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2019 Ford Explorer

$32,365 - $54,165
Price Range (MSRP)
Ford Explorer

2019 Ford Explorer Review: Time To Say Goodbye

by Jay Traugott

Ford's Explorer has been the best-selling midsize crossover SUV in the U.S. for almost thirty years, but that trend is beginning to wane thanks to better-equipped and better-packaged competitors like the Honda Pilot offering more value. To curb this, a complete redesign is coming next year, but some changes have been made for the 2019 model too. Engine options include a 3.5-liter V6 with 290 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque, a 2.3-liter four-cylinder turbo with 10 hp less but 55 lb-ft more torque, and a range-topping 365 hp, 350 lb-ft V6 turbo, one of the best engines available in the class. Still one of the great seven-seat all-rounders in many ways, the Explorer is worth considering, but lower models are sparsely equipped while better packages are not cheap.

2019 Ford Explorer Changes: What’s the difference vs 2018 Explorer?

Very little differentiates the exterior of the base 2019 model from its predecessor a year earlier, with styling remaining vastly the same. However, a Desert Copper appearance package has been added to the XLT trim. The Limited also gets an update in the form of the Luxury Limited package. Both new trims add 20-inch wheels and mild accents, but the Limited's additions also include package-specific leather interior trimmings. Driver aid options and standard equipment have also been reshuffled. The Explorer Sport now gets heated second-row seating while the XLT is now standard with a power liftgate.

Pros and Cons

  • Optional twin-turbo V6 is versatile and powerful
  • Decent space
  • Smart looks
  • Plenty of options
  • Comfortable ride
  • Minimal standard equipment
  • Gets expensive quickly
  • Average performance from all but top two trims
  • Cheap interior with hard plastics aplenty in lower models

Explorer Exterior

Characterized by its "poor man's Range Rover" looks, the Explorer's large chrome-accented grille and LED signature lighting dominate the front styling, while the rear is highlighted by chrome dual exhaust tips on most trims with quad exits on top two. Wheels start from 18-inches in the base model and XLT, with that size swelling to 20-inches on all other trims (20's can be optioned on the XLT). LED headlights are included across the range, with LED fogs fitted to all but the base and XLT trims. A twin-panel sunroof is available from the XLT up, but comes standard on the top trim. With the Sport and Platinum aiming to be unique among the range, they are treated to numerous styling updates. The Sport gets black accenting on its grille, wing mirrors, tailgate, exhaust tips, and other body panels, as well as inside the headlights. The Platinum is similarly easy to distinguish, making use of chrome highlights in every place that the Sport gets gloss black.

2019 Ford Explorer Front View
2019 Ford Explorer Rear View
2019 Ford Explorer Front View
See All 2019 Ford Explorer Exterior Photos

Dimensions

The Explorer's curb weight varies depending on your engine and drivetrain choices, but the base weight is 4,453 lbs, with options also adding to your final mass. In terms of exterior dimensions, the Explorer is 70 inches tall, with a length of 198.7 inches and a maximum width, including mirrors, of 90.2 inches. Its wheelbase measures 112.8 inches and it has a minimum ground clearance of 7.8 inches, just about enough to mount sidewalks but not a lot more. A utilitarian off-roader this is not.

Exterior Colors

For 2019, a color palette of eight options is made available for the Explorer. 2018's Platinum Dune and Cinnamon Glaze color options have both been removed from the options list, while Shadow Black has been replaced with Agate Black. Oxford White is specific to the base model and XLT trims, but the base does without Magnetic and the optional colors that cost extra - Burgundy Velvet ($395), which looks rather upmarket, Ruby Red ($395) and White Platinum ($595), only offering Agate Black, Ingot Silver, Oxford White, and Blue. All the colors are available on all the other trims, from the XLT to the top Platinum trim.

  • Burgundy Velvet Metallic Tinted Clearcoat
  • Ruby Red Metallic Tinted Clearcoat
  • White Platinum Metallic Tri-Coat
  • Blue Metallic
  • Magnetic Metallic
  • Agate Black Metallic
  • Ingot Silver Metallic
  • Oxford White

Explorer Performance

If sportiness is what you're after, Ford has a good reputation of not just sticking on a badge that claims more fun without backing it up. The Explorer Sport features an all-wheel-drive system powered by a 3.5-liter V6 twin-turbo EcoBoost motor - a version of the same one found in the Ford GT and the F-150 Raptor - mated to a six-speed auto with paddle-shifters. A slightly stiffer suspension setup and 20-inch wheels make this the most fun model to drive. The 365 hp powerplant produces 350 lb-ft of torque, allowing for a 0-60 time of around six to seven seconds. This motor is only available on the Sport and Premium trims and only in conjunction with AWD. The benefit of this setup extends beyond acceleration too, because if you spec a tow hitch, you can haul up to 5,000 lbs, enough for a medium-sized boat and on par with rivals like the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot. On lesser models, an option of FWD and two other drivetrains are available. The 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6 is also capable of towing 5,000 lbs, while the 2.3-liter Ecoboost four-cylinder can manage around 3,000 lbs. Neither option will do it as comfortably as the turbo V6, though.

