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2013 Ford Explorer

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The 2013 Ford Explorer is a midsize, seven-passenger SUV that offers family-friendly comfort and convenience both on- and off-road.  New for 2013 is a Sport trim that is powered by a twin-turbocharged V6 engine, standard four-wheel drive, 20-inch sport alloy wheels and more. New Explorer features this year include a standard passenger knee airbag, and available heated steering wheel and auto-dimming headlights,

What Experts Think

Members of the motoring press generally like the transformation in the 2011 model year of the Ford Explorer, moving the vehicle from a truck-based SUV more into the agile-handling crossover SUV it is today. Veering on luxury, but at more affordable prices (except for top-line Limited and Sport trim levels), the Explorer definitely has its admirers in the press. They do note, however, that the field is crowded with some tough competition.

"With solid on-road dynamics, decent fuel efficiency and an accommodating, high-class cabin, the 2013 Ford Explorer is a top pick for a large crossover SUV." (Edmunds)

"If you're seeking the room and versatility of a big SUV, but don't like the idea of a poor-handling, fuel-thirsty land barge that's nearly impossible to park, Ford's 2013 Explorer deserves a good look. Additionally, the Explorer has a beautifully-designed interior and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick." (Kelley Blue Book)

"The Explorer is no longer an old-school SUV, having switched to a slightly lighter unibody platform during its 2011 redesign. The three-row Explorer now provides a more carlike driving experience, based as it is on the platform that also underpins Ford's Taurus sedan and Flex wagon." (Car and Driver)

"Explorer is a very nice 7-passenger crossover that, unfortunately, is in competition with a lot of other very nice 7-passenger crossovers. It's both competent on-road and more capable off-road than most in this class. The EcoBoost 4-cylinder is available only as an extra-cost option on 2WD Explorers, but it delivers the promise of impressive-for-the-class fuel economy with a laudably minor compromise in overall performance."  (Consumer Guide)

"The roomy and versatile interior is well finished and offers a usable third-row seat. Handling is secure but not particularly agile. The ride is steady and absorbent....The optional MyFord Touch control interface is complicated and distracting." (Consumer Reports)

What Owners Say

Owners of the 2013 Ford Explorer are quite vocal in their comments about the midsize SUV, both positive and negative. Posting on sites such as Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, and Yahoo Autos, owners either really love their new Explorer, love it enough to put up with a few minor complaints, or, in a few cases, are rather disappointed in their purchase.

On Yahoo Autos, the specific Explorer trim is mentioned in owner comments. Highlights of the base Explorer, according to owner reviews, are luxuriousness, spaciousness, mileage and styling. Others voice disappointment that there's no manual option, fuel economy not as great as expected, and no alloy rims are available. As for the XLT in FWD, pluses include ride, cargo volume, comfort and fuel economy, while the 4WD XLT gets dinged for reliability, an odor problem with A/C recirculation, voice/command software, difficulty of moving seats up and down.

Also on the Yahoo Autos site, owners of the Explorer Limited, in FWD configuration, praised its fuel economy, roominess, handling, cargo room and luxury, and voiced no real complaints. Meanwhile, a sampling of Limited 4WD owners complain about the lack of pickup speed (acceleration), uncomfortable driving position, and oil burning smell, and praise the SUV's safety, information system, style and technology, exterior design, size, seating and quality. The Explorer Sport had two reviews; both hailing responsive steering, capable off the line acceleration, both complaining about fuel consumption, and one mentioning difficult blind spot without the blind-spot monitoring system, also the back seat is cramped.

Comments on Kelley Blue Book ranged from high praise for the Explorer's fun-to-drive nature, stunning look, roominess, MyFord Touch, interior design, quietness, quality, fit and finish, ergonomics, and space. Complaints included gripes about Sync, ground clearance, transmission, no cargo shade or glove compartment light, slow pickup and reliability.

With an overall four stars out of five rating from consumers on, the general view is that Ford has a winner in the 2013 Explorer, although comments vary depending on trim and FWD or 4WD configuration. Owner favorites include the Explorer's solid good looks, great technology, roominess, quietness, ride and handling, great third-row seats, ambient lighting, and plenty of legroom for front and back seat passengers. Negatives included a comment that the maximum 5,000 pound tow capacity is a bit shy for this size vehicle, continuing problems with MyFord Touch, and the fact that the middle seat doesn't slide.

Model/Trim Lineup

While some in the automotive press refer to the 2013 Ford Explorer as a large crossover, most place it firmly in the midsize SUV category. The Explorer is a three-row, seven-passenger crossover SUV that is available in four trim levels: base, XLT, Limited and Sport.

Besides the V6 engine in the base Explorer, other standard equipment includes roof rails, integrated blind spot mirrors, privacy glass, cruise control, air conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, trip computer, a six-speaker sound system with CD player and auxiliary audio jack, a six-way power driver seat with manual recline, and 17-inch steel wheels.

Moving up to the Explorer XLT adds automatic headlamps, fog lamps, rear parking sensors, keyless entry, Sync, satellite radio, a USB port, leather-wrapped steering wheel and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Optional on XLT is Equipment Group 201A, a package with rearview camera, a nine-speaker sound system, dual-zone automatic climate control, and the Driver Connect package (including an auto-dimming rearview mirror, MyFord Touch, and upgraded functionality of the Sync system. Equipment Group 202A further adds heated front seats, leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat with power-adjustable lumbar control, and a six-way power passenger seat.

