in the company of his two boys.
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