Ford Explorer — Popular SUV offers many choices

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(April 24, 2022) The King Ranch edition of the popular Ford Explorer should provide the kind of SUV luxury that would satisfy the owner of such luxury vehicles as the Lincoln Aviator, BMW X5 or Infiniti QX60. The palatial King Ranch interior imparts soothing vibes on the road with its well-appointed surroundings, library-quiet cabin, and its performance-oriented 400-horsepower turbocharged V6 engine.

The King Ranch is second from the top in the eight trim-level Explorer hierarchy falling under the Platinum by just a few hundred dollars with a starting price of $55,290. It comes standard with such luxury amenities as unique leather upholstery and wood trim, a 14-speaker B&O sound system, rear automatic braking, heated and cooled seats, and interior ambient lighting. And it's motivated by a turbocharged V-6 making 400 horsepower.

But if you are looking for an Explorer without this rather kingly price tag, fear not. Lesser trims such as the XLT starting at $38,540 including destination should fit most needs, but without all the extras. If you haven't shopped in a decade and now want to upgrade your 10-year old Explorer XLT that you purchased new for just under 30 grand with some dealer discounts, than even the 2022 XLT — which won't come with company or dealer discounts in our new world of  automotive mayhem — may sound out of reach.

Even so, the Explorer continues to be one of the most sought-after crossovers of any size with 220,000 copies sold in 2021. Buyers are obviously finding the means to get behind the wheel of a new Explorer.

While it may not be as highly regarded as the Mustang or iconic Bronco, the Explorer earns plenty of credit for being one of Ford's most versatile vehicles since its debut more than 30 years ago.  Slotting between the midsize five-passenger Ford Edge and the full-size Expedition, the three-row Explorer is well suited for family hauling duty with strong towing capabilities and an engine lineup that should satisfy everyone, whether you're looking for fuel efficiency or sporty performance.

Since the Explorer debuted for the 1991 model year — introducing an new segment to replace the traditional station wagon — SUVs are more popular than ever. With every automaker in America offering at least one SUV in its lineup, the Explorer has plenty of competition. Such top-notch mid-size three-row nameplates as the Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Toyota Highlander, and Mazda CX-9 all vie for the family's dollars.

A new chapter in Explorer history is now being written as the Explorer enters the third model year of its sixth-generation. In 2020 the Explorer got a from-the-ground-up redesign with a new rear-drive platform, a sportier more athletic design and improved on-and-off-road capability. The Explorer's short overhangs, taut musculature, and plunging roofline give it a look that is both sportier and more elegant than the outgoing model. Overall, it’s a more capable, comfortable, and roomier three-row vehicle that handles daily driving chores with poise, assurance and ease.

New for 2022 the high-end King Ranch and Platinum models get a bump from 365 to 400 horsepower and an increase in torque from 380 to 415 pound-feet. Also, the high-end models can substitute the second-row captains chairs for a bench seat at no extra cost.

The Explorer comes in eight trim levels — Base, XLT, Limited, ST-Line, Timberline, ST, King Ranch and Platinum — starting at $35,040 and climbing to $55,540. The sweet spot for most families might be an optioned XLT in the low 40s.

The Explorer comes with three engine sizes, and the good news is that buyers who do not require a lot of towing capability can live quite well with the base 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that makes an impressive 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. A 3.0-liter V-6 with its 400 horses comes standard in the upper trim levels. And the Explorer hybrid, which joined the lineup in 2020, comes with a 3.3-liter V6 engine paired with an electric motor for a combined output of 318 horsepower.

Our King Ranch test truck with the 400-horsepower engine provided excellent acceleration for all driving eventualities. For comparison purposes, the big V-6 can motivate the Explorer from 0-to-60 in 5.2 seconds and complete a quarter mile run in 13.8 seconds at 101 mph. That's exemplary times for a nearly 5,000-pound vehicle.

The Explorer rides on a rear-wheel drive platform, all-wheel drive is optional. When properly equipped the Explorer can tow up to 5,600 pounds.

While the interior design is conservative — conservative fits our needs just dandy — it is functional and very comfortable. Getting into the standard third row is relatively easy because of a mechanism that moves the second-row out of the way at the touch of a button. Once back there, however, older kids and adults will find the seat is too close to the floor to be comfortable.

If you do use the third row, luggage capacity is still good at 18.2 cubic feet. If hauling cargo is the order of the day, the Explorer has 87.8 cubic feet available with all seatbacks folded. There are 47.9 cubic feet available behind the second row, which is probably the configuration most people will use on a regular basis.

Ford has equipped the Explorer with a good set of safety equipment including automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, blindspot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, and automatic high beams. Starting with the Limited, adaptive cruise control with lane centering is standard.

Th Explorer comes with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile drivetrain warranty.

2022 Ford Explorer


Base price: $35,040; as driven, $55,290 (King Ranch)
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6
Horsepower: 400 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 415 pound-feet @ 3,500 rpm
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/2/2
Wheelbase: 119.1 inches
Length: 199.3 inches
Curb weight: 4,853 pounds
Turning circle: NA
Luggage capacity: 18.2 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 87.8 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 5,600 pounds
Fuel capacity: 20.2 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 18 city, 24 highway, 20 combined
0-60 time: 5.2 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Kia Telluride, Mazda CX-9, GMC Acadia

The Good
• Good passenger space
• Ample power with turbo V-6
• Quiet, comfortable interior

The Bad
• Third row not for adults

The Ugly
• Price can approach 60 grand