Overview

Overview

There are few SUVs out there with as much history, controversy or relevance to the everyday consumer as the Ford Explorer. But no matter what you may think you know about the Ford Explorer from any past experience, the 2014 Ford Explorer Limited 4WD V6 we tested here will no doubt shatter them all to bits. Ford took its iconic SUV nameplate and created a state of the art crossover that not only does a great job of hauling seven in relative comfort but also one that is sturdy and powerful enough to be a workhorse for those who tow or haul. Really, this is the best Explorer yet by far.

And, miracle of miracles, the MyFordTouch system in our tester actually worked seamlessly without a problem but more on that later. First off, let's get into what makes this excellent midsize SUV such a great choice for families needing to take half the team to Little League practice all while still being able to tow your boat to the lake in the summertime without any worry. Because with the 2014 Ford Explorer, you really can do it all.

Introduction

Although you can buy an Explorer with two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive and with a wide array of engine choices, the overall soundness of this SUV package always shines through no matter how much money you spend. And trust us, you can wind up spending quite a lot of money on a new 2014 Ford Explorer if you aren't careful with how many gadgets and options you order from the long list of extras. And while the Explorer is now a more car-like unibody design as opposed to the tougher body on frame design from earlier generations, this SUV can still tow, haul and go off-road.

The 4wd system in the 2014 Ford Explorer is a bit like the one you find in the much more expensive Land Rover and Range Rover models as it has a knob that offers different settings based on the terrain you are covering. So if you are in deep snow, gravel or what have you there is a setting on the Ford's center console mounted knob that will keep you in the right four wheel drive setting. Otherwise, the four wheel drive system is an intelligent one that detects which wheels require more traction and sends more power to those wheels. Really, this system is all most anyone will ever need to cover their off-road or winter traction needs. You don't usually think of an Explorer first as a prime grade off-roader but this new model surely is.

Lineup

The 2.0 liter 4-cylinder Ecoboost is best suited to the Escape so let's focus on the silky smooth standard 6-speed automatic and the 290 horsepower/255 lb. feet of torque naturally aspirated V6 that felt perfectly suited to all of our needs on freeways, dusty off-roads trails and with a trailer attached. Plus, the balance of engine refinement, fuel economy and price seemed right to us especially considering Ford offers still one more powerful engine option. And we do question how they consider this motor in any way "Eco" when it is clearly all "Boost.

For those of you who perhaps own stock in an oil company you can try out the 3.5 liter EcoBoost turbocharged and direct injected V6 which pumps out 365 horsepower/350 lb. feet of torque to compete with the Hemi V8 engines out there. The EPA estimates fuel economy returns of 16 city/22 highway with the EcoBoost V6 but in our experience with an Ecoboost Flex those numbers are only attainable when you are very easy on the throttle pedal. And with an Ecoboost V6, the sports car-like acceleration is so intoxicating as to render that nigh on impossible. Perhaps you have better self-control but just know you have been warned.

Exterior Styling

First off, our black on black 2014 Ford Explorer 4WD V6 Limited really manages to pull off the neat trick of appearing both non-threatening yet just a bit macho at the same time. We think the headlamp design accentuates the aggressiveness of the design while the sides and back maintain a classic and accessible SUV appearance. No matter, it is way better looking than the boxy old Explorer.

Interior

We will admit in the past to not getting along with Ford's once bug ridden and difficult to navigate MyFordTouch system and while it still isn't perfect (a few too many switches on the steering wheel, too many small buttons on the dash), we had no weird electrical gremlins and the Sync system worked quickly and effortlessly with our Smartphone. No doubt Ford can give us a few dashboard knobs instead of tiny buttons and we will be singing the praises of MyFordTouch. Just a thought.

Otherwise, the interior of our 2014 Ford Explorer Limited was expertly assembled with high quality plastics and leather that seem purpose built to survive all the damage kids, the family pets and the odd juice box spill can throw at it. We appreciated the power folding third row of seats, the power rear liftgate and as die hard audiophiles we loved that the Limited came with the 12-speaker Sony Audio system as standard with the usual dual zone climate control, back-up camera, push button starting and 20-inch chrome alloy wheels to make sure the neighbors notice you.

We quite like the way Ford's in-dash navigation system works by beeping just as you are about to pass the road where you are supposed to turn. Not all of us are very good at measuring which road is 300 feet away and the beeping noise makes their navigation system rather idiot proof. As the 2014 Explorer is a rather large SUV we appreciated that our tester was equipped with a blind-spot warning system, a lane departure warning system and at night the high beams activate themselves automatically when needed and turn off when they detect headlights coming your way. Again, thank you Ford for making safety idiot proof. Not that we're idiots. Okay, sometimes we are.

Driving Experience

We tested the 3.5 liter 290 horsepower/255 lb. feet of torque V6 which is never short of bountiful power under any situations but there is also a turbocharged 2.0 liter 4-cylinder 240 horsepower/270 lb. feet of torque Ecoboost motor available that we simply think isn't the optimal motor to pick. That Ecoboost motor has no problem motivating the smaller and lighter Escape but when saddled with the weight and extra size of the Explorer it struggles. We recommend you pony up the extra for the 3.5 liter V6 especially as the fuel economy penalty is not all that great.

