I have always liked the Ford Explorer. When it was made locally available in the Philippines, I loved it so much that I begged my Mom for it as soon as I got my student’s permit.
Yes, go ahead and roll your eyes, I was one of those annoying boys in school whom girls always assumed would go nowhere in life without his mother. Hate on me another time, I’m trying to get to a point here. I grew up around the catering business which often involves having pick-up trucks as a means of transportation. Obviously, I hated all of them because they were stiff, unrefined, and as beautiful as an open wound. When Ford Philippines brought in the Sport Trac, I saw it as my way out. It was still a pick-up, but there was barely anything utilitarian about it, apart from the fact that it could load some goods at the bed. It had a 4-liter V6 engine that ran on gasoline instead of Baguio oil. It was smooth, fast, and relatively luxurious inside.
The seats felt like they were made by Tempur-Pedic, a stark contrast to the university benches that were mounted on our Mazda B2200. The sound system was designed for the 16 year old me, and I finally had the bass to play other genres of music. I loved it to bits. There was one problem, though. The fuel tank seemed to have a hole the size of hooker’s mhmm. The only thing that was quicker than the trips I made to the gasoline station was the Explorer spitting all of it out. To add insult to injury, the week after we bought it, the fuel prices shot up by a massive 14 pesos per liter. This meant that it didn’t matter that my car was probably doing 3.5 kilometers per liter. I could barely put enough fuel to get out of my village gate. It was useless, and so it had to go.
Like most break-ups, good or bad, you will move on. Well, at least most of us do. You will go on to do your own thing until you hear news that an all-new model has arrived. News of an ex significant other getting a full makeover is always something that will intrigue you. If your partner says otherwise, believe me, they are lying. So in 2011, Ford introduced the all-new body. It came as a full SUV with no pick-up option unlike its predecessor. It was a very welcome make-over, and truth be told, I was in love with the idea of it.
Think of a person you once loved, but this time, without the quirks and the hassles - with a new look you didn’t know was in them all along. The Explorer was stunning. How could it not be? It was a thinking man’s Range Rover. Of course, it wasn’t perfect. The EcoBoost variant only came with a spec that could only be loved by its mother, while the V6 version still drank too much fuel and offered almost no low-end torque. That meant you had rev it like a sports car, except you’d kill yourself as soon as the first corner arrives.
Let go of what you know.
Thankfully, this new 2.3-liter EcoBoost comes in a delicious spec today. The Explorer has gone over a little nip and tuck to keep it fresh, and I must say, I do like the way it looks. Although it looks a little bit less like a Range Rover in front, it’s a cleaner design which is also less of a rip-off. It is still a massive thing with an imposing stance on the road. The Explorer, especially in its V6 Sport specification below, is one of the biggest impostors in the automotive world. It easily looks like a 6 million peso car, but it costs half of that.
I love all the black and sporty accents on the V6, but I can’t come to terms with the sport suspension. Who in their right mind would want an Explorer with a sport suspension? This is one of the rare times that I would have preferred the sporty look without the performance to match it - like a BMW M Sport of sorts. The V6 Sport is a great SUV and a fantastic highway cruiser if you don’t mind bouncing up and down. Unfortunately, I do. This is why I think that the sweet spot is the 2.3 EcoBoost.
The EcoBoost has all the hallmarks that I loved about the Sport Trac, but of course, it takes it into a completely new level. It’s beautiful enough to hold its own against the Sport V6, but more importantly, it has better traits that make it a better SUV. For starters, it has the standard suspension. It goes over bumps and potholes like a tank would. You definitely feel its weight though. It’s a bruiser in contrast to the likes of a Mazda CX-9, which is just graceful on the road. This isn’t. It’s more Joe Frazier than Muhammad Al, but it suits it. I also prefer the interior trim of this one. I do not particularly like the Carbon Fiber look on the Sport V6.
As a matter of fact, I hate it. I don’t even like Carbon Fiber on a large high performance sedan, so I absolutely loathe that there is a bad imitation of it in an SUV that weighs about the same as Pacific Star building. I love the unpolished wood trim on this one. The cabin is a lovely cocoon that wraps you like a mother’s womb. The seats are so comfortable, it’s a struggle to stay awake in traffic. I’ve always complained about the pedals being quite off but I acknowledge now that I have failed to do my job properly as I’ve found that there is a toggle switch to adjust them. So sorry about that, Ford. The pedals are perfectly fine now.
The new Ford Sync 3 interface is a generational leap too. Apart from the fact that there’s Apple CarPlay, which I think should be standard on all vehicles in the future, the system is so snappy and quick. It’s a stark contrast to the old one which must have taken two valiums before it rolled off the assembly line. The new one is speedy, and I like it. The space is fantastic. It is equipped with automatic third row seating, which I don’t care much for, but it’s nice to know it’s there.
I am certain that many of you will find it useful. More important to me is the gargantuan piece of glass that covers pretty much the entire roof. There is a heightened sense of ecstasy when it’s scorching hot outside, yet you are in a climate controlled cabin with natural sunlight peeking through the glass roof while your arse is being cooled down by ventilated seats. Life is pretty damn good inside the Explorer.
"When I’m asked what car or SUV punches above its weight class in terms of value for money, I always say the Explorer."
As for the performance, I prefer this 2.3-liter four banger to the V6 EcoBoost. Sure, the V6 will crack 200 km/h at a rate that will shock you, but when are you really going to do that? The 2.3-liter has loads of torque that start way down low, making it easy to manoeuvre the big SUV around town. It’s peppy too, which makes overtaking an effortless breeze while remaining to be more fuel efficient. The transmission is responsive and smooth. Sometimes I feel like it has no gears at all. I just never feel it shift.
With that said, the brake pedal calibration could be better. I want more confidence in its initial bite, because there is nothing more unsettling than the feeling of your brakes not being enough to stop such a large piece of mass. Speaking of its size, if you are worried about handling this thing, don’t be. It has all the sensors, driving aids, and a camera to make sure that you’re able to. After all, that’s kind of what you’ve paid for. It does suffer from a massive blind spot on the A-pillars though, but it’s something you get used to over time.
Overall, I really love this SUV. When I’m asked what car or SUV punches above its weight class in terms of value for money, I always say the Explorer. No, it’s not because I have an affinity towards them. It’s the other way around. I do, because it’s a fantastic vehicle whether you are driving it or riding it. It is quick, solid, and it feels a lot more expensive than it really is. What about maintenance, you might ask? If you own a car that has a computer box, it’s the same banana.
Parts will be a little more expensive, but it’s a small price to pay for a luxurious package. It’s handsome, it seats seven, and it’s quick. It is just as at home taking your family to the farm as it is accompanying you to a black tie event - and I find that to be a really important trait in an automobile. It is versatile in the roles that it plays, and it does it so well. This or a CX-9? This is more Range Rover and the latter is more Porsche Cayenne. I am a Range Rover person. Hello, Mom!