2019 Ford Explorer Front View Driving
2019 Ford Explorer Driving Action
2019 Ford Explorer Driving Action

Engine and Transmission

The base model, the XLT, and the Limited are fitted as standard with a 3.5-liter Ti-VCT V6 developing 290 hp and 255 lb-ft. This engine option is a little noisy and unrefined but will suit most duties and is capable of towing large capacities. All three trims have the option of fitting a smaller but torquier 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost four-pot producing 280 hp and 310lb-ft, an engine option that is more economical but slightly lethargic when it comes to pulling away from a dead stop. It also won't tow as much as its V6 sibling. The best option is found in the top two trims, which are equipped with the V6 EcoBoost turbo putting out 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. Shelling out for the top trims will be expensive, but acceleration and towing are easy tasks for this powertrain. It also sounds decent when cruising, unlike the less powerful options.

All engine choices are fitted with a six-speed automatic transmission, but the EcoBoost V6 options add a hint of sportiness to the mix with steering-mounted paddle-shifters. No manual option is available.

  • Engines
    2.3-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 3.5-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas, 3.5-liter V6 Gas
  • Transmission
    6-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    4X4, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

As we've already outlined, the Explorer is capable of towing a boat. However, the handling on most models is akin to that of a water vessel too. Body roll is fairly reasonable for this segment if more than those accustomed to smaller crossovers will expect. The benefit is that this means the Explorer is pretty comfortable if a little floaty over bumps. Steering is decent, whether at speed or when parking, making the Explorer easy to place on the road. The brakes are good too, offering a progressive feel and smooth stops every time. If the negative aspect of aloof handling affects your choice, the Sport model is worth your time. The electric steering has been tuned to be more responsive, and a tauter chassis makes it more fun to drive, even when you're not accelerating in a straight line. Mid-corner bumps are dealt with well, and the floatiness all but disappears. The sacrifice that comes with stiffer suspension is minimal in this case. Only the largest potholes will affect the ride quality through the 20-inch wheels, but the benefits in driving enjoyment outweigh the downsides of a marginally firmer ride.

Explorer Gas Mileage

The 3.5-liter V6 in the base model is naturally aspirated. With the standard front-wheel-drive setup, it returns on 17/24/20 mpg city/highway/combined. With four-wheel-drive, that drops to 16/22/18 mpg. If equipped with a 2.3-liter EcoBoost, front-wheel-drive models will return 19/27/22 mpg with all-wheel-drive models giving 18/25/21 mpg on the same cycles. The top-spec 3.5-liter V6 turbo is equipped exclusively with all-wheel-drive, and with return 16/22/18 mpg. All models are fitted with an 18.6-gallon tank, but the FWD 2.3-liter EcoBoost is the best for hypermiling, given an average estimated range of 409.2 miles on a full tank of premium unleaded gasoline.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    18.6 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 17/24 mpg
* 2019 Ford Explorer Base FWD

Explorer Interior

When it was launched, the Explorer was phenomenal, but these days, rivals have caught up and exceeded the Ford in terms of packaging, layout, and ergonomics. The base model's interior is overlaid with cheap materials and hard plastics, but it is solid and child-resistant. The third row's legroom is also quite restrictive for adults unless one seat is optioned out of the second row in favor of more comfortable, adjustable seats. The rest of the cabin is quite roomy, with ample headroom for adults. Higher trims are also treated to better materials and heated seats, with a power driver's seat on even the base trim. More expensive models add more features, with the Premium including power-adjustable pedals.

2019 Ford Explorer Dashboard
2019 Ford Explorer Driver Seat
2019 Ford Explorer Driver Seat
See All 2019 Ford Explorer Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

The Explorer seats eight adults across three rows. The downside to the second-row bench is that it is not adjustable, diminishing the legroom, ingress, and egress for those in the third row, all of which are decent for other occupants. To solve this problem and add comfort to those in the middle, a pair of bucket seats can be optioned. These are more luxurious than those in the rear and can slide, making access easier. They are also reclinable but lose the heating option. However, there is no center armrest, and armrests in the third row and even at the front can be awkward. The driving position in the optional heated and cooled front seats is good thanks to power adjustability, but excellent all-round visibility is impeded by large A and C-pillars.

