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2018 Ford Explorer Review

The 2018 Ford Explorer ranks near the bottom of the midsize SUV class. It has a below-average predicted reliability rating, so-so interior comfort, and ponderous handling.

Pros & Cons

  • Capable lineup of engines
  • Intuitive infotainment system
  • Subpar predicted reliability rating
  • Cramped third-row seats
  • So-so handling

Rankings & Research

The 2018 Ford Explorer's #16 ranking is based on its score within the 2018 Affordable Midsize SUVs category. Currently the Ford Explorer has a score of 7.6 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 68 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.




Critics' Rating: 8.2
Performance: 8.1
Interior: 7.6
Total Cost of Ownership: 8.4
Safety: 9.2
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

2018 Ford Explorer Overview

Is the 2018 Ford Explorer a Good Used SUV?

Despite its ranking, the 2018 Explorer is an OK used midsize SUV. Still, most rivals have better safety and predicted reliability ratings, more cabin space, or better overall performance.

The Explorer has a couple strengths:

  • Muscular turbocharged V6 engine option
  • User-friendly SYNC 3 infotainment system
  • Good amount of cargo space

However, it has many more weaknesses:

  • Below-average predicted reliability rating
  • Low safety score for class
  • Few standard features
  • Tiny third row
  • Higher list prices than rivals
  • Unimpressive fuel economy
  • Hard to maneuver in tight spaces
Why You Can Trust Us

We’ve researched 68 Ford Explorer reviews, as well as hard data points like reliability scores and cost of ownership estimates, to help you make the best car-buying decision possible.

U.S. News & World Report has been ranking cars since 2007, and our team has decades of automotive industry experience combined. While we’re passionate about cars, we’re even more committed to providing helpful consumer advice. To ensure our reviews remain impartial, we refuse expensive gifts and trips from car companies, and an outside team handles the advertising on our site.

How Much Is the 2018 Ford Explorer?

Based on listings for the 2018 Ford Explorer on our site, the average price is about $31,300. That's a bit higher than the average price for a midsize SUV. Prices for the 2018 Explorer range from around $27,100 to around $38,600 and vary depending on the vehicle’s condition, mileage, features, and location.

See the Best Used Car Deals »

How Much Does the 2018 Ford Explorer Cost to Own?

The 2018 Ford Explorer’s five-year costs for gas, insurance, repairs, and maintenance are projected to be about $25,700, or about $5,140 per year. That’s about average for a midsize SUV.

Is It Better to Buy a Used or New Ford Explorer?

There were no major changes for the Explorer for the 2019 model year. You can likely save lots of money by going with an identical used 2018 model instead of a 2019 Ford Explorer. The 2019 Explorer starts at roughly $32,400 and prices can exceed $54,000. Expect to pay much less for the used 2018 – anywhere from around $27,000 to about $39,000.

The Explorer gets a full redesign for the 2020 model year. For more information, check out Redesigned 2020 Ford Explorer: All You Need to Know.

Read about the new Ford Explorer »

There were no major changes made to the 2018 Explorer, which makes the 2017 Explorer a good buy since you can save even more cash and get a similar SUV. The 2017 model is a better bet than prior versions, since that’s when the user-friendly SYNC 3 infotainment system replaced the clunky MyFord Touch interface. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay also debuted in the Explorer with SYNC 3 for 2017.

Compare the 2017, 2018, and 2019 Explorer »

See the Best New Car Deals »

See the Best New Car Lease Deals »

How Reliable Is the 2018 Ford Explorer?

The 2018 Ford Explorer has a below-average predicted reliability rating of 2.5 out of five from J.D. Power.

Read more about Explorer reliability »

2018 Ford Explorer Recalls

At the time of writing, there is one safety recall for the 2018 Ford Explorer:

  • A fuel pressure sensor may leak fuel, increasing the risk of a fire

Before buying any used vehicle, make sure all recalls have been addressed.

See more information on Ford Explorer safety recalls »

Which Used Ford Explorer Trim Is Right for Me?

The 2018 Ford Explorer comes in five trims: base, XLT, Limited, Sport, and Platinum. There are three engine choices and two drivetrains, front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. You’ll want to skip the base model in favor of least the Explorer XLT. This trim adds convenience features like rear parking sensors, proximity keyless entry, and push-button start. It’s also available with a long list of features, like leather upholstery, heated seats, a touch-screen infotainment system, remote start, and a moonroof. Most of those come standard in the Limited trim.

