2007 Explorer New Car Test Drive
Ford Explorer is a traditional midsize SUV with body-on-frame construction. Available with V6 or V8 power, it competes against the Chevy TrailBlazer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota 4Runner, and Nissan Pathfinder.
Explorer was completely redesigned for the 2006 model year and we were pleased with the new steering, the new suspension, and the new brakes, all of which were vastly improved over the previous-generation. The latest Explorer is quieter than previous models, and it rides better. It also leans less in corners and the brakes are more responsive. The rear seats fold flatter, and the interior has been improved throughout. More important, it's a very nice vehicle that's pleasant to live with and it compares well with the competition.
With the V8 engine, the Explorer is rated to tow up to a whopping 7,300 pounds; that's about as much as a Jeep Grand Cherokee with a Hemi. And Explorer is rated to carry up to 1,520 pounds of payload.
Explorer earned the best possible impact protection rating in the government's crash tests: five stars for the driver in a frontal impact, the front-seat passenger in a frontal impact, front-seat occupants in a side impact, and rear-seat occupants in a side impact. (This was in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's 2006 model-year New Car Assessment Program.) Ford says the Explorer is designed to meet all known federal frontal- and side-impact crash requirements through 2010.
For 2007, Ford has simplified the model lineup. The Safety Canopy side air-curtain system is now standard on Eddie Bauer and Limited. An auxiliary audio input jack is now standard, and power-retracting running boards and heated windshield wipers are available. And the available rear-seat DVD entertainment center comes with a larger, eight-inch screen.
The most important change for 2007 might be the new interior door handles, of all things. We found the door pulls on the 2006 models awkward, traceable to thick armrests engineered for crash protection. This situation has been improved for 2007.
Though car-based SUVs, or crossovers, such as the Ford Edge are gaining in popularity for their smoother ride, better handling, and easier interior access, the Explorer remains a good choice for families that tow. Explorer's truck-based chassis gives it towing capability, while its clever independent rear suspension smoothes the ride for back-seat passengers.
The 2007 Ford Explorer lineup comprises the XLT 2WD ($25,300), XLT 4WD ($27,595), Eddie Bauer 2WD ($28,300), Eddie Bauer 4WD ($30,595), Limited 2WD ($31,400), and Limited 4WD ($33,659). All are available with the standard 4.0-liter V6 and five-speed automatic transmission or an optional 4.6-liter V8 with a six-speed automatic ($1,200).
Standard equipment on the XLT includes cloth low-back bucket seats with manual driver lumbar adjustment; 60/40-split folding second-row bench seat with back-rest recline; power windows with one-touch-down driver window; remote entry key fobs; air conditioning; AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with auxiliary input jack; cargo management system; center console; two 12-volt power points; load-floor tie-down hooks; two-line message center with outside-temperature readout; privacy glass; one-piece liftgate with flip-open rear window; fold-away electric remote exterior mirrors; black roof side rails; 16-inch, painted aluminum wheels with P235/70R16 all-season tires; fog lamps; AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control; and a tire pressure monitoring system. XLT options include leather seating surfaces with heated front seats ($995), heated windshield ($300), and navigation ($2,505). The Ironman Package ($1,495) for XLT celebrates Ford's sponsorship of the Ironman World Championship with Ironman logos; 18-inch, machined-aluminum wheels; unique 10-way, leather trimmed, heated front seats; and exclusive Orange Frost paint.
Eddie Bauer adds automatic headlights; exterior mirrors with approach lights; fixed running boards; 17-inch, painted aluminum wheels with all-season tires; second-row dome lights; wood-grain interior accents; overhead console; four-line message center; electrochromic rearview mirror; leather upholstery; 10-way-power seat for the driver; illuminated visor vanity mirrors; keyless entry with keypad; and Safety Canopy.
Limited adds heated exterior mirrors; 18-inch, machined-aluminum wheels with all-season tires; unique interior wood-grain accents; dual-zone electronic climate control; Audiophile AM/FM audio with six-disc, in-dash CD, MP3 playback and subwoofer; auxiliary climate control; unique floor console; Reverse Sensing System; heated seats; leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise and audio controls; and a third-row manual-folding seat.
Seating choices include a manually folding third-row seat ($845) on XLT and Bauer, standard on Limited. A Power-folding third row is optional on all models. A four-bucket-seat configuration, with comfortable second-row captain's chairs, is available ($795) on Bauer and Limited. The third-row seat comes standard on the Limited, but can be deleted for credit (-$375), providing a flatter cargo floor.
Other options include a power glass sunroof ($850); rear-seat DVD entertainment ($1,295); power adjustable pedals ($150); rear heat and air conditioning ($675), Sirius Satellite Radio ($195); and power-retractable running boards ($695).
Safety features include the same roll stability control system already used by Volvo and Land Rover. It intervenes with throttle and brakes when the computer senses an impending tip over. Other safety features standard on all Explorers are seat-mounted side-impact air bags, adaptive energy-absorbing steering column, and passenger classifier in the front passenger seat. Safety Canopy air bags, standard on Limited and Bauer, are optional ($560) on XLT.