2015 Ford Explorer Walk Around

Ford Explorer is rugged but refined, familiar but fresh. It’s a foot longer than the Ford Edge crossover, a few inches shorter than the Dodge Durango SUV and about eight inches shorter than the Chevy Traverse. Yet it’s several inches wider than all of them.


Beautiful headlights complement the graceful fenders and transform the inherently square nose. The amber indicators sweep back like narrow wings atop tidy main projector beams. The plastic grille is gray on the base Explorer, body-colored on the XLT and satin-chrome on the Limited. The hood looks short from the side, but long when looking straight down it. It’s got two parallel humps and a scoop in the center. Rear taillights are LED, and also look good.


The window outline is clean, bold and symmetrical, with blackened A-, B-, and D-pillars, and body-colored C-pillars that slant down and back and impart forward motion to the vehicle. With standard dark privacy glass, from the shoulders up, in white at least, the Explorer looks like a sleek yacht.


Wheels are 17-inch steel with plastic covers on the base Explorer, 10-spoke 18-inch painted aluminum on the XLT, and 20-inch painted aluminum with spokes like flower petals on the Limited. The optional 20-inch polished aluminum wheels have spokes like shriveling flower petals or crab pincers, and don’t do justice to the car.


Fit and finish inside the Explorer are excellent, and we particularly like the Limited’s leather seats.


The front seats sit up high, which is good because the hood looks long from the driver’s seat. The slanted center stack has a clean design and uses stylish satin-finish trim materials. The doors have metal speaker grilles, and curve into the dash panel. There’s a big glovebox with a shelf, leather grab handles and armrests on Explorers with leather interior, and long door pockets with space for a bottle.


One reason we like the base model is its conventional gauges, relatively simple 4.2-inch LCD screen at the top of the center stack, and familiar mechanical knobs below. The base Explorer doesn’t come with the MyFordTouch driver connect technology, and neither does the XLT, unless it’s chosen as an option.


Cars equipped with MyFordTouch have two driver-configurable LCD screens in front of the driver on either side a big speedometer, and an 8-inch color touch screen at the top of the center stack. The screens come in four quadrants and colors: yellow for phone, red for audio, blue for climate and red for navigation. You have to scroll through a lot of stuff to get information, for example engine temperature, and even after you figure it all out, it can take your focus off the road to perpetually configure.


It can all be a bit overwhelming, as many of the features and functions can be adjusted in four separate ways: by voice command, by thumb buttons on the steering-wheel spokes, by touching the display screen itself or by using the buttons in the switch stack below, should you choose to do it the old-fashioned way.


We found the voice recognition system to be problematic.


In terms of spaciousness, the Ford Explorer cabin doesn’t disappoint. Second-row legroom measures an impressive 40 inches; third-row legroom comes in at 33.2 inches. Because the rear doors swing wide and open easily, and because the second-row seat flips forward in a heartbeat, reaching the rear row is an easy climb, even for adults.


Cargo volume measures 21 cubic feet behind the third row (comparable to trunk space in a big sedan, and among the best in Explorer’s class), 43.8 cubic feet behind the second row (comparable to a compact SUV or crossover with the rear seats folded), and 80.7 behind the front seats. The cargo space is substantially less than what’s available in GM’s longer trio of crossovers (Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave), but competitive with the rest of Explorer’s competition. There’s a little bit more maximum cargo volume in a Dodge Durango or a Honda Pilot.


Still, it’s very easy to change configurations in the Explorer. The second seat folds like magic at the touch of a button on each side, bouncing back up with the pull of a lever.


Cubby storage adds convenience. A lidded bin in front of the shift lever is designed to hold two cellphones, and cup holders are provided to the right of the shifter.

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