Text and photos by Chris Van Hoven
Seven-seater pickup-based SUVs are all the rage here in the Philippines, but their body-on-frame chasses leave much room for refinement. However, what they do lack in finesse, they make up for with sheer durability and an easy-to-swallow price tag — two characteristics that undoubtedly contribute to its local popularity. On the other hand, uni-body (or crossover) SUVs offer superior driving dynamics and ride comfort with an accompanying increase in price. Their premium pricing — usually above the P2-million mark — means these three-row, mid-sized, crossover SUVs cater to a particular niche market with little in the way of competition.
The Ford Explorer joins a select few in this regard, namely the Hyundai Grand Santa Fe, Mazda CX-9 and Honda Pilot. With such a small playing field, does the Ford Explorer have what it takes to edge out the competition? We take a look at the top-of-the-line Ford Explorer in its 3.5L AWD Sport EcoBoost trim to find out.
Since its first-generation iteration, the Ford Explorer has always contained the essence of classic SUV styling. While the current Explorer has evolved far beyond its boxy, brawny beginnings, it still retains much of its rugged SUV appeal, which translates nicely to its modern, sculpted silhouette. The Ford Explorer can boast of an exceptionally well-proportioned body, with its large, prominent headlights, aggressive foglights, and almost-rectangular grille contributing to its macho bearings. Its rear end is handsomely sculpted, with a subtle spoiler up top to add some excitement to the tail.
The traditional SUV styling continues inside, which doesn’t necessarily mean a good thing. While the interior is a familiar look to those accustomed to Ford cabins, it does feel a little antiquated, especially when compared to the more space-age designs of its competition. It still uses the outdated SYNC with MyFordTouch as its infotainment system, when it really does deserve the much-improved SYNC 3.
That aside, the Explorer boasts of extremely satisfying interior ergonomics. Everything from the seats, steering wheel, and pedal height are electronically adjustable, which makes finding the perfect driving position a breeze.
The leather-clad seats are plush, cushy, and comfortable all the way to the third-row, though the third row is surprisingly more cramped compared to the competition, despite having similar dimensions. Even though the Explorer allows a commanding driving position, it does feel bigger than it really is, and navigating through tight squeezes will make you second guess more often than you’d like. Thankfully its forward and backward cameras provide that much-needed peace of mind, especially when parking in tight spaces.
This particular Ford Explorer variant is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine which offers a glorious 370 hp and 475Nm of torque. It goes without saying that the Explorer has more power than you’ll ever need for local roads. Whether you need quick bursts for lane changes, or power for overtaking at a fast pace, the Explorer is more than happy to oblige. It does all this in a refined manner as well, with smooth gear changes and just a hint of engine growl. Coasting down long stretches of highway is where the Explorer feels most at home, as it boasts excellent NVH levels and a satisfyingly comfortable ride all the way to your destination.
Unfortunately all that power comes at a price – literally. You’ll be paying a pretty penny for fuel with the Ford Explorer as a daily driver as we were able to squeeze out just shy of 6 km/l on combined city and highway driving.
This particular variant comes with a unique “sport-tuned” suspension package. And while the name suggests a firmer ride, this wasn’t the case at all. While you still won’t find yourself flinging the Explorer at every corner, it does mitigate much of the floaty feel associated with most American SUVs. It’s a great balance between handling and ride comfort, with a bias towards comfort.
The Ford Explorer Sport V6 EcoBoost comes with all the premium features you’d come to expect from a car in its price range, and a list of safety features that borders on overkill. However at P2,905,00, the Explorer finds itself as one of the more expensive options in its segment, with only the Honda Pilot carrying a higher price tag. Nevertheless, it carries the most powerful engine in its class by a long shot, and is backed by a brand name with a heritage that started the SUV craze in the first place. As a family car, the Explorer offers everything you’ll need and more, and continues to carry Ford’s SUV tradition with pride.