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MSRP: $32,365 - 54,165

2019 Ford Explorer Review

The 2019 Ford Explorer ranks in the bottom third of the midsize SUV class because it fails to stand out in a very competitive set. It has powerful engine choices and lots of space, but the lower trims have mediocre cabin quality and fewer features than the competition.

Pros & Cons

  • Ample passenger and cargo space
  • Trio of powerful engines
  • Few standard features
  • Cheap-feeling interior in lower trims

Is the Ford Explorer a Good SUV?

The 2019 Explorer is a so-so SUV. It has a lineup of muscular powertrains and balanced handling. It can seat seven people in relative comfort, and its cargo capacities are among the best in the segment. This is a competitive class, however, and many other midsize SUVs are better overall. Another downside is that lower trims have few features and an unimpressive cabin quality.

Should I Buy the Ford Explorer?

The Explorer has one of the highest starting prices in the class. On top of that, you’ll want to buy one of the higher trims because the base models have limited standard features and lackluster interior quality. It’s also worth considering well-rounded rivals like the Honda Pilot and the Chevrolet Traverse. The Pilot has three rows of roomy seating and lots of advanced safety features, while the Traverse is a good value with its lower starting price, standard infotainment tech, and tons of cargo space.

Compare the Explorer, Pilot, and Traverse »

Should I Buy a New or Used Ford Explorer?

Ford made few notable changes to the 2019 Explorer, which was also the case for the 2018 Explorer. It’s wise to shop for a very similar used model, which will likely save you thousands of dollars. The 2017 Explorer is a good choice because it was the first Explorer model available with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and the highly-praised SYNC 3 infotainment system, which replaced the maligned MyFord Touch interface.

Compare the 2017, 2018, and 2019 Explorer »

We Did the Research for You: 64 Reviews Analyzed

We analyzed 64 Ford Explorer reviews – along with performance specs, fuel economy estimates, and more – to help you decide if the 2019 Explorer is the right new car for you. This 2019 Ford Explorer review incorporates applicable research for all model years in this generation, which spans the 2011 through 2019 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News & World Report has been ranking cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007, and our team has more than 75 years of combined automotive industry experience. To remain objective, we don't accept expensive gifts or trips from car companies, and an outside team manages the advertising on our site.

How Much Does the Ford Explorer Cost?

The 2019 Ford Explorer starts at $32,365, which is one of the highest price tags in the midsize SUV class. Lower trims come standard with front-wheel drive, and four-wheel drive is optional for $2,150. 4WD is standard in higher trims. The range-topping Platinum trim starts at over $54,000.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great deals at your local Ford dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Ford deals page.

Ford Explorer Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Ford Explorer or Honda Pilot?

The 2019 Honda Pilot was refreshed for this model year, and it now comes standard with driver assistance features like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and automatic emergency braking. You will spend a lot more than the Explorer’s base MSRP to get those features in the Ford SUV. Both SUVs have solid handling and good engine power. However, the Pilot only has one available V6 engine while the Explorer offers three powertrains. Cargo space is pretty similar between the two, but the Pilot can comfortably seat up to eight adults compared to the Explorer’s seating for up to seven. All in all, the Honda is the better buy here.

Which Is Better: Ford Explorer or Chevrolet Traverse?

The 2019 Chevrolet Traverse is one year removed from a full redesign, and it boasts a lot of modern technology. Even for its sub-$30,000 price tag, the Traverse comes standard with a 7-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, six USB ports, and a Wi-Fi hot spot. Both of these domestic midsize SUVs have lots of room for people, but the Traverse’s cargo space is among the largest in the class. Fold down both back rows, and you’ll get almost 100 cubic feet of space. Handling and ride comfort are pretty similar between these two SUVs, but the Traverse’s engines aren’t as powerful as the Explorer’s. If you want more cargo space, the Chevy is the one to pick. If you want more horsepower, go with the Ford.

Compare the Explorer, Pilot, and Traverse »

Explorer Interior

How Many People Does the Explorer Seat?

The Ford Explorer has standard seating for seven, but you're probably better off going with second-row captain's chairs unless you need that many seats. This option reduces seating to a maximum of six, but it provides more comfort than the standard bench seat. The captain’s chairs also slide forward and back, making it easier to access the third row and allowing more legroom for occupants back there. The two third-row seats have enough room for adult travelers, though the seats themselves are somewhat hard. The front of the cabin feels open and airy, and the seats are very comfortable. Outward visibility for the driver can be limited, though.