Thanks to its 290 horsepower 3.5 liter V6 engine which delivers an effortless surge of grunt, our test 2014 Ford Explorer 4WD V6 had an impressively robust 5,000 pound tow rating. This figure is higher than many of the 2014 Explorer's current, similarly sized three row SUVs.

We assume the reason for this is that Ford is one of the few automakers who believe consumers actually use their SUVs to tow and haul. There is more to life than grocery getting and engineers in Dearborn, Michigan are clearly aware of that. As a side note, the 2.0 liter 4-cylinder EcoBoost Motor is only rated to tow 2,000 lbs. So imagine how much trouble it would have on a trip up to the mountains with a trailer and something heavy behind you. Again, get the V6.

Now, how about hauling junk, mulch, yard waste or your cracked and worn out front lawn garden gnome over to your cousin Larry's house that you don't like all of that much? Well, the 2014 Ford Explorer can handle most anything you can throw at it (except perhaps a rather irate Larry once he sees what you left on his front lawn) given the fact that with the second and third rows folded flat there is 80.7 cubic feet of cargo room available. If you are carrying accomplices, cargo room behind the second row is 43.8 cubic feet diminishing to a respectable 21 cubic feet with all three rows being used. Now this is an SUV that may have a Suburban image but it is one tough towing and hauling machine.

No SUV with the size, height, interior room and overall strong arm utility is going to ever be a world class, corner carving mountain road rally car racing hero. The 2014 Ford Explorer  V6 is meant to be a workhorse that not only looks sharp when given a good cleaning but that also welcomes hard work and being useful in more ways than you can probably even imagine. Still, this latest generation Explorer is light years ahead of earlier versions thanks to much more communicative and taut steering and far more controlled body roll around corners.

Another thing owners of past Explorer models will notice is how much quieter the 2014 version is thanks to less tire, wind and engine noise from the new 3.5 liter V6 which replaced a rather anemic and underpowered 6-cylinder in earlier generation that mainly emitted moaning noises when pushed too hard. Which was most of the time. Overall, the 2014 Ford Explorer 4wd V6 feels sure footed and well planted on the road with supreme driver confidence an unexpected and obvious benefit.

Competition

For those of you who perhaps own stock in an oil company you can try out the 3.5 liter EcoBoost turbocharged and direct injected V6 which pumps out 365 horsepower/350 lb. feet of torque to compete with the Hemi V8 engines out there. The EPA estimates fuel economy returns of 16 city/22 highway with the EcoBoost V6 but in our experience with an Ecoboost Flex those numbers are only attainable when you are very easy on the throttle pedal. And with an Ecoboost V6, the sports car-like acceleration is so intoxicating as to render that nigh on impossible. Perhaps you have better self-control but just know you have been warned.

We think this EcoBoost variant of the Explorer competes directly with the newly refreshed 2014 Dodge Durango R/T which is also very fast for an SUV this size yet is also available with a more sane and fuel efficient 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 and 8-speed automatic. For 2014 the Durango with the Hemi V8 also gets the 8-speed auto. Beyond that there is of course the 2014 GMC Acadia or 2014 Buick Enclave which might not be as quick as the Durango or Explorer but they make great use of their interior space.

All new last year, the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder now boasts a class leadingly robust and luxurious interior along with enough power and style to satisfy most suburban needs. The latest Pathfinder is now clearly much more of a family hauler so it's not exactly meant for heavy off-roading. Honda of course still offers the Pilot while Toyota has a cadre of options be it the 2014 Toyota 4Runner, newly redesigned 2014 Toyota Highlander or the enormous 2014 Toyota Sequoia if you really have too many family members.

What We Loved


  • The power, smoothness and economy of the 3.5 liter V6 and 6-speed automatic

  • The handsome exterior styling

  • The improvements to Sync and MyFordTouch


 

What We Would Change


  • Drop the base 4-cylinder motor

  • Find a way to make the Explorer more affordable

  • Third row could use more legroom


Vehicle Tested

Our test model was a 2014 Ford Explorer Limited AWD with the naturally aspirated 3.5 liter V6 engine and not only was it the picture of mechanical reliability but it also managed to tow a very heavy motorcycle trailer (this model has a 5,000 lb. tow rating) and proved to us that the MyFordTouch system really is nearly bug free and much easier to use than when it premiered that first year. Kudos to Ford and Microsoft for working out the problems.

By James Hamel

Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
SUV - 4WD
Base 4WD 4dr Base V6 4WD 32015
XLT 4WD 4dr XLT V6 4WD 34900
Limited 4WD 4dr Limited V6 4WD 40100
Sport 4WD 4dr Sport V6 4WD 41675
SUV - FWD
Base FWD 4dr Base V6 FWD 30015
XLT FWD 4dr XLT V6 FWD 32900
Limited FWD 4dr Limited V6 FWD 38100

Car Rankings

Interested to see how the 2014 Ford Explorer ranks against similar cars in terms of key attributes? Here are the 2014 Ford Explorer rankings for MPG, horsepower, torque, leg room, head room, shoulder room, hip room and so forth.

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