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2017 Ford Explorer Interior Review

Note: This interior review was created when the 2017 Ford Explorer was new.


Interior: 7.5

The 2017 Ford Explorer has an impressive cabin in the top Platinum trim, which features plenty of high-end materials. However, the lower trims don't really stand out. The interior styling is generally dull, and the materials quality falls short of some class rivals.

Seating in the Explorer is not impressive either. Drivers may be disappointed by the limited visibility, and the second-row seats have limited room, which also makes it difficult to install rear-facing car seats. Like many 3-row SUVs, the Explorer's third row will feel cramped to most adults. The cargo hold provides average room for a midsize SUV, and the available hands-free liftgate is a convenient feature.

The Explorer's interior technology is better for 2017 thanks to the newly available SYNC 3 infotainment system. SYNC 3 has a responsive touch screen that responds to smartphone-style gestures, and there are easily reachable physical controls for some climate and audio functions. And speaking of audio functions, the available Sony stereo systems deliver excellent sound quality.

  • "From a fit and finish perspective, though, the interior is well-trimmed and tightly assembled. The materials used are attractive and luxurious, with a soft-touch dashboard and precise-feeling controls." -- Edmunds
  • "The interior also looks bland and unrefined in all but the Platinum trim." -- Automobile Magazine (2016)
  • "While the interior of Platinum models is awash in fancy trim, with real wood, matte aluminum, and glossy plastic featuring prominently, lesser Explorers have seen a mild revision, too." -- Car and Driver (2016)


The Explorer comes standard with cloth upholstery and seats seven in the base model. Second-row bucket seats that drop the seating capacity to six are available. Other available seating features include leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, and heated second-row seats.

The Explorer's cabin is well-insulated from outside noise. The front seats have ample space, but opinions differ about how much support they provide. Forward visibility is somewhat limited as well. The second-row seats are generally comfortable, but they aren't overly spacious, and the limited room can make it difficult to install a rear-facing car seat. The third-row seats don't have very much room for anyone other than children, but that isn't uncommon for a 3-row SUV.

Parents will appreciate the Explorer's several LATCH connectors. There are two sets of connectors in the second row and one in the third. The second row's LATCH connectors can be tricky to locate, but the seats do fit securely. The seats also fit well in the third row, but tie-down anchors in the cargo hold are easily confused with LATCH connection points.

  • "Ford has done an excellent job keeping road, engine and wind noise out of the cabin, and all but the rearmost occupants felt the seating was both comfortable and supportive." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Explorer's seating could be a bit disappointing for families looking for maximum space. Second-row comfort is decent, but overall it's not as roomy (particularly for installing rear-facing child safety seats) as you'd expect for a vehicle of this size. The third-row accommodations, meanwhile, very much depend on the second-row design. If you get the standard fixed bench, there's not much third-row legroom, allowing only small children to fit comfortably. Opting for the sliding second-row captain's chairs opens up considerably more legroom; however, we'd note the Explorer is reduced to six seat belts in that configuration." -- Edmunds
  • "Strangely enough, the simple act of people moving is the activity that the 2016 Ford Explorer finds most difficult. To begin with, the high front cowl obstructs the vision of the driver in a very noticeable way, and this goes for taller drivers, not just short ones. Then there are the very short bottom cushions for the front seats, which don't provide comfortable leg support, much less a feeling of security." -- Automobile Magazine (2016)

Interior Features

Standard features in the Explorer include a six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, Ford's SYNC voice control interface, a rearview camera, a USB port, and Ford's MyKey.

Available features include push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, a twin-panel moonroof, multiple Sony audio systems, satellite radio, navigation, front and rear parking sensors, parallel and perpendicular park assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, and the SYNC 3 infotainment system with a 6.5- or 8-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, and Siri Eyes Free.

Perhaps the most notable standard feature is MyKey, which is sure to be a favorite of parents. With MyKey, you can set speed and volume limits for the vehicle, which means you can enforce some rules for your teen driver whether you're in the car or not.

For 2017, SYNC 3 replaces MyFord Touch as the available infotainment system, and it is a welcome change. Whereas MyFord Touch was complex and unwieldy, SYNC 3 is responsive and much more intuitive. You can use pinch and swipe gestures with the touch screen, and periodic updates will be available to keep the system running smoothly. Even technology-averse drivers will have something to like about SYNC 3 because the touch screen doesn't control every function; there are still physical controls for climate and audio functions, and they are easy to see and reach from the driver's seat.

Audiophiles will have a choice between two available Sony audio systems. No matter which one you go with, you'll enjoy the result, but the top-of-the-line system – available in the Platinum trim – delivers unbelievable sound quality.

There are plenty of available driver assistance features in the Explorer, many of which are common throughout the class. However, the Explorer does offer automatic parking assistance, which includes a perpendicular parking system. Several rivals offer automatic parking, but most can only parallel park. The Explorer's system handles parallel parking, but it can pull up next to a perpendicular parking space, size it up, and pull in the Explorer neatly between the lines.

See 2017 Ford Explorer specs and trims »

  • "The newly available Sync 3 interface further contributes to the Explorer's premium vibe, with its high-resolution touchscreen, modern touch-gesture interface, and quick responses. Two additional screens within the gauge cluster also display a host of information. This is Ford's most user-friendly system to date, and it's a significant improvement over previous ones." -- Edmunds
  • "With more and more SUVs moving to touch-screen-only interfaces, it's rather refreshing to see sometimes the old ways are still the best ways. Sure, the 2017 Ford Explorer features a big 8-inch touch screen, but it also has easy-to-reach and -operate controls for the climate and audio." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Perhaps more interesting is a new self-parking mode that can automagically back the 2016 Explorer into a perpendicular spot between two other cars. I tested this feature and found it worked quite well." -- Autoblog (2016)


The Explorer has average cargo capacity for the class, offering 21 cubic feet of space behind the third row of seats, 43.9 cubic feet with the third row folded, and 81.7 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded. Buyers wanting a lot of cargo space may prefer rivals like the Chevrolet Traverse over the Explorer, as the Traverse offers more cargo space than nearly every other SUV on the market.

When hauling larger items, you'll be glad that the second and third rows fold completely flat, making it easy to organize your cargo. A power-folding third row is available, as is a hands-free power liftgate. The first time you scramble to open the hatch with full hands, you'll realize how nice it is to just wave your foot under the bumper and have the liftgate open for you.

  • "Cargo space in the Explorer is great with the seats in place but less competitive when all the seats are folded." -- Edmunds
  • "Fold both seating rows and you have generous cargo space." -- Kelley Blue Book

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