2018 Ford Explorer

Save money. Use the U.S. News Best Price Program to find the best local prices on the Explorer.

MSRP: $32,140 - 53,940

2018 Ford Explorer Review

The 2018 Ford Explorer sits in the middle of our midsize SUV rankings, despite its good predicted reliability rating. The Explorer feels large to drive, gets low fuel economy estimates, and doesn't have the most comfortable or spacious interior compared to rivals.

8.3

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 8.2
Performance: 8.1
Interior: 7.6
Safety: 9.2
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Pros & Cons

  • Large cargo area behind third-row seat
  • Meaty twin-turbo V6 available
  • High predicted reliability rating

 

  • Seats aren't as comfy or roomy as some
  • Thirsty engines
  • Feels massive to drive

 

Is the Ford Explorer a Good SUV?

Yes, the Ford Explorer is a good SUV. It offers some energetic EcoBoost (turbocharged) engines, and there's plenty of room behind the third-row seats, which is convenient when you need to fill all seven seats and still have room for cargo. The Explorer also has one of the highest predicted reliability ratings in the class. However, it falls short of its rivals on fuel efficiency, comfort, and overall space. Additionally, its large turning radius makes maneuvering a challenge.

Should I Buy the Ford Explorer?

The Explorer has a high predicted reliability rating and lots of cargo space. It also has sporty performance in the Explorer Sport model. But those things don't make it a slam-dunk choice. Its starting price is high, and it only finishes in the middle of our midsize SUV rankings. You should at least consider well-rounded alternatives such as the Honda Pilot and Kia Sorento

Compare the Explorer, Pilot, and Sorento »

Should I Buy a New or Used Ford Explorer?

The Explorer's current generation launched for the 2011 model year. Since then, Ford has made a few tweaks to the trim levels. For 2016, Ford refreshed the Explorer, adding a top trim (the Platinum), a turbo-four engine, and features like a hands-free power liftgate and parallel and perpendicular park assist. For 2017, Ford replaced the MyFord Touch infotainment system with the superior SYNC 3 system. There are no notable changes for the 2018 model year.

You can potentially save thousands of dollars by purchasing a used Explorer, but if you go back before 2016, you'll miss out on some recent upgrades. If you're interested in a used model, be sure to visit our overviews of the 2016 Ford Explorer and 2017 Ford Explorer. Also, check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts on used vehicles.

Compare the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Explorer »
We Did the Research for You: 68 Reviews Analyzed

There's no need to wade through countless websites when you can find everything you need to know about the Explorer in our comprehensive review. We bring together hard facts (like fuel economy estimates and cargo area dimensions) with 68 professional Ford Explorer reviews.

This overview includes relevant data and reviews from all model years of the current generation, which spans the 2011 through 2018 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

In business since 1933, U.S. News & World Report takes pride in helping readers make life's most important decisions. Our Best Cars team ranks and reviews cars, trucks, and SUVs, and we issue the annual Best Cars for the Money and Best Cars for Families awards. To keep our recommendations unbiased, we refuse expensive gifts from automakers and use a third party for advertising.

How Much Does the Ford Explorer Cost?

The Ford Explorer is one of the more expensive midsize SUVs on the market. Starting prices range from $32,140 for the base trim to $53,940 for the top-level Explorer Platinum. Other trim levels include the XLT ($34,175), Limited ($42,090), and Sport ($45,950). For great savings at your local Ford dealer, check out our U.S. News Best Price Program. 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?

With an adult-friendly third row, room for eight people, and plush front seats, the Honda Pilot is a wonderful vehicle for families. The Pilot has a standard multi-view camera that makes backing up a piece of cake. Both SUVs have similar crash test scores, but overall, the Pilot is a more modern-feeling and well-rounded vehicle.

Which Is Better: Ford Explorer or Chevrolet Traverse?

With all seats in use, the Chevrolet Traverse can carry more than most midsize SUVs, including the Explorer. Additionally, the Traverse has higher scores than the Explorer in almost every category of our rankings. Unlike the Explorer, the Traverse seats up to eight people. However, the Explorer earns higher scores for safety and predicted reliability. These two both finish in the middle of our class rankings, and the right choice comes down to what traits you prioritize.

Which Is Better: Ford Explorer or Ford Edge?