Explorer and Car Seats

The Explorer’s second-row outboard seats and the third-row passenger-side seat have a complete set of LATCH anchors. Models with the second-row bench seat have a tether anchor for the middle seat, and that position can borrow lower anchors from either side. Note that doing this renders that side seat's connections useless.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Explorer's LATCH system the second-highest rating of Acceptable for ease of use. The IIHS notes that the tether anchors can be hard to find, and that the lower anchors are set deep in the seats. The tether anchor for the third-row seat could be confused for other hardware.

Explorer Interior Quality

The Explorer's interior quality mostly depends on the trim. Despite having one of the highest base prices in the class, lower trims are rife with hard plastic surfaces and have an aging, drab design that can be attributed to the fact that Ford hasn't fully redesigned the Explorer since 2011. Materials improve as you move up the model line, and spend more money. You'll notice more soft-touch surfaces and trim accents like real wood, along with premium leather upholstery. All Explorers deliver a quiet ride, with the cabin shielding you from most outside road and wind noise.

Explorer Cargo Space

The Ford Explorer has 21 cubic feet of cargo space behind its third-row seats, which is one of the largest capacities in the class. However, it's a little more average in other regards. You'll get 43.9 cubic feet with the third row folded down, and there's a maximum of 81.7 cubic feet with both rows folded down. Optional features like a power-folding third row and a hands-free power liftgate make it easy to utilize the Explorer's wide and deep cargo area.

Explorer Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The 2019 Explorer is short on standard features. It comes with basic amenities like Bluetooth and a USB port, along with a small 4.2-inch display screen that you can control with your voice or standard buttons. The optional features are more impressive. Ford's SYNC 3 touch-screen infotainment system is one of the best on the market, consistently earning great reviews for its ease of use. This interface also includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which allow you to connect your smartphone to the car. Models with SYNC 3 still have plenty of big buttons and knobs on the dash to easily adjust the volume and climate controls.

Read more about interior »

Explorer Performance

Explorer Engine: 3 Capable Choices

The 2019 Explorer offers three powerful engine options. A 290-horsepower V6 is standard, and the midrange engine is a 280-horsepower turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder. These engines are perfectly suited for daily driving, with enough muscle to move you effortlessly from a stop or accelerate up to highway speeds. The crown jewel of the lineup is a twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 that puts out 365 horsepower. Throttle response is almost instant, and it's the best choice if you plan to do any midrange towing. All engines are mated to a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission.

Explorer Gas Mileage: Not That Great

As of this writing, the EPA has not released official fuel economy estimates for the 2019 Explorer. You can likely expect numbers comparable to the 2018 Explorer. The standard V6 engine gets 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, which is below average for a midsize SUV with an engine of that size. The best figures come from the four-cylinder EcoBoost, at 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway, but even those aren't great for the class. The largest EcoBoost V6 engine returns 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway.

Explorer Ride and Handling: Good For Its Size

The Explorer is kind of a bulky SUV, but it doesn’t drive like one. It’s easy enough to maneuver around parking lots and is also a competent highway cruiser. The steering is nicely weighted, and there’s a decent amount of feedback from the road. The ride is generally very comfortable, with bumps in the road easily dispatched. One exception is the Sport trim, which has a uniquely tuned suspension and larger wheels that give it a harsher ride over broken roads or potholes.

Front-wheel drive comes standard in the Explorer and four-wheel drive is optional. There are a couple of available amenities to help you tackle light off-road duties, including hill descent control and a terrain management system.

Read more about performance »

Explorer Reliability

Is the Ford Explorer Reliable?

The 2019 Ford Explorer has a predicted reliability rating of three out of five from J.D. Power, which is considered average among all new cars.

Ford Explorer Warranty

Ford covers the Explorer with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Explorer Safety

Explorer Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2019 Explorer an overall crash-test rating of five out of five stars. It earned five stars in the frontal and side crash tests, and four stars in the rollover test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Explorer mediocre ratings. Though it earned the highest score of Good in four crash tests, the Explorer received the second-lowest rating of Marginal in the driver-side small overlap front test and the lowest rating of Poor for the passenger side. The Explorer also received the lowest possible marks for headlight performance and front crash prevention effectiveness.

Explorer Safety Features

The 2019 Explorer comes standard with a rearview camera and Ford's MyKey feature, which lets you set limits like speed and stereo volume for other people that may drive the car.

There are plenty of optional driver assistance features, but you need to upgrade to a higher trim and purchase additional packages to get most of them. Options include front and rear parking sensors, a front-view parking camera, rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and automatic parking assist.

Read more about safety »

Which Ford Explorer Model Is Right for Me?

