Ford's new Explorer is a big update to the model, attempting to modernize the SUV by giving it a more comfortable ride and better fuel economy.

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Ford retained much of the appearance of the previous generation, using the same trucklike front end. The body is also very boxy, maximizing interior space.

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For now, the Explorer comes with this 3.5-liter V-6, although Ford will make available a turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder, which should offer the same power and even better fuel economy.

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Ford fits three rows of seats into the Explorer, so it is capable of seating seven.

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Instead of a body-on-frame design, the new Explorer uses a fully independent suspension, giving it a more compliant ride. The Explorer is available with two- or four-wheel drive.

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The third row seats are small, and access is not easy, making them most appropriate for children.

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The third row folds down flat into the floor, making for some very useful cargo space.

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This midgrade XLT trim Explorer comes with a few options that upgrade the interior, giving it leather trimmed seats.

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The Explorer gets an electric power steering unit. It is tuned very well for road feel.

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With the MyFord Touch interface, there are LCDs on either side of the speedometer. The left shows vehicle data, while the right handles the infotainment systems.

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D-pads on each steering wheel spoke let the driver control what is shown on the instrument cluster displays.

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The right display can show music, phone, navigation, and climate control information.

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The Explorer XLT comes with a six-speed automatic transmission. It has a manual gear selection mode operable with a button on the side of the shifter.

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This dial on the console lets the driver select different traction and engine control programs tailored to particular terrain types.

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One terrain mode is designed for slippery surfaces, such as snow, while another handles mud and ruts.

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The climate and stereo controls are touch buttons. They work very well and look good.

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The navigation system shows traffic information, and can dynamically route around bad traffic. Unfortunately, we found many instances where the navigation lost its GPS signal.

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Ford offers quite a few ways to enter destinations, but we generally preferred using the voice command system instead of the touch screen.

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Sirius Travel Link brings a lot of useful data into the car, such as gas prices and a weather report.

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The Explorer offers many audio sources, including satellite radio and two USB ports.

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The system can read USB drives and a wide variety of MP3 players.

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The stereo also has Bluetooth streaming, but as with most systems of this nature, there is not much control or information on the screen.

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The Bluetooth phone system downloads a phone's contact list, making it available on the screen or through voice command.

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For driver assistance, the Explorer offers this backup camera and blind-spot detection.

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The Explorer is not as rugged as its terrain selection system might suggest. Its ground clearance is not optimized for offroad conditions.

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