The Ford Edge only has seating for five, but it’s a better value than the Explorer is. The Edge has agile, carlike handling that makes it easier to maneuver than the bulky Explorer. It also seats adults comfortably in both spacious rows. Unless you need the extra third row of seats, go for the Edge.

Compare the Explorer, Pilot, and Traverse »

Explorer Interior

How Many People Does the Explorer Seat?

The Explorer comes standard with seating for seven people and cloth upholstery. If you don't need the extra seat, consider upgrading to the second-row captain's chairs, which are cushier than the standard bench seat. They also slide and recline (making it easier for third-row passengers to climb in) and grant extra legroom for rearmost occupants when needed. The two-seat bench in the third row is stiff, but there's enough legroom for adults to ride here if you slide the available second-row bucket seats forward.

Explorer and Car Seats

In the second row, the Explorer has three tether anchors and two sets of lower anchors. A child safety seat can also be installed in the middle seating position by borrowing the adjacent lower anchors. In the third row, one seat has a full set of upper and lower anchors. With the exception of the third-row anchors, the Explorer's lower anchors are mounted too deep in the seat cushions. All of the tether anchors are tricky to find.

Explorer Interior Quality

Materials in the lower trim levels are nice and steadily improve to include trimmings in leather and wood as you move up the trim levels (though the price climbs considerably as well). Build quality gets a B-plus: Most surfaces are solid, but there are a few flimsy elements.

Explorer Cargo Space

Behind its rearmost seat, the Explorer has more cargo space than almost every 3-row SUV this size. Adding to its storage usefulness are options like a hands-free liftgate (allowing you to effortlessly open the back when your hands are full) and a power-folding third-row seat. When folding down the rear seats to expand cargo capacity, the Explorer offers less room than the average midsize SUV.

Explorer Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The base infotainment system has a 4.2-inch touch screen and Bluetooth, with voice-activated commands for a variety of entertainment and phone settings. For an enhanced experience, we recommend upgrading to the SYNC 3 system. SYNC 3 comes with a crisp 8-inch screen, includes a navigation system, and connects you with favorite apps like Pandora and iHeartRadio.

Read more about interior »

Explorer Performance

Explorer Engine: 3 Engine Options

For most, the standard V6 engine delivers enough power to take on your errands and commuting with ease. You can improve your gas mileage slightly with a marginal compromise on power if you pick the available turbo four-cylinder. For more horsepower, Ford also offers a twin-turbo V6 that's robust and exciting.

Explorer Gas Mileage: Below Average

The Explorer isn't known for having great fuel economy. For the lowest fuel costs, opt for the available turbo four-cylinder engine, which gets 19 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. Fuel economy with the standard engine is 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway.

Explorer Ride and Handling: Composed

The Explorer handles just as you want a midsize SUV to – stable and smooth – and it offers a comfortable ride for long trips. However, from behind the wheel, the Explorer feels larger than it really is. Parking can be tough, due to the Explorer's limited visibility and wide turning radius. A rearview camera (included in every model) helps, and options like the 180-degree camera and active park assist (which steers the SUV into parking spots) are a big plus.

Read more about performance »

Explorer Reliability

Is the Ford Explorer Reliable?

The 2018 Explorer earns a fantastic predicted reliability rating of 4.5 out of five from J.D. Power. That's well above average and one of the highest ratings in the class.

Ford Explorer Warranty

The Explorer comes with a three-year/36,000-mile warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Explorer Safety

Explorer Crash Test Results

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the 2018 Ford Explorer the highest rating of Good in four crash tests. It received a Marginal rating in small overlap front crash test. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Explorer a perfect five-star overall rating. It earned five stars in all crash test categories except the rollover test, in which it received four out of five stars.

Explorer Safety Features

A rearview camera and Ford's MyKey system (which lets you set limits for other drivers of the car) are standard in the 2018 Explorer. Available safety features include rear parking sensors, a 180-degree front parking camera, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic braking, lane departure warning, active park assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and inflatable safety belts for the second-row outboard position.

Read more about safety »

Which Ford Explorer Model Is Right for Me?

There's a well-rounded selection of Explorer models available so you can pick the power, perks, and price that fits you best. Five trims are available (Base, XLT, Limited, Sport, and Platinum) with MSRPs ranging from $32,140 to $53,940. All trims come with a six-speed automatic transmission and one of three engines. The standard engine is a 3.5-liter V6. A turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine and a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 are also available. Most trims include front-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive is standard in the Sport and Platinum trims and available in all lower trims for about $2,200.

