2005 Explorer New Car Test Drive
For more than a dozen years, the Ford Explorer has been the best-selling SUV in America. In fact, it's the sixth best-selling vehicle. It's become the standard-issue suburban family hauler. Though capable as a tow vehicle and able to venture off the highway, most Explorers spend their lives shuttling people, collecting groceries and performing the duties station wagons performed when Baby Boomers were growing up. The Explorer answers this call admirably and comfortably, and that's a big part of the reason it's so popular.
The Explorer is roomy and comfortable. It can seat seven people when equipped with the optional third-row seat, which folds flat into the cargo floor when not needed. On the other hand, Eddie Bauer and Limited models are luxurious vehicles with available second-row sport bucket seating.
Buyers can choose between V6 and V8 engines, but the V6 provides plenty of power. The V8 isn't needed unless you're pulling trailers or live in the Rocky Mountain states where the air is thin. Part of the reason for this is a superb five-speed automatic transmission. Explorer's wide track and long wheelbase give it a solid, stable stance, while its independent rear suspension (an unusual feature in a mid-to-large-size SUV) gives it a smoother ride and better handling than SUVs with traditional live rear axles.
Safety features abound. AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control is now standard on all Explorers. This sophisticated system not only senses and corrects potential skids and slides, but also monitors for potential rollovers. Onboard electronics determine if one or more wheels is about to lift off the ground, then reduce power and/or selectively brake one or more wheels to re-settle the Explorer back on all fours. We recommend the optional Safety Canopy airbags, which are designed to provide some protection in the event of a rollover. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) are also standard, and a tire pressure monitor comes on all but the base model.
The Explorer is rated to pull trailers up to 7,140 pounds when properly equipped, and though it does not excel at off-road travel, it can go most of the places most of us need to go.
The 2005 Ford Explorer is available in six trim levels: XLS, XLS Sport, XLT, XLT Sport, Eddie Bauer, and Limited.
An overhead-cam V6 engine is standard on all models. An overhead-cam V8 ($800) is an option for all models except the XLS. All Explorers come with a five-speed automatic transmission. All offer a choice of two-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD).
XLS 2WD ($26,845) and 4WD ($29,310) come with all the usual power accessories, plus anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes, AdvanceTrac stability control with Roll Stability Control, 16-inch steel wheels, cloth upholstery, AM/FM/CD stereo, tilt steering, speed control, remote keyless entry, a center console with a storage bin and cup holders, and a cargo management system for the rear luggage bay. XLS Sport 2WD ($28,260) and 4WD ($30,490) add the tire-pressure monitoring system, 16-inch aluminum wheels, black step bars and wheel-lip moldings, an upgraded center console and floor mats.
XLT 2WD ($29,650) and 4WD ($31,875) get approach lamps in the side mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a six-way power driver's seat, lumbar adjustment for both driver and passenger, an overhead console with outside-temperature indicator and compass, and warm steel accents for the center stack. Outside, a monochromatic treatment with chrome grille and fog lamps sets XLT apart. XLT Sport 2WD ($31,005) and 4WD ($33,230) add 17-inch bright machined aluminum wheels, self-dimming interior mirror, a keyless-entry keypad, automatic headlamps, and platinum gloss side cladding, step bars and wheel-lip moldings.
Upgrade to Eddie Bauer 2WD ($33,705) and 4WD ($35,930) and you get two-tone leather upholstery, perforated and heated front seats with eight-way power for the driver and six-way power for the passenger, driver-seat memory, power adjustable pedals with memory, dual-zone automatic climate control, 290-watt stereo with a six-disc CD changer, audio and climate controls on the steering wheel, heated outside mirrors, message center, with unique pecan wood trim inside and Pueblo Gold accents outside. The Limited 2WD ($34,580) and 4WD ($36,805) come with all the Eddie Bauer goodies, but a somewhat different look, thanks to chromed wheels and roof rails outside and higher-grade single-tone leather inside, with Madarin Teak accents.
All but XLS can be ordered with third-row seating ($745), auxiliary rear-compartment air conditioning ($650), reverse-sensing system ($255), power moonroof ($850), and a DVD entertainment system ($1,295). A Trailer Towing Prep Package ($150) replaces the standard Class II hitch with a Class III/IV hitch and adds a 3.73 (rather than 3.55) limited-slip rear axle and seven-wire trailer harness.
Second-row bucket seats with an extended floor console are available ($795) on Eddie Bauer and Limited. XLT buyers can choose power front seats with leather ($695) and adjustable pedals ($120). An off-road package ($385) for XLS and XLT consists of skid plates, tow hooks, off-road suspension and all-terrain tires.
The optional Safety Canopy Air Curtain System ($560) is designed to help protect first- and second-row outboard occupants during side-impacts or rollovers, and is designed to improve rollover protection by staying inflated for a longer period. Ford has done a great deal of research on this technology and we strongly recommend this option.
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