  • Ford Explorer: The 2018 Ford Explorer comes standard with a V6 engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. Some models may have a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and/or four-wheel drive. Standard features include cloth upholstery, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, a second-row bench seat, a leather-wrapped shift knob, a rearview camera, the MyKey driver monitoring system, and the SYNC system with a 4.2-inch display, a USB port, Bluetooth, and a six-speaker stereo.
  • Ford Explorer XLT: The Explorer XLT adds a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a six-way power-adjustable passenger seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, proximity keyless entry, push-button start, and rear parking sensors. Available features include genuine leather upholstery, a 10-way power-adjustable passenger seat, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, a power liftgate, a seven-speaker stereo, an additional USB port, remote start, dual-zone automatic climate control, front parking sensors, a moonroof, and the SYNC 3 infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. Some models have driver assistance features including 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 Explorer Limited comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, genuine leather upholstery, a 10-way power-adjustable passenger seat, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a power-folding third row, a hands-free liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 110-volt household-style power outlet, remote start, front and rear parking sensors, a front-view camera, a 12-speaker Sony stereo, voice-activated navigation, a Wi-Fi hot spot, and the SYNC 3 infotainment system. Available features include multicontour front seats, second-row captain's chairs, a moonroof, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic high beams, automatic parking assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning. 
  • Ford Explorer Sport: The Ford Explorer Sport features a twin-turbocharged V6 engine, standard four-wheel drive, sporty interior and exterior design elements, a sport-tuned suspension, hill descent control, and terrain management response. The Explorer Sport has most of the same available features as the Limited, as well as two second-row USB ports and heated second-row seats.
  • Ford Explorer Platinum: The Ford Explorer Platinum comes with nearly every feature you can get in the SUV, along with premium Nirvana leather. Second-row captain's chairs and a DVD system are available in the Platinum trim.

See 2018 Ford Explorer trims and specs »

What Does Ford's Certified Pre-Owned Warranty Cover?

Ford offers a certified pre-owned program for vehicles six years old or less and with fewer than 80,000 miles. Eligibility is determined by the vehicle’s initial sale date. For its certified pre-owned vehicles, Ford extends the original new-car powertrain warranty to seven years from the original sale date or 100,000 miles. These vehicles also get a one-year/12,000-mile limited warranty after the original three-year/36,000-mile new-car warranty expires. Each Ford CPO vehicle must pass a 172-point inspection. Additional benefits like vehicle history reports, towing, and roadside assistance may be available, so read the Ford warranty page carefully.

Ford does not have one of the better CPO programs among affordable carmakers. Chevy, GMC, Honda, Kia, and Mazda all have better programs.

See the best CPO programs »

How Safe Is the Explorer?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2018 Ford Explorer an overall rating of five out of five stars, with five stars in the frontal and side crash tests and four stars in the rollover test.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Explorer the highest rating of Good in four crash tests. The SUV received the second-lowest rating of Marginal in the driver-side small overlap test and the lowest rating of Poor in the passenger-side small overlap test. Properly equipped Explorer models received the lowest rating of Basic for front crash prevention, and all models received a Poor rating for how well the headlights illuminate the road ahead.

Standard advanced safety features:

  • rearview camera
  • MyKey driver monitoring system

Available advanced safety features:

  • front and rear parking sensors
  • front parking camera
  • rain-sensing windshield wipers
  • automatic high beams
  • blind spot monitoring
  • rear cross traffic alert
  • lane departure warning
  • adaptive cruise control
  • automatic parking assist
  • forward collision warning

See Explorer safety scores »

2018 Ford Explorer Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: 2018 Ford Explorer or 2018 Honda Pilot?

The 2018 Honda Pilot has one of the roomiest third rows among midsize SUVs, and it has a maximum seating capacity of eight. This Honda also has slightly better safety and predicted reliability ratings than the Explorer, and the Pilot has better performance overall. The Honda is likely a smarter choice for most shoppers, but you pay for what you get. The average list price and five-year ownership expenses are higher for the Pilot than they are for the Explorer.

Which Is Better: 2018 Ford Explorer or 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee?

The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee keeps the Explorer company near the bottom of the class rankings. Both SUVs have lackluster predicted reliability ratings, but the Grand Cherokee has one of the lowest crash safety scores in the segment. The Explorer seats up to seven and has more cargo space than the five-seat Grand Cherokee. However, the Jeep comes with more standard features. It also boasts a higher towing capacity, better on-road handling, and nearly unmatched off-road abilities. Choosing between these two comes down to personal preference.

