The moment you spot a huge hunk of SUV with a blue oval in the center while you are on the highway, you are instinctively going to slow down. The Ford Explorer has that kind of intimidating vibe around it as it has long been viewed as the Police mobile. The sixth generation of the Ford Explorer features drastic changes to the design and mechanicals of the Explorer which on paper make it much more desirable than before. In practical terms though, is the Ford Explorer worthy of the price it commands?
The 2023 Ford Explorer has bidden adieu to it’s FWD layout and moved towards a new unibody platform that sends power to the rear wheels. The Body on Frame, truck-based underpinnings has been tossed out by Ford in favor of a more modern and sophisticated setup that is supposed to be more compliant as well as capable on the road. This change is one of the biggest changes that you notice, the moment you start driving.
The Explorer appears to be much tauter than before and also surprisingly more compliant over bad roads which goes to show how much Ford has worked on the mechanicals of the new Explorer. The 2.3 liters turbocharged inline 4 pushing out 300 hp is the base engine on offer on the Explorer, but it can be had with either a 3.0 liter V6 pushing out 365 hp or a hybrid powertrain which utilizes a 3.3 liter V6 ultimately producing 318 hp and an additional 44 hp via the electric motor.
The all-new Explorer is also rated at towing a respectable 5600 pounds when equipped with the towing package which is partly due to the Ford and General Motors jointly developed 10 Speed Automatic transmission. As much as the Explorer has shed off its duty old farmer boots in favor of a nice pair of oxfords, it still hasn’t given them a proper shine as the Explorer is still quite rough around the edges.
The Hybrid particularly is quite a let down due to the abrupt transitions between the combustion engine and the electric motor while simultaneously being unnecessarily harsh inside the cabin. The 10 Speed gearbox which has been wonderful in other Ford products seems to be a little too over-enthusiastic with the shifts and does have an audible whine when operated in colder climates. If you want to read more about other trims of Ford Explorer you can visit Carindigo.com
Moving along on the inside, Ford has certainly upped the ante by completely redesigning the interior of the 2023 Ford Explorer and the cabin appears to be a much better place than it ever was before. The Digital gauge cluster that replaces the traditional analog speedometer is extremely attractive and is definitely the center of attraction. The graphics are crisp and swift and there is no hint of lag between animated transitions which help enhance the experience.
The seats are wide and accommodating and can be equipped with massaging functionality for the driver. The front two rows are generously accommodating and offer decent levels of comfort and support but it is the third row that is specifically disappointing as it lacks support for the passengers and is definitely not a place to be for taller adults. If hauling people is going to the primary purpose of your vehicle, then the Explorer might just be a wise choice for you since it does have respectable levels of space on offer but that is where the party ends.
Sadly, the interior starts to show its flaws quite easily the moment you start to dig a little deeper with the biggest eyesore in the form of the central infotainment touch screen. Ford has tried to replicate what Tesla, Volvo, and Dodge have achieved with their infotainments by offering a vertical infotainment display instead of a traditional one but Boy is it a catastrophe. The moment you set eyes on the display, you notice how awkwardly it has been placed in the center dash and how cheap the huge bezels on the display look.
It wouldn’t be wrong of someone to assume that the infotainment is an aftermarket job as it looks like Ford stuck on a tablet that it purchased on sale from Walmart. The moment you engage reverse, you realize how inefficient the use of space on the screen is as the reversing camera merely occupies a quarter of the entire screen which is just comical to look at.
The $1000 optional Bang and Olufsen audio system although it seems to be something you would want, turns out to be an utter disappointment as the bass is muddy and the vocals seem to crack the moment you turn up the volume. It is also sad to see how shoddily some of the panels in the interiors of the Explorer have been put together which makes you ponder if Ford has designed this vehicle to primarily be a fleet vehicle. The Explorer does come pretty well equipped in it’s higher states of trims with stuff like a powered liftgate, three-zone climate control, 360 camera and various safety technologies that are expected at this price point.
For a person who has been long invested in the Ford line of vehicles and has come to accept the general weak points of a Ford vehicle as part and parcel of ownership, The 2023 Ford Explorer might appear to be a pretty reasonable choice as it is completely refreshed and is far better than the previous generation of the Explorer that was based on the Volvo architecture which is nothing more than a relic now.
But for most other individuals who have experienced more sophisticated offerings in the segment in the form of the Kia Telluride and the Hyundai Palisade or even the Lincoln Navigator, it does start to dawn on you that the first model year of the new Explorer is still quite a half baked product that is going to need some polishing before it can be considered a worthy alternative to the 20 others in this highly competitive segment.
In my good conscience, it would be tough for me to recommend a vehicle like the Ford Explorer to the general public as there are much better offerings on sale right now that just decimate it in every domain you can think of and the way the Ford corporate structure seems to strategize Ford’s future plans, I might be in for a lineup of disappointing vehicles from a manufacturer that has quite a lot of potential.