Standard features on the Explorer Limited build upon those in the XLT, swapping out 18-inch wheels for 20-inchers, adds keyless ignition/entry, remote engine start, power-adjustable pedals with memory function, a 12-speaker Sony sound system with HD Radio, and a 110-volt power outlet. Optional Limited package is the 301A: with power liftgate, third-row power folding seat, ventilated front seats, an eight-way power passenger seat, a heated and power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and a navigation system. There is also the 302A package adding adaptive cruise control with collision warning and brake support, lane-departure and lane-keeping assist, a blind-spot warning system, inflatable seatbelts for second-row outboard passengers, an automatic parallel parking system, xenon headlamps and automatic high beams.

New this year, the Explorer Sport has a standard equipment list similar to the Limited, but lacks leather seats, 110-volt outlet, keyless ignition/entry, remote engine start and power-adjustable pedals. What the Sport does include are different 20-inch wheels, unique interior/exterior trim details and sport front seats. To this can be added the 402A package, which includes a power liftgate, a navigation system, blind-spot monitoring system, cross-traffic alert, inflatable outboard second-row seatbelts, power-adjustable pedals and steering wheel, leather seats, ventilated front seats, driver seat memory, power passenger seat, and 110-volt outlet.  Cruise control and a navigation system are options.

Standalone options include a rear-seat entertainment system with dual headrest-mounted displays, second-row captain's chairs, and a dual-panel sunroof.


Among the automotive press, the consensus is that the 2013 Ford Explorer offers a pleasing balance between ride and handling, with three available engines, standard six-speed automatic transmission, and the choice of front-wheel or four-wheel drive.

The standard engine is a 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine. Paired with the six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, the EPA-rated fuel economy is 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway/20 mpg combined.

Four-wheel drive (4WD) is optional and includes Ford's Terrain Management System. This is a selectable four-mode system that electronically optimizes traction during different surface conditions. Included in the Terrain Management System is hill descent control and hill start assist.  The 3.5-liter V6 engine and 4WD is EPA-rated at 17/23/19 mpg.

The powerplant in the Explorer Sport is a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine that delivers 365 horsepower. Here, the EPA-estimated fuel economy is 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway.

On all front-wheel drive trims, the new turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine is available as an option. Matched with the six-speed automatic transmission, this four-cylinder engine delivers 240 horsepower. For those looking for maximum fuel economy, this is the setup that delivers best-in-class numbers of 20/28/23 mpg.

Properly equipped, a V6-powered Explorer, either base V6 or turbocharged, can tow up to 5,000 pounds.


As befitting a seven-passenger family vehicle, the interior of the 2013 Ford Explorer gets a lot of scrutiny from the motoring press who drive and review vehicles. Most are impressed with the upscale features in the Explorer's cabin, as well as the fact that the materials are high-quality, fit and finish is excellent, and the design looks and feels upscale.

Many comment that the real reason why the Explorer's cabin feels so luxurious has to do with the look of the MyFord Touch interface. But MyFord Touch is not universally well-liked. With its high-resolution display screen, and additional two screens for the gauge cluster, and touch-sensitive buttons (so to speak) for audio and climate control, the general consensus is that there should be a neat interface. In reality, the so-called buttons are often difficult to read quickly, resulting in the wrong ones getting pressed accidentally, or they may fail to respond correctly.

Space inside the cabin is considered roomy, although not as roomy as some competitors, including the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse from General Motors, the Dodge Durango, and even the Ford Flex. The 2013 Ford Explorer offers up a maximum of 80.7 cubic feet of cargo space, coming out the smallest of the competitors mentioned. Some auto critics say this makes the third-row seat seem "cramped" by comparison, a comment cited by quite a few owners on customer review sites.

Safety & Reliability

Almost universally, auto critics comment favorably about the strong safety scores and numerous standard and optional safety equipment on the 2013 Ford Explorer. The facts back up the assertions in both areas.

In government crash testing, the 2013 Ford Explorer received five stars for overall crash protection from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Within that overall five-star rating is five stars for the Explorer's overall frontal protection, and five stars for overall side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2013 Explorer it's top score of "Good" in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests and awarded it a Top Safety Pick designation.

Standard safety equipment on all 2013 Ford Explorer models includes stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, a front passenger knee airbag, trailer sway control, and MyKey, which allows parents to specify limits for the speed of the vehicle and for stereo volume. Included in the stability control system is Ford's Curve Control, which monitors the vehicle's speed into a corner and can decelerate if necessary.

Optional safety features on Explorer XLT and above include a blind-spot warning system with cross-traffic alert), second-row inflatable seatbelts for outboard passengers. Collision warning and brake support and lane-departure warning/lane-keeping can be added as options on Limited and Sport models.

In terms of reliability, the 2013 Ford Explorer is much worse than average, according to Consumer Reports.  In the J.D. Power and Associates Predicted Reliability rating, however, the 2013 Ford Explorer rates a three Power Circle score, making it about average for the class.


Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
Base 4WD 4dr Base V6 4WD 31100
XLT 4WD 4dr XLT V6 4WD 34680
Limited 4WD 4dr Limited V6 4WD 40100
Sport 4WD 4dr Sport V6 4WD 40780
Base FWD 4dr Base V6 FWD 29100
XLT FWD 4dr XLT V6 FWD 32680
Limited FWD 4dr Limited V6 FWD 38100

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