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2019 Ford Explorer Review

With a total redesign coming for 2020, the 2019 Ford Explorer hosts changes primarily cosmetic with some light shuffling of content. But what hasn’t changed at all is its terrific ride, handsome design and high-end cabin. Ford still loads it full of cutting-edge technology for staying connected and safe.

The Explorer’s ride makes some luxury crossovers envious. Its 3-row seating isn’t as spacious as some competitors, but it still rates a look when shopping for a large crossover.

What’s New for 2019?

FordPass Connect replaces SYNC Connect on the top three grades. Blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is now standard on the top four trims. Ford Safe and Smart Package with adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning/brake support, and lane-keeping assist is standard on Platinum, and available on XLT, Limited and Sport trims. There are also assorted changes in other option packages, as well as a few new grade-specific appearance tweaks. See the 2019 Ford Explorer models for sale near you

What We Like

  • The whole driving experience: The cabin is tranquil and upscale, and the ride is serene
  • Useful fuel economy from the 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbo 4-cylinder engine
  • Impressive power from the 3.5-liter turbo V6
  • Terrain-responsive intelligent all-wheel-drive system is another plus.

What We Don’t

  • Pretty snug in the third row — it’s best for kids
  • Maximum towing ability of 5,000 pounds is merely adequate.

How Much?


Fuel Economy

The entry level engine for the first two trim levels is a 3.5-liter V6 developing 290 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque. All Explorers have a 6-speed automatic transmission.

A base model with front-wheel drive is estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to achieve 17 miles per gallon in the city, 24 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg in combined driving. AWD versions achieve 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined.

The top two trims also use a 3.5-liter V6, but this unit is turbocharged to produce 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. Consumption is quoted at 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/18 mpg combined.

A 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder is optional ($895) in the first two trims and standard on Limited grade. It balances a punchy 280 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque with an impressive 19 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined for FWD models or 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined with AWD. This version can tow up to 3,000 pounds.

Standard Features & Options

The 2019 Ford Explorer is offered in Base, XLT, Limited, Sport and Platinum trims. Many of the standard features in the higher levels are available as options in the lower trims. Standard on the Sport and Platinum, AWD is a $2,150 option on Base, XLT and Limited grades. All prices include factory delivery fee.

Base ($33,460) comes with a decent list of standard equipment, including 18-in alloy wheels, keyless entry, LED lighting front and rear, auto on/off headlights, a rearview camera (with a washer), an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a third-row split/folding seat, heated power outboard mirrors, a capless fuel filler, Bluetooth, USB ports, Ford SYNC, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, MyKey, a 6-speaker audio system and a 4.2-in display.

A new Safe and Smart package bundles together rain-sensing wipers, automatic high beams, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control with forward-collision mitigation.

XLT ($35,495) brings LED fog lights, rear parking sensors, roof rack side rails, upgraded brakes, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, satellite radio, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a 6-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, push-button start and satellite radio.

The XLT Sport Appearance Package includes 20-in alloy wheels, bespoke grille and mirror caps, plus black side cladding and roof rack. The cabin gets dark gray leather front seats with suede seatback inserts, contrast stitching, door trim inserts and a few more cosmetic additions.

The XLT Driver Connect Package brings voice-activated navigation with real-time traffic updates, AppleCar Play, Android Auto, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a power lift gate, an upgraded 7-speaker audio system, Wi-Fi hot spot and an 8-in touchscreen.

Limited ($43,860) has leather upholstery, 20-in wheels, a hands-free power lift gate, a front-facing camera (with a washer), an 8-in touchscreen, voice-activated navigation, power adjustment for the steering wheel and pedals, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated/ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, power-folding function for the third seating row, remote start, ambient cabin lighting, Wi-Fi, SYNC 3 upgraded infotainment system with 12-speaker Sony audio system, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, LED fog lights, an 110-volt outlet, navigation and an 8-in touchscreen. Active Park Assist is an option.

Sport ($47,720) has 20-in wheels of a different design to the Limited version. It also has a sportier suspension tune and AWD as standard. Some of the Limited’s equipment is optional in the Sport, like the navigation system and power tailgate. Standard features include second-row armrest with cup holders, perforated leather seating with red-accent stitching and trailer-tow package.

Platinum($55,260) gets pretty much everything listed up to this point, along with a dual sunroof, a parking assistance for perpendicular/parallel spaces, Ford Safe and Smart Package, rain-sensing wipers, higher-grade cabin materials, power adjustable pedals with memory, and an upgraded version of 12-speaker Sony audio with live acoustics. The only options here are power-folding captain’s chairs for the second row and a rear entertainment system.


The Explorer comes with front, front-side impact and front-knee airbags, plus side-curtain airbags covering all three rows. Inflatable seat belts are optional for the two outside rear seats — they cushion occupants from injury in an accident and are compatible with child safety seats.

Standard safety equipment includes anti-lock disc brakes, stability control, trailer sway control and hill start assist, which keeps the vehicle from rolling backward when stopped on an incline.

A number of safety/driver-assist technologies are either standard or available on all grades.

The Explorer has received a perfect 5-star rating in government crash tests, including top marks for both front and side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also awarded the Explorer the highest possible score of Good in almost every category, although a Marginal (second worst) score was issued in the small-overlap front-impact test.

Behind the Wheel

By 3-row crossover standards, the Explorer feels solid and connected to the road. Steering is firm and accurate, while curves are handled reasonably well. From the driver’s seat, however, the vehicle feels larger than it really is. That’s partly due to outward vision hindered by narrow side glass and thick pillars front and rear. It’s a smooth and quiet ride, though.

The standard V6 engine has no problem pulling its weight, with good mid-range power and a transmission that responds promptly to the throttle pedal. The 2.3 reconciles the twin demands of usable power and bearable fuel economy, while the Sport’s 365-hp twin-turbo V6 is fun, but it’s also the thirstiest. And not everyone wants to spend upwards of $45,000 on a family vehicle.

Cargo space with all seats in place is 21 cu ft. and 43.9 cu ft. with the third row folded. With the second and third rows down flat, that volume expands to 81.7 cu ft.

Other Cars to Consider

2019 Chevrolet Traverse — Has more front legroom and more cargo space, plus seating for eight. A fine package.

2019 Dodge Durango — It’s virtually impossible to go wrong in this segment. The Durango is another serious contender, even offering the option of a V8.

2019 Honda Pilot — A large and versatile interior provides seating for up to eight occupants. This is a quality vehicle in every way.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe — Can tow up to 5,000 pounds, seats seven, equipment levels are high and has an excellent warranty.

Used Audi Q7 — Big and beautiful inside and out. The second generation debuted for 2017, so we’re looking at first-generation versions here.

Autotrader’s Advice

An XLT with the Safe and Smart package is family friendly, both in terms of budget and overall protection. Find a Ford Explorer for sale

Our editors are here to make car buying easier. We’ve driven, reviewed and compared thousands of cars. We’ve bought and sold more than our fair share, too. And as part of the sprawling Cox Automotive group of companies, we have exclusive access to a range of valuable data and insights. Whether you’re looking for the best car, the best deal or the best buying advice, you can trust... Read More about Autotrader

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