2021 Ford Explorer

Reviews

Ford stocks the Explorer’s closet with powertrains to suit just about any occasion. A turbo-4 is standard in most trims, but a higher-output turbo V-6 and a gas-electric hybrid system fit the family hauler well.

It’s a 7 for performance based on the workaday 2.3-liter turbo-4. It has a smooth ride and just enough power for a point above average.

Is the Ford Explorer AWD?

Very. On all three available engines, Ford offers all-wheel drive—for a $2,000 fee, or it’s standard equipment on Explorer Platinum and ST.

How fast is the Ford Explorer?

The base engine is a 2.3-liter turbo-4 borrowed from, among other vehicles, the Ford Mustang. In the Explorer, it churns out 300 hp and 310 lb-ft and shuttles power to the rear or all four wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission.

It’s plenty of power for around-town errands and highway speeds; it’s enough to keep us satisfied in most situations.

Explorer ST and Platinum versions strap in a 3.0-liter turbo V-6 that makes 400 hp and 415 lb-ft or 365 hp and 380 lb-ft in those trim levels, respectively. All-wheel drive is standard on both models, and the powertrain is plenty brisk—Ford quotes a top speed of 143 mph on Explorer ST, and it likely hits 60 mph in less than six seconds—but at normal, daily speeds, the extra power is a little wasted.

The Explorer Hybrid excels at efficiency, at least as far as big family haulers are concerned. It pairs a 3.3-liter V-6 with an electric motor and hybrid batteries to make 318 hp and 322 lb-ft combined. The most efficient Explorer Hybrid is rear-wheel drive only (EPA-rated at 28 mpg combined) and all-wheel drive is available with a small gas mileage penalty (25 mpg combined). The hybrid powertrain may be the most efficient, but it’s also the least refined. At slow speeds, the powertrain judders between 15-40 mph. Off the line, the hybrid feels the quickest, but it only drives well when it’s pressed hard—mostly the opposite of how people drive hybrid vehicles. The Explorer Hybrid can travel on electricity alone for short distances, at speeds up to 50 mph, with a very gentle right foot.

All Explorers are equipped with multiple drive modes including Normal, Sport, Trail, Slippery, Tow/Haul, and Eco. With all-wheel drive, Snow and Sand modes are included.

All Explorers are quiet on the road and ride softly, a boon over prior Explorers with a much shorter wheelbase. Compared to other three-row family crossovers, the Explorer is impressively sedate with smooth motions and a buttoned-down ride. The Explorer ST gets the stiffest suspension, but it’s still acquitted to daily life more than track detail.

Ford offers 18- to 21-inch tall wheels on the Explorer, with a better ride available on the smaller wheel size; there’s just enough sidewall on the tires to soak up some road imperfections.

Review continues below

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