The 2019 Ford Explorer is available in five trim levels: base, XLT, Limited, Sport, and Platinum. Powertrain availability includes a regular V6 engine, a turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder, and a twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6, along with either front-wheel or four-wheel drive.

Ford Explorer

The base Explorer starts at $32,365 and comes standard with a 3.5-liter V6 engine and front-wheel drive. A four-cylinder EcoBoost engine is optional for around $900, and four-wheel drive is optional for $2,150. Standard features include cloth upholstery, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, a rearview camera, the MyKey system, the SYNC infotainment interface, a 4.2-inch color display, Bluetooth, a USB port, and a six-speaker stereo. Individual options include satellite radio and rear parking sensors.

Ford Explorer XLT

The Explorer XLT starts at $34,400 and has the same standard and optional powertrains as the base model. Additional standard features include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, proximity key entry, push-button start, satellite radio, and rear parking sensors. A number of optional packages are also available. The Driver Connect package includes a 10-way power-adjustable passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote start, a power liftgate, a seven-speaker stereo, two USB ports, and the SYNC 3 touch-screen system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The Cold Weather package adds with heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and front parking sensors. The Safe and Smart package includes rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning.

Ford Explorer Limited

The $42,765 Explorer Limited comes standard with the four-cylinder EcoBoost engine, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a 10-way power-adjustable passenger seat, a heated steering wheel, a power-folding third row, a hands-free power liftgate, a 110-volt power outlet, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 12-speaker Sony audio system, the SYNC 3 infotainment system, navigation, a Wi-Fi hot spot, forward parking sensors, and a front-view parking camera.

Individual options include a twin-panel moonroof and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. The Smart and Safe package has all the features available with the XLT model, plus inflatable rear seatbelts, automatic parking assist, and multicontour front seats with a massaging feature. 

Ford Explorer Sport

The Ford Explorer Sport starts at $46,625, and it has a standard V6 EcoBoost engine and four-wheel drive. This model also comes with a sport suspension, a tow package, and off-road upgrades like hill descent control and a terrain management system. The available Safe and Smart package comes with a 110-volt house-hold style power outlet, two second-row USB ports, a front-view parking camera, a Sony stereo, ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, inflatable rear seatbelts, rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning.

Ford Explorer Platinum

Rounding out the trim lineup is the $54,165 Ford Explorer Platinum. It comes with pretty much every feature you can get in an Explorer, including premium Nirvana leather, a twin-panel moonroof, an upgraded Sony premium sound system, and all the driver assistance and advanced safety features.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Ford dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Ford deals page.

See 2019 Ford Explorer specs and trims »

The Final Call

While some rivals offer nicer interiors or come with modern standard features, the 2019 Ford Explorer has little to boast about. Its engaging performance, ample cargo space, and good passenger room are matched or exceeded by many vehicles in the class.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "The Explorer hasn't changed much since this generation's introduction in 2011, though it had a face-lift in 2016. But it still offers solid refinement, and its three engine offerings give it a lot of versatility. It's had to face increasingly stout competition as the years pile up. In the wash, the Explorer's tight third-row legroom and at-times ponderous routine handling stand out as drawbacks. On the plus side, the Explorer's list of tech-oriented features is long, yet it's user-friendly. In Sport trim, the Explorer shines brightest. It handles significantly more sharply than lesser trim levels, which can feel detached and ponderous around town. We're also fans of the exceptionally powerful and refined twin-turbo V6, though it's reserved only for upper trim levels." -- Edmunds
  • "The … Ford Explorer follows on from a strong … model that was a top seller in its class. The Explorer large SUV crossover comes with a smooth ride, sleek design and a high-quality interior hosting cutting-edge technology. Driving more like a car than a truck (and a luxury car at that), this 7-seater crossover is not as roomy as a minivan -- or even some slightly larger competitors from GM -- but it's undoubtedly among the best of its kind." -- Autotrader (2018)
  • "A favorite of American families and the country's best-selling SUV for nearly three decades, the 7-passenger … Ford Explorer offers a large interior, upscale design and all-wheel drive (AWD). … Understated and elegant, some say the new Explorer looks like a Land Rover." -- Kelley Blue Book (2018)

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: January 17, 2019

Class-Leading Sales: The Ford Explorer was the best-selling midsize SUV in 2018. While Ford experienced an overall sales dip of about 9 percent last month, sales of the Explorer remained steady as one of the brand’s best-selling models. The Explorer outsold its nearest competitor, the Toyota Highlander, by about 7 percent in 2018.

Research more buying advice »
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