None of us should be surprised to learn that Ford’s new 2012 Explorer 4WD is among the best, most affordable mid-size SUV’s. With a comfortable, cushy interior, great handling and respectable fuel economy, this Explorer is family friendly. The 4WD model, does not offer the EcoBoost engine – a feature auto reviewers love to nitpick at. It seems the extra weight of the 4WD makes the greener engine impractical. But even with all the plusses associated with this grand old man of SUVs, auto-pros still find fault.
First of all, the Explorer was re-designed last year. Gone now are some of the “trucky” features and, in place of the box-on-truck architecture, are the running gears of a Taurus. Some say the 2012 Explorer 4WD is suitable only for the soccer mom crowd. Of course, the performance of the Explorer, particularly the 4WD models, makes it much, much more.
There are three trim packages available, including the Base, the XLT and the top-of-the-line Limited. All are available in 4WD and feature an all-wheel-drive system that includes technology to effectively deal with inclement weather and quickly changing driving conditions. Also standard on all models is a 3.5-liter V6.
As you have come to expect from Ford, the Explorer is well prepared in the safety department. Among the safety features are ABS, traction control, an anti-skid system, front-side airbags and side-curtain airbags. Rear-obstacle detection is standard on the two higher-end trim packages and if you choose the Limited you’ll also get power-adjustable pedals, driver-seat memory, dual-zone climate control, a rear-view camera to assist with reversing and keyless entry with a remote engine start.
If it’s towing you want, the Explorer will pull up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped. That means you can bring your boat, your camper or a trailer. The rear-view camera with guides for alignment purposes is an excellent addition and of course, there is a trailer-sway system standard and hill-start assist which makes pulling away from the boat launch ramp that much easier.
We were not surprised to learn that the persnickety MyFord Touch control system is still the source of much frustration to quite a few professional reviewers. Some say the system refuses to recognize simple voice commands, while others will tell you its touch controls are just too delicate. Be sure to check this all out when you test-drive this new Explorer.
You’ll find an upscale interior, particularly if you are inclined toward the high-end versions. There is plenty of room inside, comfy seats and lots of cargo room.
The Explorer 4WD is a nicely designed, thoroughly capable mid-size SUV. It’s not accidental that this Ford is consistently ranked among the best SUVs on the market year after year and was named the North American Truck of the year in 2011. It will get you decent fuel mileage – 25-mpg highway. It’s not up for serious hill climbing, but it’s not going to completely disappoint in off road situations, like the 2WD version can and will. It handles well on the highway and will take you and the family wherever you go in comfort and some style. Overall the 2012 Explorer with the 4WD option is a solid investment.