It's been a long journey for the Ford Explorer. Introduced in 1990, the Explorer muscled the family minivan out of many suburban driveways. It also reigned as Consumer Reports' top-rated SUV for several years in the late 1990s. At one point, Ford was selling over 400,000 Explorers a year.
That was until car-based SUVs started showing up on the scene. They drove better than the body-on-frame Explorer and typically got better fuel economy. Then the Explorer reputation took a tumble amid massive recalls and tragic accident reports involving Firestone tires and rollovers. The Explorer went from topping sales charts to being the top traded-in-for-destruction Cash for Clunkers vehicle. Over the past decade, sales of new Explorers dwindled.
Our $39,275 Explorer XLT has the rapid-spec 202A package. That gets stuff like heated leather seats, dual-zone climate control, Sync, and a backup camera. It also brings the high-tech--and highly frustrating --MyFord Touch dashboard interface that we criticized on the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX. Other options included a dual-panel moon roof, towing package, and blind spot monitoring.
While traditionalists may decry that the Explorer is now a "big station wagon" rather than a "true" SUV, that argument runs out of steam fast. The Explorer can still tow a decent 5,000 lbs, almost the same as the previous Explorer V6. (There's no longer an optional V8.) The old Explorer was no off-road ace, so not much lost there, either.
There are definite gains brought from the 2011 Explorer's transformation. Take a look at our First Drive video to find out what they were, and stay tuned for a complete test in the weeks ahead.
MyFord/MyLincoln Touch: A touch of intuition, or insanity?