The Explorer, large for a crossover but only mid-size if it were still considered an SUV, continues to sell well as it begins its 27th model year. The Explorer lost its SUV status in 2011 when the latest and still current fifth generation switched from the body-on-frame design used with trucks to the unibody design of most cars since the 1930s. Ford still refers to the Explorer as an SUV, but by definition, Ford’s only remaining true SUV is the much larger Expedition, which still uses body-on-frame design.
What’s new for 2018
As in 2017, Ford offers five trims for 2018 — Explorer, XLT, Limited, Sport, and Platinum. Only Sport and Platinum trims include standard four-wheel drive, an option with other trims. The same three engines also carry over — a naturally aspirated V6, an EcoBoost turbocharged inline four-cylinder, an and EcoBoost V6.
In addition to minor front and rear style tweaks and five new wheel style options, safety and communication are the biggest changes for the 2018 Explorer. The new Safe and Smart Package, optional for all trims, bundles adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support, blind spot information warning, cross-traffic alert, lane detection and lane-keeping assistance, automatic high-beams, and rain-sensing wipers.
Connectivity improvements available as an option for the XLT and standard with Sport, Limited, and Platinium Explorers includes a 4G-LTE modem and Wi-Fi hotspot that can support ten devices up to 50 feet from the vehicle. As in 2017, a voice-activated navigation system is standard on Sport, Limited, and Platinum trims. It’s optional for the XLT, and but unavailable with the base Explorer trim.
Engines and transmissions
The three engines standard in or available with Explorer trims aren’t new, but they give owners many choices for power, torque, and fuel economy.
The base 3.5-liter Ti-VCT Duratec V6 engine, standard on the Explorer and XLT, produces 290 horsepower at 6,500 RPM and 255 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 RPM. This engine is EPA rated at 17 mpg in they city and 24 mpg on the highway. This engine is also available as an option for Limited trim models.
The 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline four-cylinder engine is standard on the Explorer Limited and an upgrade option for base Explorer and XLT models. This motor makes 280 hp at 5,600 RPM, 10 hp less than the 3.5-liter V6 base engine, but it cranks out more torque at lower engine revolutions, 310 lb-ft at 3,000 RPM. This makes it a better choice for towing or carrying heavy loads. The 2.3-liter EcoBoost also scores as the most fuel-efficient Explorer engine, rated at 19 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.
The 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 combines the technologies of turbocharging and direct injection. This engine is only available with the Sport and Platinum trims, where it comes standard. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine makes 365 hp at 5,500RPM and 350 lb-ft at 3,500 RPM with an estimated 16 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway. Performance is impressive. Even given the Explorer’s size, the twin-turbo V6 allows it to sprint to 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds. That’s quicker than a Subaru BRZ.
In addition to the Explorer’s new Safe and Smart Package and connectivity option, available parking assistance features and the terrain management system included with four-wheel drive models bear mentioning.
Sensors and cameras on Explorers with the park assist features help with parallel and perpendicular parking. The system helps you pull out of tight parking spots, side sensing alerts if you get too close on either side pulling in or out, and a 180-degree front camera lets you see around corners when traveling at slow speeds.
Explorers with what Ford calls “Intelligent 4WD” can shift without stopping between a myriad of terrain settings — Normal, Mud, Sand, Gravel, Grass, and Snow. Ford’s four-wheel drive also includes Hill Descent Control to maintain a constant speed while going downhill, which is often useful assistance when driving off-road.
How to choose a 2018 Ford Explorer
Five Explorer trims range in starting price from $31,990 to $53,940. Differences abound among the various trims with more power, additional standard or available safety features, more advanced tech, and greater comfort, convenience, and luxury as you move up.
2018 Ford Explorer
The standard feature list for the Explorer trim (starting at $31,990) includes automatic headlights with LED low beams, LED taillights, heated power side mirrors, and manual single-zone temperature control. The Explorer has four 12V powerpoints, daytime running lights, power windows and door locks, and a rearview camera with a built-in washer.
Standard Explorer entertainment equipment includes AM/FM radio with MP3 compatibility and six speakers. The Explorer has a media hub with one smart charging USB port. Other base model features include third-row seating, second and third-row privacy glass, trailer sway control, traction control with roll stability control, remote keyless and illuminated entry, and an individual tire pressure monitoring system.
