- Slight refresh for 2014; seats six or seven passengers
- Choice of V-6 engine or an efficient EcoBoost four-cylinder
- New Explorer Sport trim which features a 365-hp, twin-turbo V-6 and AWD
2014 brings a few changes for the Ford Explorer, the first set of updates since its very extensive redesign a few years ago, most notably a brand new trim that injects plenty of sport (yes, sport) into the midsize crossover.
The Explorer competes with other midsize crossovers like the Toyota Highlander and Chevrolet Traverse. When it was redesigned, the Explorer ditched its old truck-like construction and now shares a platform with the Taurus sedan. The trip to crossover land was not a death-knell for the Explorer but instead was something more akin to a rebirth; it emerged slightly tamer, but with a better ride, improved fuel economy, and with the available Terrain Management System it is still a very competent off-road warrior.
On the outside, not much has changed. The face gets some minor updates with new grilles, which one you get will be based on the trim that you buy. As with most of Ford’s offerings, as you step up in the trims (and the dollars) you get more exterior bang for your buck. The base trim offers 17-inch wheels and black plastic pieces in several exterior sports. The XLT adds body colored door handles and larger 18-inch alloy wheels, while the Limited trim gets its own 20-inch alloys and body colored side mirrors.
Inside, each 2014 Explorer will offer three-rows of seating for up to seven passengers, six if the optional second-row captain’s chairs are equipped. The Explorer’s interior is a rather nice place to spend time, both as a driver and a passenger with plenty of headroom. There’s also a decent amount of cargo room, even with the third-row up (21 cubic feet). One of the Explorer’s selling points is the sheer amount of technology you can cram in the cabin if you so desire: MyFord Touch with its touch-sensitive controls and LCD screens, a Sony premium stereo, SYNC, and a navigation system are all available. Heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, leather upholstery, and a power folding third row are also offered for enhanced convenience and comfort.
Under the hood, the Explorer’s lofty mpg figures come courtesy of its optional engine, a 240-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost mill. The standard engine is a 290-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. Both are mated to a six-speed automatic and take regular fuel. The V-6 loses ground on fuel efficiency, but makes it up when it comes to towing with a 5,000 pound capacity vs. the EcoBoost four-cylinder’s 2,000 pound maximum. Front-wheel drive is standard, with an intelligent all-wheel drive system that features the aforementioned Terrain Management System is optional. Terrain Management lets the user choose between four different conditions (pavement, snow, sand, or mud) and the all-wheel drive will adjust accordingly to suit whatever surface you happen to be on (or in).
The Explorer excelled on crash tests, earning both a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS and a full five-star overall rating from the NHTSA. Safety features include standard antilock brakes, electronic stability system, six airbags, and an advanced roll stability control system which prevents rollover crashes. Optional are adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, a backup camera, and airbag-like inflatable rear seatbelts which keep rear occupants safer in a frontal collision.