Compare the Explorer, Pilot, and Grand Cherokee »

2018 Explorer Performance

How Does the 2018 Ford Explorer Drive?

The 2018 Ford Explorer comes standard with a V6 engine that’s perfectly adequate for daily driving. A midrange EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder offers better fuel efficiency and almost the same power output as the base engine. The strongest option is a twin-turbo EcoBoost V6, which delivers thrilling acceleration.

The Explorer handles just as you want a midsize SUV to handle – stable and smooth – and it offers a comfortable ride for long trips. From behind the wheel, however, the Explorer feels larger than it really is. Parking can be tough, due to the Explorer's limited visibility and wide turning radius.

  • Base engine: 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V6
  • Available engines:
    • 280-horsepower turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder
    • 365-horsepower twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6
  • Drivetrain: standard front-wheel drive; available four-wheel drive
  • Transmission: six-speed automatic transmission
Does the 2018 Ford Explorer Get Good Gas Mileage?

The 2018 Explorer has below-average fuel economy for the class.

  • V6, FWD: 17/24 mpg city/highway
  • V6, 4WD: 16/22 mpg
  • Four-cylinder, FWD: 19/27 mpg
  • Four-cylinder, 4WD: 18/25 mpg
  • Twin-turbo V6, 4WD: 16/22 mpg
2018 Ford Explorer Towing Capacity

The Explorer can tow up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped.

Read more about Explorer performance »

2018 Explorer Interior

How Many People Does the 2018 Explorer Seat?

The 2018 Explorer seats six or seven people in three rows. The front seats are comfortable and supportive enough, and you can find models with multicontour front seats for a more relaxing ride. In models with the standard second-row bench seat, third-row space is only adequate for children or smaller adults. Available second-row captain’s chairs can slide forward to serve up a little more room for the third-row seats, but that comes at the expense of middle-row legroom.

Standard seating features:

  • cloth upholstery
  • eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat
  • second-row bench seat
  • leather-wrapped shift knob

Available seating features:

  • genuine leather upholstery
  • premium Nirvana leather seats
  • 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat
  • six-way or 10-way power-adjustable passenger seat
  • heated and ventilated front seats
  • heated second row seats
  • second-row captain’s chairs
  • multicontour front seats
  • leather-wrapped, heated steering wheel
How Many Child Car Seats Fit in the 2018 Ford Explorer?

The 2018 Explorer has three complete sets of LATCH child car-seat connectors on the second-row outboard seats, along with another set on the third-row passenger-side seat. The second-row middle seat has an upper tether anchor, and it can borrow the lower anchors from either side. Doing so prevents you from using a car seat on both sides.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the system the second-highest rating of Acceptable for ease of use.

2018 Ford Explorer Features

The Explorer’s standard SYNC system has a small 4.2-inch display, complemented by voice commands for most functions. The available SYNC 3 touch-screen infotainment system has user-friendly menus. Large physical controls for common functions are within easy reach of the driver.

  • Standard infotainment features: the SYNC infotainment system with a 4.2-inch display, Bluetooth, a USB port, and a six-speaker stereo
  • Available infotainment features: a seven-speaker stereo or a 12-speaker Sony stereo, an additional USB port, voice-activated navigation, a Wi-Fi hot spot, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, two second-row USB ports, satellite radio, and the SYNC 3 infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay
  • Other available features: dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity keyless entry, push-button start, remote start, a moonroof, a 110-volt household-style power outlet

See 2018 Ford Explorer specs »

Read more about Explorer interior »

2018 Ford Explorer Dimensions

Ford Explorer Cargo Space

The 2018 Ford Explorer has 21 cubic feet of cargo space behind its third row, and 43.9 cubic feet with the third row folded down. Folding down the second and third rows opens up 81.7 cubic feet. The Explorer has a good amount of cargo space for a midsize SUV. A power liftgate, a hands-free liftgate, and a power-folding third row are available.

These cargo dimensions are for comparative purposes. There is no substitute for visually examining the storage area in any car you’re considering.

2018 Ford Explorer Length and Weight
  • Length: 16 feet, 6 inches
  • Curb weight: 4,443 to 4,901 pounds

Where Was the 2018 Ford Explorer Built?

Ford built the Explorer in Chicago.

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