Editor's Note: This is our new Quick Spin format, now shorter, less formal and more personal than our regular reviews. We've reinvented the format so we can talk about even more of the new vehicles we drive. Enjoy!

2013 Ford Explorer Limited AWD

The popularity of crossovers and SUVs as daily transportation often eludes me, but it's tough to argue with their functionality if you've got a sizable brood and a vacation ahead of you. I drove this 2013 Ford Explorer Limited from the greater Detroit area to the Outer Banks of North Carolina with a quick stop in Cleveland to pick up additional family. Overall impression? After driving 1,900+ miles in a single week, it's hard to imagine there are many vehicles better suited to the task than this Ford.

Travel Notes:
  • I drove 11+ hours straight twice in one week, with absolutely zero backaches to report from anyone – impressive.
  • Interior fit-and-finish and material choices shade those of most rivals, and options like cooled seats, second-row seatbelt airbags and power-folding third row are impressive.
  • Loaded with four people and a cargo hold full of beach gear, the 3.5-liter V6 had enough muscle (290 horsepower, 255 pound-feet of torque) through the mountains of Pennsylvania, but I can't help but wonder how it'd feel if we were towing something.
  • Ride and handling balance is very well judged, electric power steering accurate
  • MyFord Touch is powerful and offers serious configurability, but a slow touchscreen and overly complex interface hurts usability.
  • Kodiak Brown paint is great – very rich. Can look black or root beer depending on light.
  • Terrain Management is killer – when it works. We bombed around in Sand Mode along the Atlantic ocean dunes full-up with seven people for over an hour (we were one of the only unibodies we saw out of perhaps a hundred vehicles). Then the all-wheel-drive system unexpectedly turned itself off and we ground to a halt, nearly axle-deep. No sign of overheating, the system simply displayed that all-wheel drive was off, and rotating the knob wouldn't coax it back on. After turning the Explorer off and letting it sit for a few minutes, I restarted it and we were back in business. It never malfunctioned again.
  • Sand gets everywhere – even atop the engine and caked in the door sills. Two hours of cleaning and all is well.
  • Aside from the Honda Odyssey, the Ford Explorer appears to be the Outer Banks' Official Family Vacation Vehicle. They're everywhere.
  • Overall fuel efficiency for 1,900+ miles was 20.2 miles per gallon – bang on with what the cluster display indicated. EPA ratings call for 17 city/23 highway/19 combined. Considering a full load, PA's mountains, traffic, a couple of hours throwing sand around and the fact that the driver gave absolutely zero consideration to efficiency, we were quite pleased.