Prices can quickly climb with the Explorer trims. If want to keep costs low, yet still want some premium amenities, we recommend starting with the Explorer XLT. It includes conveniences like rear backup sensors and a proximity key, and you can add upgrades through various packages. Options include the SYNC 3 infotainment system (which includes a nine-speaker sound system), a dual-panel moonroof, leather-trimmed seats, and automatic climate control for two zones.

Ford Explorer

In addition to the 3.5-liter V6 engine, the base Explorer ($32,140) comes with the SYNC infotainment interface, a 4.2-inch color display, voice commands, Bluetooth, a USB port, six speakers, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, cruise control, and a rearview camera. Ford's MyKey – a system that lets you set limits for your teen drivers – is also included.

Ford Explorer XLT

Standard features in the $34,175 Explorer XLT include satellite radio, rear parking sensors, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, a six-way power-adjustable passenger seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, keypad access on the door, a proximity key, push-button start, and upgraded brakes.

Ford Explorer Limited

Powering the Explorer Limited is a turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost engine. This edition also has the upgraded SYNC 3 interface with an 8-inch touch-screen display, two 4.2-inch driver information displays, a 180-degree front parking camera, and a 12-speaker Sony audio system. Other notable features include leather seats, a hands-free liftgate, dual-zone climate control, a 110-volt household power outlet, heated and cooled front seats, heated outboard second-row seats, and power-folding third-row seats. Prices start at $42,090.

Ford Explorer Sport

The Explorer Sport ($45,950) boasts the most powerful engine in the lineup: a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6. This four-wheel-drive trim also comes with hill descent control, a sport-tuned suspension, a terrain management system, and an upgraded towing package.

Ford Explorer Platinum

The range-topping Explorer Platinum ($53,940) gets a full suite of active safety technology. Adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic braking, lane departure warning, active park assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and inflatable safety belts for the second-row outboard position are all included. Wood and leather interior embellishments give the Platinum a swanky ambiance. The twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine powers this trim.

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 2018 Ford Explorer specs and trims »

The Final Call

The Explorer has been a longtime staple of the midsize SUV segment. In recent years, its standing has waned as an increasing number of rivals emerged with more-accommodating seats, larger cargo holds, and better fuel economy ratings. Even alternatives within Ford's lineup are more appealing for families and commuters. The Explorer isn't necessarily a penalty box, but you can find a half dozen or more SUVs that are more rewarding.

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

  • "Overall, though, the 2018 Ford Explorer gets most things right, and we see it as a respectable choice for a three-row midsize SUV." -- Edmunds
  • You'll Like This Car If... If you're looking for a family SUV with advanced electronics and safety features, plus a wide range of engines and option choices, Ford's midsize SUV for 2017 is hard to beat. The Explorer's advanced all-wheel-drive (AWD) system makes it more off-road capable than a Honda Pilot or Mazda CX-9. You May Not Like This Car If... If you're looking for something that's easy to maneuver and park, and you don't need a 3rd-row seat, a smaller SUV like the Ford Edge, Nissan Murano or Jeep Grand Cherokee makes a better choice." -- Kelley Blue Book (2017)
  • What We Like In general, the whole driving experience -- the cabin is tranquil and upscale, the ride is serene; in particular, useful fuel economy from the 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbo 4-cylinder engine and impressive power from the 3.5-liter turbo V6; the terrain-responsive intelligent all-wheel-drive system is another plus. What We Don't Pretty snug back there in the third row -- it's best for kids; maximum towing ability of 5,000 pounds is merely adequate." -- Autotrader (2017)
ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
  • Great Savings
  • Minimum Savings Guarantee
  • Hassle-Free Experience

More than 150,000 car shoppers have purchased or leased a car through the U.S. News Best Price Program. Our pricing beats the national average 86% of the time with shoppers receiving average savings of $3,383 off MSRP across vehicles.
Learn More »

Find the Best Price

Enter your zip code to get local pricing.

Get Dealer Quotes

To get dealer quotes, enter your zip code.

Search Used Listings

To search used listings, enter your zip code.

Change Location

Enter your zip code to see listings near you.

Please enter a valid zipcode