Midsize SUV; Built in USA
  • 4-door wagon
  • longitudinal front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $8,200 – $34,700*

2011 Ford Explorer Front

2011 Ford Explorer Profile

2011 Ford Explorer Rear

2011 Ford Explorer Interior

2011 Ford Explorer Rear-2

  • Automatic-transmission performance
  • Quietness
  • Ride
  • MyFord Touch audio and climate controls
  • Steering/handling

Ford’s re-imagined Explorer is a very nice seven-passenger crossover that, unfortunately, competes against a lot of other very nice seven-passenger crossovers. It’s both competent on-road and more capable off-road than most in this class. Though it’s been an extra-cost option only on 2WD Explorers, the four-cylinder engine introduced for 2012 is a welcome addition. That engine brings the promise of impressive fuel economy (for the class), with laudably minor compromise in overall performance. The MyFord Touch interface and voice-activated navigation system are on the cutting edge of technology, but our experience with it has been less than impressive. Ford officials are aware of the issues and have been working to correct them. Explorer’s third-row seat is tough to access, yet surprisingly comfortable. Overall, this Explorer strikes a good balance between the rugged character of its predecessor and the car-like dynamics of a modern crossover. If that’s what you’re looking for in an SUV, take a close look.


Redesigning of the Ford Explorer for 2011 gave it freshened styling, a new engine, and new features. This venerable nameplate moved to crossover-style unibody construction, sharing elements of its basic design with the Ford Taurus. All previous Explorers had used traditional truck-type construction. Although the 2011 model was about 1 inch shorter in wheelbase than the 2010 version, it measured about 4 inches longer overall. Trim levels included Base, volume XLT, and top-line Limited. Each was available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The AWD system included a console dial that could alter throttle and other settings to accommodate mud, sand, and snow. Standard on all models was a 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine. An optional turbocharged 240-horsepower four-cylinder engine was arrived for the 2012 model year. The sole transmission was a six-speed automatic. Maximum towing capacity was 5,000 pounds with the V6.

Standard safety features included all-disc antilock braking, traction control, an antiskid system with rollover sensing, curtain-side airbags for the first two rows, and front-side airbags. Explorers employed MyFord Touch, which replaced traditional audio and climate controls with touchscreens and voice activation. They also incorporated Ford’s Sync cell phone and digital-music player control. Rear-obstacle detection was standard on the XLT and Limited. Power-adjustable pedals, driver-seat memory, dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, remote engine start, and keyless entry/engine start were standard on the Limited. Explorer rivals included the Chevrolet Traverse, Honda Pilot, and Mazda CX-9.

Yearly Updates

2012 Explorer
Front-wheel-drive versions of the 2012 Ford Explorer got a new four-cylinder engine option. The new “Ecoboost” turbocharged 2.0-liter engine developed 240 horsepower, mating with a six-speed automatic. Maximum towing capacity with the four-cylinder engine was 2,000 pounds, versus 5,000 for the V6.
2013 Explorer
Not much was new for the carryover Base, XLT, and Limited trim levels. Just the usual minor feature shuffling and updated paint colors. The big news for 2013 was the addition of a new Sport model. Equipped about the same as the Limited, the Sport is designed for performance with the most powerful engine ever offered in an Explorer.
2014 Explorer
For 2014, automatic headlights were standard on all Explorers and adaptive cruise control was newly optional on Limiteds.
2015 Explorer
For 2015, the Ford Explorer got standard 18-inch wheels on its base model and an appearance package for XLT models.
2016 Explorer
The 2016 Ford Explorer had revised styling and suspension. Added that year was a new topline Platinum model powered by a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6. The available turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine was replaced by a more powerful turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder unit. The new 4-cylinder was available with all-wheel drive, whereas the old four was front-drive only.
2017 Explorer
After a fairly thorough refresh for 2016, the Ford Explorer saw two changes of note for 2017. A new SYNC 3 touchscreen infotainment system replaced the unloved MyFord Touch interface, and a new Sport Appearance Package debuted for the XLT model.
2018 Explorer
Ford Explorer had freshened styling for 2018. Also, a Wi-Fi hotspot was newly available.


longitudinal front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive

Standard engine for all Explorer models has been a 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6. A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, developing 240 horsepower, became optional for the 2012 model year. For 2013, the new Sport model was powered by a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 developing 365 horsepower. Every Explorer had a six-speed automatic transmission. In 2017, the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder was replaced by a 280-horsepower turbo 2.3-liter four-cylinder. With their current crossover construction, Explorers had front-wheel or all-wheel drive.

