$7,311 - $9,810

2010 Ford Explorer Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2010 Ford Explorer was new.


Performance: 7.9

The Ford Explorer has a relatively comfortable ride for a truck-based SUV, but it’s still not nearly as comfortable as crossover competitors. That drawback combined with poor fuel economy made it difficult for reviewers to recommend as a daily driver. The Explorer is better for hauling, towing and short trips than long commutes.

  • "Explorer is among the best-riding traditional SUVs. Explorer is compliant and devoid of sloppy motions." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Relative to other truck-based SUVs like the Dodge Durango, the 2010 Ford Explorer is pleasing to drive. Much of the credit goes to the independent rear suspension, which both smoothes the ride and helps keep the wheels planted when traversing rough pavement. For a vehicle this size, the steering feels surprisingly responsive." -- Edmunds
  • "Although the 2010 Ford Explorer succeeds in being both smoother and more responsive than any previous model, it still drives like a big, truck-based SUV when compared to a select few of its competitors, many of which deliver almost sedan-like ride and handling." -- Kelley Blue Book

Acceleration and Power

The Explorer's base 4.0-liter V6 engine makes 210 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. The available 4.6-liter V8, available only on Eddie Bauer and Limited models, makes 292 horsepower and 315 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Most test drivers said the V6 is adequate, but you should opt for the V8 if you really plan on towing and hauling. Towing is one of the Explorer’s greatest strengths. With the standard class II trailer tow, the V6 and V8 engines are rated at 3,500 pounds. With the available class III/IV trailer tow, the V6 is rated at 5,000 to 5,375 pounds. The V8 is rated at 7,115 pounds.

While pulling power is a strength for the Explorer, fuel economy is a big weakness. According to the EPA, the base V6 engine is rated at 14/20 mpg city/highway with two-wheel drive and 13/19 with four-wheel drive. The V8 engine is rated at 15/21 and 14/19. These figures are among the lowest in the Explorer’s class.

  • "Moreover, the Explorer is more responsive around town and, when equipped with the V8 and six-speed automatic transmission, is the most powerful model yet, although we found the V6 had more than enough output to meet our daily-driver demands." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Power from both the V6 and V8 engines can best be described as adequate, though most buyers will likely prefer the V8 for its greater refinement and added low-end torque." -- Edmunds
  • "No V6 Explorers or (Mercury) Mountaineers have been made available for us to test. V8 versions provide ample power. A 2WD Explorer Limited did 7.4 seconds 0-60 mph in our test. The transmission changes gears smoothly and delivers quick part-throttle downshifts for fine around-town response. Some testers say full-throttle downshifts take too long, however." -- Consumer Guide

Handling and Braking

The Ford Explorer is a truck-based SUV, which means it doesn’t handle as smoothly as crossovers do. Test drivers complained about the heavy steering feel.

  • "Typical of a traditional SUV: some body lean in turns and delayed reaction in quick directional changes. Steering feel is responsive and accurate, but some testers want more road feel. The brakes deliver good stopping control with no undue nosedive." -- Consumer Guide
  • "While both ride and handling are improved all around, the balance remains very much in favor of comfort, with handling characteristics that fall short of more car-like competitors, such as the Nissan Pathfinder." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The power steering allows quick moves, but is heavy -- especially at lower speeds." -- MSN
  • "The brakes work well, with much less pedal pressure and travel than before." -- New Car Test Drive


Beyond the asphalt, the Ford Explorer performs well. The Explorer comes standard with rear-wheel drive. A Control Trac four-wheel drive system was optional (though not available on the XLT Sport) when it was new and can be used in snow or for off-road adventures.

  • "The revised steering finally evinces a dedicated sense of straight-ahead, even in crosswinds. Off-road, the massaged IRS (independent rear suspension) is so adept at soaking up basketball-size boulders and potholes that it's like riding in a Range Rover." -- Car and Driver
  • "Off-road, the availability of a true four-wheel-drive system with a low-range transfer case allows the Explorer to go places where its all-wheel-drive crossover competitors would rightly fear to tread (although competitors like the Jeep Grand Cherokee are preferred for dedicated off-roaders)." -- Edmunds

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