2011 Ford Explorer LTD 4WD new car reviews

The Ford Explorer gets a redo for 2011.

Better than: Acura ZDX
But not as good as: BMW X5, maybe
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 52.41

The Explorer got a bit of a black eye a few years back, but Ford didn't give up on their mid-sized SUV. They allowed the nameplate to live on and released an all-new version for 2011.

Highlights: The new Explorer is lighter and more efficient than its predecessors. It also features improved safety gear, including inflatable rear seat belts.

We drove this one during our recent trip to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the vintage race festivities. The big option was a $4910 package that added luxury seating, a power lift gate, voice-activated navigation, blind spot monitoring and HID projector lamps.

Other staff views

Joe Gearin Joe Gearin
Associate Publisher

Remember the first Explorer? Based on the Ranger mini-truck the first version was small, cheap and utilitarian. Ford sold about a zillion copies. Since those days the Explorer has steadily moved upscale, with bigger, heavier and more luxurious versions. This latest Explorer is a quantum leap ahead of it's forebears in nearly all respects. Our tester had the upscale interior which was so nice it could have come out of the latest Range Rover. This new truck is also damn good looking, and its 3.5-liter engine moves it with authority. What makes the engine performance so impressive is that this Explorer is big, huge, massive, giant, gargantuan—so much so that the original Explorer may just fit within the hatch of the new one.

These days focus groups play a strong role in automotive design, especially for bread and butter machines like this new Ford. Unfortunately these focus groups tell designers that people feel safe with high door sills, thick pillars, and lots of sheetmetal.All of these things reduce the a driver's outward visibility, which actually decreases safety, instead of improving it. The Explorer suffers from this committee-based design, and because of this the driver can't see the edges of the truck, 3/4 visibility is poor, and rearward vision is compromised. Ford has addressed this by giving the Explorer every electronic safety doodad it could muster. Lane change departure warnings, rear vision cameras, blind spot warnings, and other "safety" features abound. Some of them work well (rear camera) others are less accurate (blind spot warning). The tech doesn't end with the safety equipment though, as this truck was equipped with Ford's Sync system. This system may be great for the long-term owner who longs for a "Hal" like relationship with his car's computer. For the rest of us though the system is non-intuitive and frustrating. Once simple tasks are now buried under 3 menus of options. This is progress?

This new Explorer is big, powerful, and extremely well appointed. If you can tolerate the overload of technology, it may be worth a look.

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Comments

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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/14/11 1:19 p.m.

No, we didn't have an EcoBoost. Someone got a little excited. We had the N/A 3.5.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/10/13 12:00 a.m.

The Explorer got a bit of a black eye a few years back, but Ford didn't give up on their mid-sized SUV. They allowed the nameplate to live on and released an all-new version for 2011.

Highlights: The new Explorer is lighter and more efficient than its predecessors. It also features improved safety gear, including inflatable rear seat belts.

We drove this one during our recent trip to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the vintage race festivities. The big option was a $4910 package that added luxury seating, a power lift gate, voice-activated navigation, blind spot monitoring and HID projector lamps.

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