Turbocharged dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0
Engine HP 240
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 270
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed automatic 20/28
Turbocharged dohc I41
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.3/140
Engine HP 280
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 310
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed automatic 18/25
dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.5
Engine HP 290
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 255
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed automatic 17/23 17.6
Turbocharged dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.5/213
Engine HP 365
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 350
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed automatic 16/22 15.6

1. Turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder replaced turboched 2.0-liter 4-cylinder in 2017.

Road Test

Though Explorer has one of the most powerful V6 engines in the class, it doesn’t feel significantly quicker than other midsize SUVs. Rather, the V6 builds power smoothly and steadily. Passing reserves are sufficient, and the transmission is well-behaved. The four-cylinder engine that became optional for 2012 provides adequate acceleration for both around-town and highway driving. Even though the four-cylinder isn’t snappy from a stop, it delivers decent midrange power once underway. A 280-horsepower turbo 2.3-liter four replaced the 2.0-liter turbo for 2016 and represented a gain of 40 horsepower. For the most part, the transmission is alert and smooth, but some downshifts can be abrupt.

In Consumer Guide testing, an AWD V6 model averaged 17.6 mpg. In 2012, the EPA estimate for the V6 engine rose from 23 to 25 mpg in highway driving. Explorers use regular-grade gasoline.

Differences in ride quality between XLT and Limited models come down to tire size, the former having 18s, the latter 20s. Even then, they’re not much different. All models are quite comfortable and composed, even over rough pavement, but a bit more wheel patter comes through on the Limited.

No, it’s not as athletic as the pacesetting Mazda CX-9, but an Explorer can more than hold its own on twisting roads. Its wide stance helps maintain good grip. Steering feel is on the light side, but it’s quick to respond to desired changes in direction. Braking control is good, but marred by spongy pedal action. The available all-wheel drive shares some of its design with systems offered by Land Rover. The console dial adjusts throttle and transmission calibration to suit varying road conditions. An Explorer proved to be quite capable in light off-roading.

Explorers offer near-luxury levels of noise isolation. When you hear it (which is only during full-throttle acceleration), the V6 engine is not as refined as in rival SUVs. It’s virtually silent at cruise. The four-cylinder engine gives up almost nothing to the V6 in terms of sound. Emitting a reasonably refined whir in fast acceleration, the turbo four-cylinder recedes to near-silence in steady-state cruising. With either engine, there’s impressively little coarse-surface tire thrum, and wind noise is also very well suppressed.

All Explorers through 2016 had MyFord Touch, which governed audio, climate, cell phone, and navigation functions. The available Sony-brand audio system has a specific touch panel below the main screen. It has a more high-tech look than the standard panel, but some functions, such as adjusting temperature and fan speed, are more finicky to operate. Some test vehicles have been plagued by glitches with the MyFord Touch interface, including an unresponsive touchscreen, slow operation, and voice control that refused to recognize some commands–despite being spoken slowly, loudly, and clearly. An improved SYNC3 replaced MyFord Touch for 2017.

An Explorer might look a bit bland for some tastes, but don’t let the outward appearance deceive you. The interior is trimmed with nicely textured, soft-touch materials. Metal or woodgrain trim has been available. We’d look for the latter, as it provides a warmer interior ambiance.

Overall front-seat room is very good. Headroom gets trimmed a bit by the available sunroof’s housing, which is only an issue if you have the seats set very high. Ford earns praise for making the sunroof a standalone option, so even if it’s absent, an Explorer might have most every other luxury and convenience feature. Leather upholstery has been standard in the Limited and optional for the XLT, and we would recommend it. The cloth seats are too firm for best long-distance comfort. Leather is soft but still supportive.

The second-row split bench cannot be adjusted fore or aft like setups on some rival seven-passenger crossovers. As such, legroom and knee space range from adequate to cramped, depending on where the front seats are positioned. Access to the standard third row is awkward due to the intrusion of the rear wheel well. Once situated, space back there is surprisingly good. Adults up to about 5’8″ will actually be comfortable for short to moderate-length trips.