  • Seating capacity
    7-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

The base Explorer is fitted with cloth seats, but every trim above that gets leather upholstery and a leather-trimmed steering wheel. Limited and Platinum trims are also treated to wood inlays on the dash and doors, and perforated leather, which also adorns the seats in the Sport. Color options are limited to an off-white in the base model, with black, two-tone black and brown as well as ceramic white available further up the model range. The Premium also has the addition of a wood insert on the steering wheel and its premium leather seats are quilted too.

Explorer Trunk and Cargo Space

With all seats upright, the trunk can carry 21 cubic feet, but if you fold the third row flat, that increases to 43.9 cubic feet. This is enough space to fit a stroller or a pair of golf bags, or luggage for four, plus a few grocery bags, while still seating five. The middle row folds in a 60/40 split with the bench and the center armrest is the same height as the folded seats if you spec the individual buckets here. Maximum storage with all the seats folded is 81.7 cubic feet, which is enough for a mountain bike with plenty of room to spare. To make things simpler, the rear seats can feature power-assisted folding.

10 cup holders are dotted around the car, with large door cards at each corner. The center armrest houses a medium-sized storage bin, which can be copied to the rear too. The glovebox is also rather cavernous.

2019 Ford Explorer Maximum Cargo Space
2019 Ford Explorer Trunk Space with Seat Folded
2019 Ford Explorer Trunk Space with Seat Folded

Explorer Infotainment and Features

Features

A rearview camera is fitted to the Explorer as standard, while rear parking sensors are an option. Spend some extra cash on higher trims and you get dual-zone automatic climate control with auxiliary rear controls, a hands-free power liftgate, and remote start. Other comfort and convenience features include massaging heated and cooled front seats, a heated second row, heated steering wheel, front parking sensors, auto windshield wipers, auto high beams and auto park assist. Driver aids are further supplemented by blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, while additional niceties include a WiFi hotspot and a twin-panel sunroof. A forward parking camera is also available.

Infotainment

The Explorer's standard SYNC infotainment system is average at best and features a 4.2-inch screen with six speakers (or seven in the XLT) but this can be upgraded with Ford's outstanding SYNC 3 eight-inch LCD touchscreen and a 12-speaker Sony sound system and a rear-seat DVD player. Premium models get an upgraded version of this sound system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also feature in addition to FordPass Connect for your smartphone apps, along with two USB ports in front and another two in the middle row. Bluetooth, SiriusXM, and voice-activated navigation are also available.

Explorer Problems and Reliability

The 2019 Ford Explorer suffered one recent recall towards the end of August this year that affected both FWD and AWD models. This recall was for a potentially faulty seat back recliner mechanism that may have been incorrectly assembled. No other issues have been reported, and J.D. Power has given a reliability score of 78/100. Ford offers all new vehicles with a three-year/36,000mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. A five-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty is also added, along with roadside assistance for the same period and a five-year/unlimited-mile corrosion warranty.

Explorer Safety

The Explorer's safety ratings are a mixed bag depending on the agency whose results you trust. The NHTSA awarded a full five-star overall safety rating, while the IIHS' results ranged from Poor and Marginal in the small front overlap tests, while more traditional crash tests yielded best-possible Good results.

Key Safety Features

The Explorer has a number of safety features available, from a standard rearview camera to auto park assist on the top model. Dual front, front side, and side curtain airbags supplement a glovebox knee airbag and seatbelt pre-tensioners from base to Platinum too. In between, you can have blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control with forward-collision warning, inflatable second-row safety belts, and a 180-degree front parking camera.

Verdict: Is the 2019 Ford Explorer a good SUV?

Much like many other cars that are groundbreaking and capture the market in a new segment or body style when first introduced, the Explorer has aged well and would be rated even higher, but the truth of the matter is that the current version of the best-selling SUV of the past three decades is overdue for next year's total redesign and rivals out there have capitalized on this.

The Explorer is still a spacious and capable vehicle that can match many rivals in terms of available equipment, but unfortunately, the price that these options attach is rather high, particularly when numerous rivals offer better features or don't charge for similar ones. That said, Ford still has one ace up its sleeve in the form of the Explorer Sport, which is great to drive and makes easy work of both long trips and short runs to the shops, thanks to its sharp steering and muscular engine. We'd still hold out for next year's all-new model, though, as rumors of an even better-to-drive ST model abound, likely packaged in a better vehicle than we have here.

What's the Price of the 2019 Ford Explorer?

The 2019 Ford Explorer starts at $32,365 for the front-wheel-drive base model. On all front-wheel-drive models, four-wheel-drive can be added for $2,150. The XLT starts at $34,400 with the same drivetrain. The Limited starts at $42,765 but gets the optional EcoBoost inline-four from the lower models' options lists. You can still spec the V6 though. The Sport is powered exclusively by the 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost with four-wheel-drive. This model costs $46,625. Finally, the Platinum starts at $54,165. All prices mentioned here exclude taxes and a $1,095 destination charge. Fully loaded, the Explorer costs $60,025 before taxes, but that cost can rise further with accessories for camping, mountain biking, skiing and so on.

