TheCarConnection.com has thoroughly studied what other professionals had to say about the Ford Explorer in order to write this inclusive review. This review from TheCarConnection.com also includes firsthand descriptions from TheCarConnection.com's editors and compares the 2009 Explorer with other SUVs to give you solid, unbiased advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.
Back in the early 1990s, the Ford Explorer quickly became one of the most popular family vehicles. The current version of the Explorer, introduced in 2006, is the best one yet in terms of promising some truck-like towing and hauling ability while still also allowing comfortable and safe transport, but today there are better options for a roomy, versatile family vehicle.
In the Ford lineup, the 2009 Ford Explorer is just below the Expedition and ahead of the Taurus X, Flex, Edge, and Escape in terms of exterior size and capabilities. Technically a mid-size SUV, it is far from small and can be equipped to seat up to seven and tow up to an impressive 7,285 pounds.
The standard drivetrain for the Ford Explorer is a 210-horsepower 4.0-liter V-6 matched with a five-speed automatic. There is an optional 292-horsepower 4.6-liter V-8 powerplant that comes with a six-speed automatic transmission. Both engines come with standard rear-wheel drive, and either can be mated with a choice of Ford's ControlTrac four-wheel drive or full-time all-wheel drive if you want extra traction.
Editors from TheCarConnection.com find the V-6 engine noisier than the V-8, as the smaller engine has to work harder to keep the Explorer hustling along. Interestingly, the mpg numbers for the V-8 with the six-speed transmission are better than those of the V-6. That clean exterior shape certainly helps keep wind noise to a minimum.
The AdvanceTrac (electronic stability control) system with roll stability control is standard. Performance in government crash tests is good.
Ford brings the Explorer into the 2009 model year with the familiar base XLT, Eddie Bauer, and Limited trim levels. A XLT Sport package joins the lineup for the 2009 as well. New standard features include Trailer Sway control that works with the AdvanceTrac and Roll Stability control to keep trailers under control during towing. Also available is the next-generation voice-activated navigation system with Sirius Travel Link.
People buy SUVs for their versatility and high seating position. The 2009 Ford Explorer delivers on both. The ride is smoother than that of other truck-based utes, and the independent rear suspension adds to its stability and responsive handling, but make no mistake--the Explorer is based on a truck platform and rides as such. If you want a more car-like ride, there are many crossovers to consider.
Editors of TheCarConnection.com are impressed with the interior quality of the Ford Explorer. Feature-wise, the 2009 Ford Explorer offers just about anything a buyer might want in an SUV, including a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a power-folding third-row seat (which increases the Explorer's seating capacity to seven).
The Bottom Line:
If you are looking for a truck-based SUV that can tow, the Ford Explorer is ahead of most of its rivals.