2018 Ford Explorer XLT
When you upgrade to the Explorer XLT (starting at $34,020) additional standard features include LED signature lighting, roof rack rails, a push-button start, leather-wrapped steering wheel, perimeter alarm, keyless entry keypad, and a reverse sensing system that alerts if you get too close to an object.
2018 Ford Explorer Limited
The first step in Explorer luxury, the Limited (starting price $42,090) adds a hands-free liftgate, power folding outside mirrors, a 110V power outlet, ambient lighting, and remote starting. Other Limited goodies include LED fog lights, a universal garage door opener, and a forward sensing system to sound off if you get too close to an object.
The Limited’s standard connectivity and entertainment equipment array includes a Sony audio system with 12 speakers, voice-activated navigation, SYNC connect, and the 10-device capable Wi-Fi hotspot. Limited models all have third-row power folding seats, leather first and second-row seats, and a heated steering wheel.
2018 Ford Explorer Sport
The Explorer Sport trim ($45,950 starting) adds performance features to the Limited feature set. In addition to the 365-hp V6 EcoBoost engine, the Sport has unique, sport-tuned front and rear suspension, quad chrome exhaust tips, a Class III trailer package, and intelligent four-wheel drive with hill descent control and the terrain management system. The Sport also has perforated leather trim with red accents as well as heated seats and unique styling details.
2018 Ford Explorer Platinum
The Explorer Platinum trim ($53,490 to start) has almost all the good stuff. Standard Platinum features include a twin panel moonroof, automatic high beams, quad chrome exhaust tips, and rain-sensing wipers. Safety and assistance features include adaptive cruise control, collision warning, park assist with pull out assist, lane departure warning with lane-keeping assist, and the blind spot information system with cross traffic detection. Platinum models also come with inflatable rear outboard safety belts.
The top trim level also comes with power-adjustable pedals with memory, premium Sony audio, Class III trailer package, hill descent control, and the terrain management system with intelligent four-wheel drive.
|Trim||2018 Explorer||2018 Explorer XLT||2018 Explorer Limited||2018 Explorer Sport||2018 Explorer Platinum|
|4WD/AWD?||4WD optional||4WD optional||4WD optional||4WD standard||4WD standard|
|Base engine||3.5L Ti-VCT V6 Engine||3.5L Ti-VCT V6 Engine||2.3L I-4 EcoBoost Engine||3.5L EcoBoost V6 Engine||3.5L EcoBoost V6 Engine|
|Base horsepower||290 @ 6,500 RPM||290 @ 6,500 RPM||280 @ 5,600 RPM||365 @ 5,500RPM||365 @ 5,500RPM|
|Base torque||255 @ 4,000 RPM||255 @ 4,000 RPM||310 @ 3,000 RPM||350 @ 3,500 RPM||350 @ 3,500 RPM|
|Transmission||6-speed automatic||6-speed automatic||6-speed automatic||6-speed automatic||6-speed automatic|
|Fuel||Regular gas||Regular gas||Regular gas||Regular gas||Regular gas|
|Fuel capacity (gallons)||18.6 gallons||18.6 gallons||18.6 gallons||18.6 gallons||18.6 gallons|
|Fuel economy||17 city/24 highway||17 city/24 highway||19 city/27 highway||16 city/22 highway||16 city/22 highway|
|Base wheels||18-inch aluminum||18-inch aluminum||20-inch aluminum||20-inch aluminum||20-inch aluminum|
|Body style||4-door SUV||4-door SUV||4-door SUV||4-door SUV||4-door SUV|
|3rd row seating||Standard||Standard||Standard||Standard||Standard|
|Storage behind 2nd row seats||43.9 cu ft||43.9 cu ft||43.9 cu ft||43.9 cu ft||43.9 cu ft|
|Storage behind 1sr row seats||81.7 cu ft||81.7 cu ft||81.7 cu ft||81.7 cu ft||81.7 cu ft|
|Max Towing capacity||5,000 pounds||5,000 pounds||5,000 pounds||5,000 pounds||5,000 pounds|