2019 Ford Explorer Models

The Explorer's range is made up of five trims: Base, XLT, Limited, Sport, and Platinum.

The base is sparsely equipped but does feature a rearview camera, LED headlights, heated power mirrors, and trailer sway control. A naturally-aspirated V6 or an inline turbo-four are available.

The XLT gets optional dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, push-button start, rear park sensors, SiriusXM, and slight styling changes, although engine options are the same as on the base model.

The Limited has the same engine choices, albeit with the EcoBoost as standard, but adds 20-inch wheels, heated steering wheel, perforated leather upholstery, keyless entry, a post-crash alert system, and upgraded Sony audio with Ford's SYNC 3, voice-activated navigation, a front camera, and WiFi as well as power-folding third-row seats.

The Sport features a turbocharged V6 and all-wheel-drive only, unique styling upgrades, LED fog lamps, blind-spot monitoring as standard, front parking sensors, remote start, stiffer suspension, and retuned steering.

The Platinum is almost fully loaded and is fitted with the Sport's powertrain, but adds auto wipers, auto headlights, a pair of sunroof panels, a heated steering wheel, quilted bolsters on Nirvana leather seats, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control with forward-collision warning, and lots of chrome accents on the exterior.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Base
3.5-liter V6 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$32,365
XLT
3.5-liter V6 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$34,400
Limited
2.3-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$42,765
Sport
3.5-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
$46,625
Platinum
3.5-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
$54,165
See All 2019 Ford Explorer Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

A number of packages are available to spruce up your Explorer. The first notable one is available from the XLT model up and is called the Driver Connect package, which costs $2,780 and adds LED fog lamps, a power liftgate, and remote start - features that are standard on Sport and Platinum models. The Comfort package is made up of front park sensors and a heated steering wheel and will set you back $6,230. Its features are also available on the top two trims as standard. Another useful upgrade, available on the Limited and included as standard on the Platinum is the Luxury Limited package, which adds auto windshield wipers and headlights, lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control. This will add $1,905 to your bill.

What Ford Explorer Model Should I Buy?

The base model is too, well, basic, and subsequent trims are fitted with the same lethargic, unrefined engines, making them difficult to live with. You also have to pay extra for numerous safety and convenience options, which eventually make the lower models too expensive to justify.

The Sport is the cheapest way to avail yourself to the sublime 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 and it also features all-wheel-drive. The Sport also gets a lot of standard equipment like leather seats, 20-inch wheels and the top trailer towing system in the range. As an all-rounder that doesn't completely bankrupt you, this is the one to have.

Check out other Ford Explorer Styles?

2019 Ford Explorer Comparisons

2019 Ford Explorer
2019 Ford Explorer

2019 Ford Explorer vs Honda Pilot

The Honda Pilot is one of the less fancy-looking alternatives out there, but it is modern and has a lot going for it. It starts at $31,450 which is not much less than the Explorer's base price of $32,365. However, the Honda comes standard with adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and forward-collision warning - driver aids that you have to shell out big on the top Explorer model to get as standard. In terms of people-carrying, the Pilot can also seat eight individuals, and it does so more comfortably in the third row. The Honda wins on cargo space too, with 2.2 cubic feet more. Convenience-wise, the Honda features wireless charging and its base infotainment screen is also bigger. The Ford does win in one area - performance, as the Pilot is only available with a mediocre 280 hp V6 across the range, while the twin-turbo V6 available in the Explorer is phenomenal. It's not enough to beat the Honda overall, but next year's model might.

See Honda Pilot Review

2019 Ford Explorer vs Toyota Highlander

Toyota's Highlander is much like the Honda Pilot in that it is equipped with more safety features and a bigger touchscreen as standard, all of which the Explorer charges heavily for. The Highlander starts at a lower base price too and it handles better. It gets a fairly weak 185 hp four-cylinder engine in the base model, but all other trims are fitted with a strong V6 paired to an eight-speed auto. Automatic emergency braking is included too. The Toyota is starting to look like another reason to avoid the Ford, but it's not so one-sided. The Ford has more cargo and passenger space in the trunk and third row respectively, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available anywhere in the Highlander's range. The Explorer also does a good job of pretending to be a luxo-barge, whereas the Highlander feels more utilitarian. If you don't need a blingy SUV and ultimate comfort, the Japanese SUV will do fine, but overall, the Explorer is more comfortable, easier to live with, and arguably looks better.

See Toyota Highlander Review

Ford Explorer Popular Comparisons

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