2015 Ford Explorer Limited

December 4, 2014
By

2015 Ford Explorer

Overview Big, comfortable soft-roading SUV

Pros Interior volume, classy cabin, intuitive infotainment system

Cons Light steering, limited towing, ugly grille

Value for money Good

What would I change? Bring back some off-road brawn and towing capacity

2015 Ford Explorer

Passing judgment on automotive style is something best left to the beholding eye. However, sometimes there’s a feature that sticks out like a hammered thumb and just cannot be ignored — so it was with the Ford Explorer Limited. It was not my eye that caught the quirk, but a cyclist who took the time to pedal back and tell me how much he disliked “the electric shaver grille.” Who am I to disagree? It is an odd facade.

2015 Ford Explorer

What lies behind the grille is all about big. There is a ton of space in the front seats, acres of stretch-out room in the middle row and a surprisingly useful third row seat that can be powered up into position at the touch of a button or dropped just as easily. Accessing all seating positions is also something that’s easily accomplished. Then there’s the cargo capacity. With all three rows in place there is 594.8 litres (0.8L? please!). With the third row stowed the Explorer makes light work of 1,239.3L of stuff and with the middle row folded the Explorer opens up a cavernous 2,285.6L, which is enough for just about any eventuality.

The Explorer also succeeds in terms of the cabin layout and the manner in which it is finished. The centre stack is dominated by a large touch-sensitive screen with a swanky piano-black touch pad sitting neatly below. The screen shows the chosen function and puts the others items in corners — audio, climate, navigation and phone. The touch pad gives direct access to the climate and audio functions. The combination makes everything so simple to use.

2015 Ford Explorer

The instrumentation is also a little different. On either side of the speedometer are two screens. The left screen can be customized to suit the driver’s needs. It can show the tachometer with fuel gauge, tachometer with temperature gauge or display the all-wheel-drive system’s mode and it allows the driver to set the vehicle up including MyKey. The right screen gives the driver access to the same functions as the centre stack screen, but in miniature. As dashboards go, the Explorer’s is a good one that allows the driver to pick off the needed information quickly and easily.

The Limited I tested was loaded, although that did add almost $10,000 to the sticker price. It included adaptive cruise control, a back-up camera with a sonar-based assistant, blind spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert along with a list of other amenities too long to list. It also featured Ford’s active park assist — engage it and it automatically parks the big rig. Finally, there were the two individual screens integrated into the front seat headrests. These kept the kids amused for hours, and without the usual fight over what to watch!

Size does have its downside. While the Explorer wafts over rough roads without missing a beat, head into a corner with a degree of enthusiasm and the body rolls over until the suspension finally takes a set. At first it feels as though it is never going to stop leaning — it does settle down and it hold the driver’s intended line well. It is the high seating position that exaggerates the sense of roll. The steering is also on the light side — it is perfect for wheeling around the local mall, but not so good through a fast corner.

The Explorer Limited’s 3.5-litre V6 delivers 290 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. Not bad numbers as they appear on paper. However, motivating the Explorer’s portly mass taxes this engine. The run from rest to 100 kilometres an hour takes a rather leisurely 9.4 seconds, while the more important 80 to 120 km/h passing move coming in at 7.4 seconds. The good news is the six-speed automatic slips through its gears smoothly and it has a manual mode. Unfortunately, it requires the shifter to be moved to the manual position and then switch gears through a toggle on the shifter. It is just too cumbersome to be of any use whatsoever.

2015 Ford Explorer

The power is relayed to all four wheels through Ford’s intelligent all-wheel-drive system. It is proficient at what it does and leaves the driver unaware of its action, which is always welcome. It also includes Terrain Response and a downhill assistant. Terrain Response offers Normal, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Grass/Gravel/Snow modes. Each mode alters the manner in which the engine, transmission, stability control and all-wheel-drive work together. For example, Mud/Ruts brings a more aggressive throttle response, it delays the upshifts and dials back the stability control system to allow limited wheelspin. This proved to be the fun setting — it was not designed to do that, but it did.

As for tackling tough off-road terrain, well, it takes an optimist to venture much further than a cottage access road. Unlike its body-on-frame predecessor, this Explorer is a soft-roader that will not do much more than crawl up said gnarly cottage lane. Yes, the all-wheel advantage does bring better on-road stability, but it does not do much when trying to plod up a steep slippery slope.

2015 Ford Explorer

The latest Ford Explorer is a mixed bag. If it’s viewed as a big, comfortable soft-roading crossover with the advantage of all-wheel-drive it works nicely. If the desire is for some off-road ability and towing capacity, it misses the mark. Yes, the 2015 Limited will tow 2,268 kilograms, but that’s 966 kg less than the 2010 Explorer. Pick the 2.0L EcoBoost engine and you are limited to a feeble 908-kg trailer. When towing matters, that’s not enough muscle to pull the skin off a rice pudding.

The Specs


Type of vehicle Full-sized SUV

Engine 3.5L, DOHC, V6

Power 290 @ 6,500 rpm; 255 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,000 rpm

Transmission Six-speed manumatic

Brakes Four-wheel disc with ABS

Tires P265/50R20

Base (price/as tested) $29,704 /$53,499 (before rebate)

Destination charge $1,750

Natural Resources Canada fuel economy (L/100 km) 14.2 city and 10.3 highway

Standard features Dual-zone automatic climate control with filtration and rear controls, power locks, windows and mirrors, cruise control, leather seating surfaces, power adjustable pedals, Ford Sync with MyFord Touch, Sony audio system with 12 speakers and USB/SD inputs, keyless entry with push-button start, 110-volt outlet, reverse-sensing system with back-up camera, rain-sensing wipers, power liftgate, universal garage door opener and more

Notable options Package 302A ($2,700), entertainment system ($2,100), dual panel moonroof ($1,750), adaptive cruise ($1,500), voice-activated navigation ($800), inflatable rear seatbelts (250).

To order your new 2015 Ford Explorer Limited rival with a brand new Ford 3.5L V6 FFV for only US$19,500.

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