$21,468 - $37,861

2017 Ford Explorer Performance Review

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


Performance: 7.7

The 2017 Ford Explorer has a range of engine options. The base V6 is a fine middle-of-the-road option. You can also opt for a turbocharged four-cylinder that trades power for fuel efficiency or a twin-turbocharged V6 that is as powerful as some rivals' V8s. The Explorer's handling is adequate, but you can't help but notice that you're driving a fairly large SUV, and maneuverability is limited as well. Ride quality is good over most road surfaces, so the Explorer makes a decent choice for a road trip vehicle.

  • "Capable for sure, the Explorer delivers excellent passing and pulling power and its heavily weighted steering and taut suspension give this big SUV impressive cornering ability, although its high beltline and massive front bumper make maneuvers in tight quarters a bit harrowing." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Driving the Explorer on a daily basis is pleasant, thanks to its quiet interior and comfortable ride." -- Edmunds (2015)
  • "By 3-row crossover standards, the Explorer feels solid and connected to the road." -- AutoTrader (2014)

Acceleration and Power

The Explorer comes standard with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that puts out 290 horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. The base engine has OK power, and while the acceleration won't wow you, it also won't hold you back. Still, there are two available engines that you may prefer over the base V6: a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder that produces 280 horsepower and a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that puts out 365 horsepower.

The turbo-four doesn't feel as powerful as the V6 options, but it does have pretty good pickup. The twin-turbo V6 is the way to go if you want power. It delivers great acceleration, and its horsepower rating rivals some V8 engines available in competitors.

According to EPA estimates, the base Explorer gets 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. Those ratings are worse than you'll get from many class rivals. The turbo-four is your best bet for fuel economy, however, as it earns an estimated 19 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway. When properly equipped, the Explorer has a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds, so while you probably shouldn't buy it as a towing vehicle for large, heavy trailers, it can pull a small trailer if necessary.

  • "The Sport and Platinum trims also come standard with the turbocharged V6, and its V8-like power numbers result in quick acceleration that's unbeatable in the large crossover segment. The regular V6 isn't as peppy but should still readily meet the expectations for most three-row crossover shoppers. As for the turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder, it's the least powerful of the three engines and can struggle to hold a gear on grades or authoritatively help you merge with freeway traffic." -- Edmunds
  • "The standard 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 on the Ford Explorer is fine for most people, offering decent power and acceptable fuel economy. The 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine makes a good argument for itself though. Despite being a little down on power compared to the V6, the EcoBoost four offers notably more torque. We expect this engine to be the choice for many buyers. Available on the Sport and Platinum models is the twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6, bumping power up to a more-than-adequate 365 horsepower." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Power from the new 2.3-liter Ecoboost four-cylinder engine showed a sense of brawn that makes it clear that this little four-banger doesn't realize it's not a V6. We never felt underpowered along the routes, whether climbing mountain grades or accelerating to high-speed on the expressways. … The standard offering 3.5-liter Ti-VCT V6 offered plenty of around-town power not to mention adequate acceleration for on-expressway maneuvers." -- Left Lane News (2016)

Handling and Braking

The Explorer, which comes standard with front-wheel drive, delivers a smooth ride over most road surfaces, though the available 20-inch wheels do make the ride a bit rougher. The ride is also quiet, so the Explorer is a solid choice for a road trip. One weakness of the Explorer is its maneuverability. It handles turns competently, but it feels large, and it can't match the agility of some class rivals.

The Explorer shouldn't be at the top of your list if you want an off-road vehicle, but it can still hold its own away from the pavement. All-wheel drive is available, as is a terrain management system that lets you choose from four different driving modes (Normal, Mud/Ruts, Sand, and Grass/Gravel/Snow) that are configured for different types of terrain.

  • "The Ford Explorer has a smooth ride quality on the highway with good composure that's only slightly affected by the available 20-inch wheels. It's also exceptionally quiet, so it's an excellent road-trip vehicle. It performs acceptably in typical driving situations, but overall it feels larger and less maneuverable than similarly sized rivals. The Explorer Sport, on the other hand, feels much more fleet of foot, thanks to its sport-tuned suspension and steering that reacts quickly to inputs. And though the Sport gives up a bit of that cushy ride quality, it's still comfortable for this class of vehicle." -- Edmunds
  • "Because Ford's 2017 Explorer is a crossover SUV, it lacks the rugged body-on-frame design once common to off-road SUVs. To compensate, Ford's Terrain Management System offers varying settings for the AWD system including snow, sand, mud, grass and gravel." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The ride and handling compromise was and still is pretty much spot on for a family crossover." -- Autoblog (2016)

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