Second- and third-row seats fold flat to provide a spacious cargo hold. The multi-step process for folding the third row is more complicated than it should be. A cargo well is behind the third row, but only when the seatbacks are raised. That well is not covered, either. Cabin storage consists of a two-tier glovebox, moderately-sized center console, and large door pockets. Limiteds have been available with a second-row center console that further increases interior storage but cuts seating capacity to six.


Model Tested: 2012 Ford Explorer AWD XLT with navigation

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 6
Fuel Economy - 4
Ride Quality - 6
Steering/Handling - 5
Quietness - 7


Controls/Materials - 6
Room/Comfort Front - 7
Room/Comfort Rear - 5
Cargo Room - 9


Value - 7

Total: 62


4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
112.6 197.1 90.2 71 4695
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
80.7 18.6 7
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.1 38.3 40.6 39.8
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2012 Ford Explorer 4-door wagon


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Rear Passenger Injury - 5

Trouble Spots

Oil consumption
Description: Vehicles with aluminum valve covers may experience excessive engine-oil smoking and/or consumption. (2011-14)
Transmission leak
Description: Transmission may leak from left halfshaft. (2011-14)
Transmission noise
Description: A pop or ping may come from the front end when shifting from drive to reverse or when accelerating requiring installation of a thrust washer between the axle shaft and hub. (2011-13)
Description: The front door glass movement may be rough or the choppy requiring replacement of the power window motor. (2011-12)
Description: Front-door glass may jump or chatter during up/down movement. Requires replacing glass, window regulator, motor, and wiring harness. (2016-17)
Description: Aluminum body panels with paint bubbles, peeling paint, or corrosion may require panel replacement. (2011-18)
Transmission problems
Description: The terrain management (hill hold) feature of the all-wheel-drive system may quit working requiring that the antilock brake system module be reprogrammed. (2012-13)
Transmission problems
Description: Explorer all-wheel drive with EcoBoost 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine may a fluid leak from the right side of the transfer case intermediate-shaft seal. (2015-18)
Description: The power liftgate may not open or open just a bit then close again requiring replacement of the liftgate striker. (2012)

Recall History

2011 Ford Explorer with manual-reclining 2nd-row seats
Description: Components may be out of dimensional specification; in a crash, the seatback may not provide the required strength.
2011-12 Explorer
Description: Replacement steering gears for 2011-12 Explorers may lock and prevent driver from steering the vehicle.
2011-13 Explorer
Description: The interior door handle may not return to fully stowed position after activation. The door could unlatch during a side impact.
2011-13 Explorer
Description: Vehicles may lose power steering assist and extra effort will be required to steer.
2011-14 Explorer with aftermarket Marathon seat covers
Description: The seat covers may prevent the side airbags from deploying properly.
2011-17 Explorer
Description: Faulty hub-unit bearing may allow wheel detachmant.
2013 Ford Explorer
Description: After numerous openings and closings, child safety locks may deactivate.
2013 Ford Explorer
Description: The fuel delivery module may develop a crack and leak fuel, which could result in fire.
2013 Ford Explorer
Description: Marginally sealed seam in the fuel tank could weaken and rupture in the event of an impact or, in regular driving conditions, develop a leak.
2014-15 Explorer
Description: Rear suspension toe links could have substandard welds. The toe link could fracture and result in loss of control.
2014-15 Explorer with 2.3-liter engine and engine-block heater
Description: Engine-block heater may overheat and increase the risk of fire.
2015-16 Explorer
Description: The parking brake may not fully engage.
2016 Explorer
Description: Front seat adjuster pivot bolts may loosen and increase the chance of injury in a crash.
2016 Explorer
Description: Fuel-tank mounting bolts may be loose and could cause a fuel leak with an increase in the risk of fire.
2016-17 Explorer
Description: Driver seatback frame may fail and might not restrain occupant during a crash.
2017 Explorer
Description: The steering gear heat shields may detach, allowing the steering gear to overheat, increasing the amount of steering effort required.
2017 Explorer Police Interceptor
Description: Second-row seats may be missing attachment studs and may not restrain occupants in a crash.
2017 Explorer with turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine
Description: An oil leak from the turbocharger increases the risk of fire.
2018 Explorer
Description: Fuel-pressure sensor may leak and increase the risk of fire.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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