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The Ford Explorer, partially credited with kicking off America's SUV obsession, was first launched for the 1991 model year. It entered its current fifth generation in 2011 and received a major refresh for 2016, but not much is new for 2019. The Explorer currently enjoys status as the best-selling three-row SUV in the United States.
The 2019 Explorer offers a choice of three engines, all of which are paired with a six-speed automatic. Base models come with a 3.5-liter V6 producing 290 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque, which is about average for the segment. Ford's 2.3-liter Ecoboost engine is actually a step up, even though it's down two cylinders from the base engine. The turbocharged four-cylinder is good for 280 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque.
That's the same amount of horsepower, but 48 pound-feet more than the 3.5-liter V6 in the Honda Pilot. The Explorer's most potent mill comes in the form of a 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 pumping out 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. Those figures put the Explorer near the top of its class.
Front-wheel-drive, four-cylinder Explorers are the most efficient in the lineup, and can return an EPA-estimated 19 miles per gallon city and 27 mpg highway, which is about average compared with the V6-powered competition. The Honda Pilot and Nissan Pathfinder both can achieve 20/27 mpg, while the Toyota Highlander does a little better with 21/27 mpg.
The Ford Explorer can seat up to seven passengers across its three rows, but many competitors can seat eight. With the second and third rows folded flat, the SUV can swallow up to 81.7 cubic feet of cargo, which is a couple of cubic feet more than the Nissan Pathfinder. Still, the Explorer remains on the lower end of the class. The Chevrolet Traverse offers a significantly larger 98.2 cubic feet and the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander also beat the Explorer with their 83.9 and 83.7 cubic feet of capacity.
Base Explorers offer a dearth of standard tech with just a 4.2-inch touchscreen connected to a six-speaker audio system, which is rather lackluster compared with the Chevrolet Traverse, which brings a standard seven-inch touchscreen that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Explorer's higher trims, however, do offer an eight-inch LCD touchscreen that works with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Unlike the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander, Ford neglects to offer a standard suite of driver-assistance features. You'll have to shell out extra cash if you want niceties like adaptive cruise control, collision-mitigation braking, lane-keep assist and blind spot monitoring.
Ford offers the Explorer in five different trims. The base model starts at $32,365, which is pricey when you consider its lack of standard features. Highlights of the base Explorer include 18-inch aluminum wheels, LED low-beam headlights, heated power outside mirrors plus power windows and door locks. The $34,400 Explorer XLT adds ultrasonic rear parking sensors, a keyless-entry keypad, push-button start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and satellite radio.
Moving up to the $42,765 Explorer Limited gives you 20-inch wheels, LED fog lights, front parking sensors, a foot-activated liftgate, power-folding mirrors plus leather seats with heating and cooling for the first row and just heating for the second row's outboard seats. The Limited trim also features a heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, a Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on the eight-inch touchscreen with embedded navigation and a 12-speaker Sony premium audio system.
The $46,625 Explorer Sport adds the 3.5-liter Ecoboost V6, all-wheel drive, trim-specific sport-tuned suspension, a Class III towing package that allows for trailering up to 5,000 pounds, hill descent control and quad chrome exhaust tips.
Finally, we arrive at the top-tier Explorer Platinum. At $54,165, it's pricey for the well-optioned side of the class, but it adds automatic high beams, rain-sensing wipers, a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, collision-mitigation braking, lane-keep assist, Active Park Assist (which allows the vehicle to autonomously parallel park) and inflatable rear outboard seat belts.
The 2019 Ford Explorer is on sale nationwide now.