Ford’s Explorer might not have been the first sport utility vehicle, but it’s difficult to ignore its influence on the auto industry. Selling nearly a quarter million units south of the border last year, and a not-too-shabby 15,615 here in the Great White North, the Explorer remains the top-dog in sales for three-row vehicles.
Last year’s update brought a new level of refinement to the Explorer with a new look, new powertrain options that include a new efficient turbo four with all-wheel drive, and a range-topping Platinum trim range. As such, there are really only a handful of changes for the Explorer for model year 2017.
Perhaps the biggest change is the introduction of the Sync3 system, which replaces the MyFord Touch interface. In addition to offering new graphics, and pinch-to-zoom capabilities for map viewing, it also boasts Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and the ability to download updates to the system via wi-fi.
The mid-grade XLT trim gains a new Appearance Package, which brings in the dark-finish exterior trim, grille, and larger dark-finish wheels of the Sport package, not to mention the suede-accented seats and contrast-stitched upholstery. While it has the look, it doesn’t get the Sport’s upgraded suspension, quick-ratio steering, or 365-hp EcoBoost twin-turbo V6. Instead, it can be had with either a naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 with 290 hp, or the aforementioned 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that puts out 280 hp.
XLT buyers can also fit their Explorers with a new Technology Bundle which stuffs navigation, an auto-dimming driver’s side mirror, hands-free power tailgate, blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, and inflatable second-row seatbelts. In addition to saving you the ink in your pen from ticking off the options separately, the packages $1,750 price undercuts the standalone options by $400 – money that can otherwise be spent on the new-for-2017 Smoked Quartz metallic paint or optional painted alloy wheels. Canyon Ridge and White Gold paint options are also new for this year (at no extra charge).
Regardless if it’s ordered in base trim or Range Rover-esque Platinum trim, the Explorer offers plenty of space for up to seven passengers and luggage. Key optional features include power folding and tumbling third-row seats, Terrain Management, radar cruise control with collision warning and emergency autonomous braking, heated and ventilated seats, and a dual-pane panoramic sunroof.
Compared to its rivals, Dodge’s Durango offers tried and true V8 power, not to mention utilitarian towing and hauling abilities, while GM’s aging Lambda vehicles – the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse – offer more total cargo space, though these vehicles are noticeably larger. For reference, the four-cylinder Explorers can tow up to 3,000 lbs, while ones fitted with V6 power increase that to 5,000 lbs.
Perhaps the biggest challengers to the Explorer come from Toyota and Honda; the Highlander’s blend of efficiency and maneuverability make it a worthy rival. Much the same can be said for the Honda. Both lack the available gusto of the Ford’s turbocharged engines.
Pricing for the 2017 Ford Explorer starts at $33,999, with the range-topping Platinum selling for $59,599.