I traded my 2002 Ford Explorer Sport and bought my 2017 Ford Explorer XLT exactly one year ago today. Before buying this car, I seriously considered the Mercedes GLK350, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the Lincoln MKC. The GLK350 went out of production before I needed to buy a new car, I liked Ford's quality/reliability better than Jeep's after my positive experience with my 2002 Explorer Sport, and the Explorer was more car for the money than the MKC. What clinched the deal for the Explorer was when I saw one with the 200A option package--it's all about the options. I had previously seen only Explorers that were loaded with infotainment options--junk I will never use and find to be an annoyance. This model did not have that, which brought the price down into a better range. I also caught the dealer at the right time, and paid about $6,000 less than I was prepared to.
This vehicle is far more comfortable and quiet than my 2002 Explorer, although the intelligent 4WD is not "real" 4x4 as the older models. I was prepared to give that up, though I miss being able to select low range from a 2-speed transfer case for creeping down icy hills in winter. Despite this small drawback, the 2017 is really great. Let me enumerate the ways:
The cabin is roomy--almost cavernous--and comfortable. Also quiet. It's the first vehicle I've owned that you can have a quiet conversation at highway speed, as you just hear no road noise. The ride is very smooth, even handling most potholes and expansion joints.
This is my first 4 cylinder. As someone who always espoused V-8s, I have moved progressively down the line to the V-6 in my previous 2002 Explorer and now to a 4-cylinder. Once upon a time, 4-cylinders were derided. But now, all I can say is, who cares, because it's just not an issue with the Ecoboost. I have yet to find a situation in which acceleration was less than I needed. It goes as fast as you need it to go, and doesn't take long to get there. In fact, it took some time to get used to the effortless power. I see why the 2.0 Ecoboost is considered an upgrade to the regular V-6.
For regular driving in bad weather, I had already been willing to accept that front-wheel-drive is more efficient, and I've not been disappointed with the FWD default in this drive train. I've used the select-terrain, more about that below, and it's worked fine. As I said above, the only thing I really miss is not having the option to choose a low-range for hill descent. When things are that bad, I fall back on gently riding the brakes in neutral, as my hill sometimes ices over. Still, going up the same icy hill has not been a problem, not even an effort. In one instance this winter, I went up the hill effortlessly that a guy came down sideways with bulging eyes and an ashen face.
Even though the outside dimensions are not that much greater than my 2002 Explorer Sport, a 2-door, the inside is positively cavernous, and it feels like a large vehicle. It's only about a foot longer than my 2002, and yet I feel that visibility is somewhat compromised--I'm constantly checking the side mirrors. By the way, the small convex mirror inserts on the side mirrors are supposed to help, but they're a distraction to me in that I find myself staring at them too long to make sure there is nothing in the blind spots. I've had some examples of vehicles suddenly appearing next to me seemingly out of nowhere despite my efforts to constantly check every angle. Lane changes to the right seem to take a leap of faith to some degree. Also, because of the sloping hood, it is hard to judge where the front passenger side fender is. When I parallel park by backing in, I look like a champion. However, if I pull in frontward, I'm sensitive to the potential for hitting something because it's hard to judge where the vehicle is and invariably end up 18-24 inches away from the curb. I also have to pay extra attention to pedestrians in crosswalks because the slope of the front window posts tends to hide them.
It has 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, and probably most cars do. I wouldn't own one that doesn't. Braking is almost too quick, one has to be careful to not tromp either the brake pedal or the accelerator too hard because the car responds pretty quickly.
And now for driving impressions. I bought this car, trading my 2002 Explorer Sport, in preparation for a road trip and camping trip to Utah and Colorado last Summer. It was a 1,500 mile drive across the US Midwest and Plains, as well as across the Rockies, to reach Utah. For two of us to go camping for a month, it was definitely nice to have the room. We filled up the back and back seat, and I saw that the MKC or GLK350 would have been very cramped in comparison. The most punishing aspect was the 20 miles of washboard road from Capitol Reef to the switchbacks into Escalante National Monument. They were so miserable that I couldn't bear to go faster than 5 mph to avoid destroying the suspension of my new car. Most of the dirt roads, however, were quite comfortable, even gravel roads. When we left Utah, an outdoor truck wash was required to get mud and dirt out of all the places it had infiltrated, but none of the fine dust penetrated the cabin. In Colorado the Explorer was put more to the test. Despite what I would describe as the lack of "real" 4x4, it was an effortless drive from Ouray in the San Juan Mountains up into Yankee Boy Basin past the Camp Bird Mine, during a late spring snowstorm. Yankee Boy Basin is about 11,000 feet above sea level in the Colorado San Juans and accessed by a wide 1-lane wagon road largely blasted out of the cliff face overhanging a steep gorge with no guard rails. Similarly, the Explorer was adequate for driving the Alpine Loop to Engineer Pass, another rock strewn old mine road with steep, rutted sections. We broke out the Coleman stove for lunch in a snow field at about 11,000 feet above sea level, so I would say that for all practical purposes, the Explorer with its 4-cylinder and front-wheel-drive/intelligent all-wheel-drive drive train got us where we wanted to go to live the dream. Obviously it's not a Jeep Rubicon or a Unimog, but the kind of off-road capability that those vehicles have comes at a price of everyday driving comfort. After all, for the 100 miles I spent on those kinds of roads for that vacation, I spent 18,000 miles on paved highways during the past year, so for that percentage of usage, I think the Explorer has the right mix of capability.
Gas mileage is a treat. The sticker advertised 21 mpg highway. On the way to Colorado across the Midwest, the Explorer XLT was consistently getting 25-27 MPG. Driving to work now, a 12-mile drive one-way consisting of 2 miles of stoplights and 10 miles of highway, gas mileage is indeed 21 MPG. Maintenance so far has consisted only of oil changes at the dealer, about $45 every 5,000 miles to maintain the dealer's lifetime powertrain warranty.
For anyone interested in the radio--sorry, that's not really my thing. It sounds great to me. There is still a single CD player that I occasionally get some use out of. It came with Sirius, which I let expire after 6 months. It was kind of like Cable TV--why pay for the same programing over and over?
I've only owned this car for a year, but so far it reminds me of an Apple product--so reliable that you don't even have to think about it. Even the push-button start reminds me of just turning on a computer--you're not supposed to think about it, it just works. For the part of this review in which you choose a smiley face, I would give it two smiley faces.