We purchased this SUV about two weeks ago and I can't state enough how much I love it! I really like the over-all look of the vehicle and it is in excellent shape for being three years old. The previous owner must have really taken care of her well. I also like the fact that I shouldn't have any problems with getting stuck in the snow like I have every year previously. I really wanted a 4X4, and now I got one!
When I first bought this auto I was expecting a choppy truck like ride, but this was not the case. It almost handles as well as a medium sized sedan and around turns I feel very confident even at high speeds. Small bumps in the road are softened extremely well, but bigger bumps still have that bounce feel to them and remind me that I am driving an SUV.
The Explorer sport has a different suspension than the regular Explorer model. It only has independent front suspension and is basically the same as the new Explorer Sport Trac in regards to ride quality. Ford changed the suspension only in the regular Explorer model and added an anti-roll feature to repair the bad publicity that surrounded Ford and Firestone at the time. They rebuilt the SUV from the ground up in 2002 and improved many aspects of the vehicle with the most notable being the addition of rear independent suspension. All these changes were made to help revitalize the name and paint the image of safety, but neglected to mention that the Sport model stayed the same as the previous year. The only changes made were to the bumpers and a few other odds and ends. The vehicle looks much better than previous years and has a much more modern feel to it, but lacks the updated features. Even without the changes made I believe the vehicle to be very safe and stable around turns. I think the whole SUV tipping publicity got dumped on the best selling model just for the reason that there were so many of them. The more there are, the more incidents that are going to occur. I feel very safe and confident even at high speeds and believe it was all just blown out of proportion.
It's amazing to see an Explorer Sport and an Explorer Sport Trac side by side. It looks as though Ford just cut the back end off and attached a pick-up truck bed. It is a good sign though as it means that the old design is good enough for a new vehicle. I also looked at the Explorer Sport Trac, but decided on the Sport model as it was more useful for my purposes.
The Explorers engine is a 4.0 liter SOHC version as oppose to the old VHC engine that has numerous improvements over the previous years. It has 210 hp and lot's of torque giving it great pulling capability. In the city it is spunky and gives me great gas mileage. On a full tank of gas I get over 300 km, which is better than the rental I had which was a 2005 Ford Torus with a 3.8 liter engine. On the highway it is easy to speed as it seems to creep up past the 100 Km mark as though it wants to drive faster. Passing power is very good and over-all I am impressed with the power this engine has. I thought a 4.0 liter was going to be sluggish in a vehicle this large and heavy, but it has proved me wrong. The five speed automatic transmission really utilizes all the power this engine puts out and is a perfect match for it. At 100 km an hour the engine is only running at 2000 rpm! The 8 cylinder version is only thirty or so more hp than the 6, and much worst on gas. I am glad I have the 4.0 liter and am extremely impressed with it.
I was very lucky to get a model that had all the bells and whistles. I really like the puddle lights that are automatically turned on when the doors are opened. They are situated under the side mirrors on both sides allowing you to see the ground when stepping out. This has saved me once or twice from stepping into a huge pile of mud.
The power seats work great and allow a short person such as myself to drive perfectly comfortable. My brother stands 6 foot three and he can be just as comfortable as me when driving.
One feature I am very happy with is the rear passenger seat controls. They control the stereo and air conditioning. Even if the front passengers want the air shut off, it can be left on in the rear. The rear seats are rather tricky to get into for an adult, but easy for a child. This doesn't bother me as if I wanted easier access I would have opted for the four door. Once an adult is back there though, it is fairly comfortable and can easily be tolerated on long rides.
My Sport model came with four wheel drive. I have four wheel high, four wheel low, and two wheel. I have not had the chance to use the four wheel drive yet as they say it is a bad idea to use it on dry pavement and can cause power-train damage. In the winter I will finally find out how well it works. I'm sure it will be great, as a friend had an Explorer last winter and he sayed he couldn't even tell when there was heavy snow on the ground.
Another thing I should mention is the rack and pinion steering. I find it is responsive, but some what disconnected from the road. It is a little hard to turn when parking, but it's not a car and I have to remember this. I think this is because the wheels are so much bigger than I am use to. In the city and on the highway the steering is very good and makes maneuvering easy unlike older 4X4's. Over-all I like the feel of the steering and rate it better than average.
I am very happy with my choice of SUV and I hope it is as reliable as my other Fords have been. I have high hopes for this vehicle, and a lot of confidence in Ford in general. I think people have to remember they are not driving a car and there are going to be differences. Even though it is an SUV, Ford did a great job making it feel like a mid-size sedan in some ways. I really would like to drive a four door Explorer to see how much difference there is with it's new independent suspension. Guess I'll have to rent one for a few days.