Sport utility vehicles defined the 1990s, and Ford helped usher them into mass-market acceptance with popular SUVs like the Explorer. First introduced for the 1991 model year as a replacement for the Bronco II, the midsize, three-row Explorer is now in its fifth generation. Though it trails the compact Ford Escape crossover in sales, it remains one of the best-selling vehicles in the lucrative and popular SUV segment.
Ford offers the Explorer in XLT, Limited, Sport, and Platinum trim levels. The standard engine is a 3.5-liter V6, though there are turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder and 3.5-liter V6 options as well (more on those below). All come paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, and four-wheel drive is available across the range.
Ford gave the Explorer a mild refresh for 2018, with new tech like an embedded 4G modem with Wi-Fi hotspot that can support up to 10 devices, and new Safe and Smart Package safety features.
This buyer’s guide aims to help you make an educated decision about whether or not to buy the 2018 Ford Explorer. We’ll touch on safety and reliability ratings, engine specs, horsepower, fuel economy ratings and pricing, and we’ll conclude with a summary of Autoblog’s most recent test-drive of the Explorer.
Ford Explorer safety ratings
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the 2018 Ford Explorer five stars, the best rating possible, for both overall crash protection and front- and side-crash protection. It awarded the SUV four stars in its rollover crash testing.
Ford earns mostly “good” ratings for the 2018 Explorer from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But it gets a “marginal” mark for driver-side small overlap front crashes, a test that replicates a vehicle clipping an object on either of its front corners. It also gets a “poor” rating for its headlights, one of IIHS’ newer areas of focus.
Ratings may differ for Explorers from other model years, so be sure to visit the NHTSA and IIHS websites to review ratings on the specific vehicle you’re researching.
Is the Ford Explorer reliable?
J.D. Power most recently evaluated the 2017 Explorer and gave it four out of five stars — “better than most” — for overall quality, and three stars (“about average”) for overall performance and design, and predicted reliability. It gave high marks to powertrain and transmission and substandard marks for mechanical issues with the body and interior, and features and accessories.
Autoblog, we should note, has raised some concerns with how J.D. Power weighs serious and less-serious reliability issues. You can read about that here.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported no recalls of the 2018 Ford Explorer.
How much interior and cargo room does the Ford Explorer have?
The 2018 Explorer offers 41.4 inches of headroom in the front, 40.6 in the rear and 37.8 in the third row. For legroom, those figures are 42.9 inches, 39.5 and 33.3, respectively.
Cargo room is 81.7 cubic feet behind the first row, with the second- and third-row seats folded down, 43.9 cubic feet behind the second row and 21 cubic feet behind the third row.
Ford Explorer engine specs and horsepower
The standard engine is a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 290 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. Also available are a 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged inline-four cylinder that offers 280 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, plus a 3.5-liter EcoBoost turbo V6 with output of 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque.
Maximum towing capacity is rated at 5,000 pounds, which is sufficient for smaller boats or campers.
How fuel efficient is the 2018 Ford Explorer?
Fuel economy varies by engine and other factors. The standard 3.5-liter V6 gets 17 miles per gallon in the city, 24 on the highway, and 20 mpg combined.
The most efficient is the 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, which delivers 19 miles per gallon in the city, 27 on the highway and 22 combined. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 gets 16/22/18.
When filled with E85 fuel, fuel economy drops to 13/18/15 mpg in the 3.5-liter V6 in front-wheel drive and 12/16/14 mpg in the four-wheel drive version.
How much does the Ford Explorer cost?
The 2018 Ford Explorer starts at $33,135, while the Platinum model starts at $54,935. Both prices include the $995 destination charge.
Use Autoblog’s Smart Car Buying program powered by TrueCar to search out competitive local pricing and savings on the 2018 Ford Explorer.
Autoblog Ford Explorer review
Autoblog last reviewed the 2016 Explorer, the model that launched the current generation. Consumer Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski concluded that “Ford has cornered a sweet spot with its Explorer, offering enough SUV-like credibility to lure buyers into the showroom, enough options, creature comforts and smart packages to keep them there, and enough value to convinced them to drive one home. None of that changes for 2016, which means the Explorer is still the best car-like, three-row ‘ute on the market.”