2018 Ford Explorer Expert Review

3.7 Overall Score
Performance 4.0 Comfort 3.9 Styling 4.1 Value 3.4

Editor's Overview

A favorite of American families, the best-selling 2018 Ford Explorer is a 7-passenger SUV that offers a large interior, powerful engines and all-wheel drive. Many advanced tech-based safety systems are available, and this year’s updates include available onboard Wi-Fi. Comfortable and attractive, the midsize Explorer competes with the Chevy Traverse, Mazda CX-9, Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot.

You'll Like The 2018 Ford Explorer If...

With so many SUVs starting to look and act like minivans, the new Explorer bucks that trend with an upscale design, rugged stance and big horsepower. Plus, it seats seven and offers a wide range of trim and engine options, so there’s an Explorer for almost any lifestyle and budget.

You May Not Like The 2018 Ford Explorer If...

Although the new Explorer is available with all-wheel drive and it looks like a Land Rover, it’s not as off-road capable as that brand’s many SUVs. If you plan to tackle anything beyond the gravel parking lot at an Eagle’s concert, shop the Land Rover Discovery and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

What's New

For 2018 Ford has updated the new Explorer with five new wheel options, including four 20-inch designs. There’s also an available onboard Wi-Fi hotspot, and Ford has created the Safe and Smart Package that includes all of the available tech-based safety systems like Adaptive Cruise Control and Cross Traffic Alert.

Interior Features

The Ford Explorer SUV for 2018 seats up to seven in its three rows, and the third row offers room for adults. The second row comes as either a 3-person bench, or it can be had with two bucket seats to ease 3rd-row access. Cargo space is generous. We're happy Ford has moved to using actual buttons for most controls, and also like the digital screen integrated into the gauges. The infotainment touch screen is a large 8-inch unit, and Ford’s Sync 3 is easier to use than before and has become one of the more capable systems available.

Exterior Features

At first glance, the 2018 Ford Explorer bears a strong resemblance to a Land Rover Range Rover, pretty good company we'd say. Its standard LED low-beam headlights, grille and bumper give this mainstream SUV an upscale presence. It looks more expensive than it is. And its bulging hood, sculpted sides and flared wheelwells add musculature to the mix. No one will ever confuse the Explorer for a minivan. The Sport trim level is the most aggressively detailed with blacked out trim and grille and standard 20-inch wheels, while the Limited and Platinum trim levels dial up the chrome.

Driving Impressions

When it comes to horsepower, the 7-passenger 2018 Ford Explorer SUV delivers at every level. The standard 290-horsepower V6 is strong enough for most buyers, and the 280-horsepower turbo 4-cylinder is powerful but also impressively fuel-efficient. Need more “oomph”? Try out the Sport and Platinum trims’ 365-horsepower 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6. All three engines give the Explorer excellent passing and pulling power, while its heavily weighted steering and taut suspension give this big SUV impressive cornering ability, especially the Sport and Platinum models with their 20-inch wheels. Although its high beltline and massive front bumper make maneuvers in tight quarters a bit harrowing, Ford has done an excellent job keeping road, engine and wind noise out of the cabin, and seating is both comfortable and supportive. The Explorer’s adaptive cruise control works well, but we wish it offered fully autonomous braking like the Honda Pilot, not just collision warning.

Pricing Notes

The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2018 Ford Explorer starts around $32,000 for a FWD base model with the standard V6 engine. The 2.3-liter turbo 4-cylinder adds about $500 to that total, while the all-wheel-drive system tacks on $2,200. We think the better equipped XLT is a better entry point, at its base price of about $35,000. If you're looking for more power, the twin-turbocharged AWD Sport and Platinum models start around $46,000 and $54,000, respectively. That's competitive with the Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot and Hyundai Santa Fe. The KBB.com Fair Purchase Price helps you get a good deal by telling you what other Explorer buyers in your area paid. Note that the Explorer's resale value holds up better than the Dodge Durango, and is right in line with the Chevrolet Traverse and Pilot, even if it's less than the Highlander.

Notable Equipment

The 2018 Ford Explorer SUV comes in five models: base, XLT, Limited, Sport and Platinum. Base models come standard with the 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine, a 6-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, LED low-beam headlights and LED taillights, 18-inch wheels, and a rearview camera that incorporates a washer to keep the lens clean. Other standard features include cruise control, air conditioning, a 6-speaker audio system, and Ford's Sync infotainment system. Ford's MyKey allows drivers to program top speed and other parameters to help prevent young drivers from behaving recklessly. Other safety features include trailer Sway Control for easier towing.

Notable Options

Moving up through the model lineup is the best way to get more on your new 2018 Explorer. The mid-level XLT is a good value, offering leather seats, navigation, blind-spot detection, inflatable rear seatbelts, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a dual-panel moonroof. Base and XLT models can substitute a more fuel-efficient 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder, which is standard on the Limited model. AWD is available across the board, regardless of your engine choice. The Sport and Platinum models come with the twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 and all-wheel drive plus high-end leather, a premium audio system, leather-covered dash and other luxury items.

Favorite Features


This clever system allows the Explorer to practically park itself. It uses ultrasonic sensors to help parallel-park the SUV and park-out assist to help drivers pull out of parallel-parking spots. The system controls the steering wheel, while the driver operates the accelerator and brake pedals.


Standard on the Limited, Sport and Platinum trim levels, this feature allows you to open the Explorer’s tailgate without dropping your Costco purchase and pulling the key fob from your pocket or purse. Just a wave of your foot under the SUV’s rear bumper opens or closes its hatch.

Under the Hood

The standard 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 on the Ford Explorer is fine for most people, offering plenty of power and acceptable fuel economy. However, the turbocharged EcoBoost 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine is popular because it offers notably more torque and more miles per gallon. Standard on the Sport and Platinum models is the twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6, bumping power up to a more-than-adequate 365 horsepower. With this engine, the Explorer is just plain fast. Sport and Platinum models also get standard all-wheel drive, but Ford’s AWD system and its Terrain Management System with settings for sand, mud, grass and gravel are available on all models. Additionally, all models use a 6-speed automatic transmission complete with paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

3.5-liter V6 (base, XLT)

290 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm

255 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/24 mpg (FWD), 16/22 mpg (4WD)

2.3-liter turbocharged inline-4 (base, XLT, Limited)

280 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm

310 lb-ft of torque @ 3,000 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/27 mpg (FWD), 18/25 mpg (AWD)

3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 (Sport, Platinum)

365 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm

350 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22 mpg

Editors' Notes

A favorite of American families and the country’s best-selling SUV for nearly three decades, the 7-passenger 2018 Ford Explorer offers a large interior, upscale design and all-wheel drive (AWD). Many advanced tech-based safety systems are available, including active cruise control and a lane-keeping system which vibrates the steering wheel if you drift out of your lane. This year’s updates include available onboard Wi-Fi. Five trim levels are available, base, XLT, Limited, Sport and Platinum, and Ford offers three engines including a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 making 365 horsepower. A 6-speed automatic and front-wheel drive (FWD) are standard. Understated and elegant, some say the new Explorer looks like a Land Rover. Its competition includes the Chevy Traverse, Mazda CX-9, Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot.

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