Word has it that Ford designers burned a gross of candles at both ends as they developed the all-new Ford Explorer for the 2011 model year. Their devotion to detail resulted in a revolutionary, wheels-up revision of the seven-seat sport utility that started it all, as well as “North American Truck of the Year” honors bestowed by a jury of veteran automotive journalists. For 2012, the Ford Explorer Limited builds on the reinvented icon’s award-winning blend of safety, power, versatility and unsurpassed fuel efficiency with a host of standard and available refinements rivaling those found in luxury SUV nameplates costing many thousands more.
Every revolution defies expectations, and Ford saw to it that the re-envisioned Explorer (MSRP $28,170) would give buyers more than they could ever anticipate from an SUV, delivering eye-opening levels of safety, driving dynamics and all-important fuel economy. The 2012 Ford Explorer Limited model (at the top of an Explorer line that also includes Explorer and XLT models) stretches the envelope even further, offering luxury and technology features in a class with premium sport utilities, all at a starting MSRP of just $37,740.
The standard engine in all Explorer models is a 3.5-liter V6 equipped with twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT). Making 290 hp and 255 lb/ft of torque, the V6 channels that power to the front wheels through a six-speed SelectShift™ Automatic™ transmission. This responsive powertrain combination delivers an EPA-estimated 25 mpg on the highway, and that rating is best in class among full-size SUVs with V6 engines.
Buyers looking to spend even less time at the pump can choose the available EcoBoost 2.0-liter four-cylinder – the first application of this engine on any Ford vehicle. The EcoBoost uses turbocharging and Ti-VCT to make a surprising 237 hp and 250 lb/ft of torque – power levels you would expect from a larger-displacement engine. Even more astounding, the EcoBoost cranks out that impressive thrust while returning up to 28 mpg on the highway. Again, that rating is best in class among seven-seat SUVs.
The Explorer Limited puts the emphasis on luxury, but that takes nothing away from its rugged roots. Opt for the available Intelligent Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) System and you’ll get the added assurance of the Terrain Management System. Simply turn the dial mounted on the center console to choose the icon that best suits the surface you mean to travel – ranging from Mud/Ruts to Grass/Gravel/Snow – and Terrain Management instantly adjusts throttle, transmission and stability control parameters for the perfect, worry-free ride.
The evolution of the Explorer also raised its road manners and ride comfort to new levels of refinement. Credit goes to its fully independent suspension, four-wheel antilock disc brakes and speed-sensitive Electronic Power Assist Steering, a system that also reduces engine drag and helps increase fuel economy compared to traditional hydraulic steering systems.
Sport utilities made their mark as stalwart family vehicles, so it’s no surprise – given its status as both the founder and the bellwether of the segment – that Ford engineers equipped the new Explorer with the latest driver aids. Trailer Sway Control and Hill Start Assist make the grade, as does AdvanceTrac® with Curve Control and Roll Stability Control™, which uses two gyroscopes (an industry exclusive) to sense potentially dangerous body motion and compensates to keep you safe at speed.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the new Explorer its seal of approval with a “Top Safety Pick” rating, thanks to features like the SOS Post-Crash Alert System and optional, industry-exclusive rear inflatable seatbelts, which reduce pressure on a passenger’s chest during a collision by spreading impact forces across five-times more area than a standard safety belt. To help you avoid a collision altogether, these second-row inflatable seatbelts are packaged with the BLIS Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert.
Along with segment-pacing safety, the Explorer Limited surrounds you and your family with unmatched comfort and technology features. The long list of standards includes leather-trimmed seats with heat, remote start, 20-inch painted alloy wheels, a 390-watt Sony Audio System with HD Radio™ and iTunes tagging, SiriusXM Satellite Radio and Ford SYNC® with MyFord Touch™ driver-connect technology, which includes an eight-inch LCD touchscreen mounted in the center stack.
You also get a leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise and secondary audio controls, foglamps, dual-chrome exhaust tips, a leather-wrapped shiftknob, a rearview camera, dual-zone electronic automatic temperature control, a reverse sensing system and a media hub with two USB ports, an SD-card reader and auxiliary audio input jacks.
Selecting the available Luxury Seating Package treats you to perforated leather-trimmed front seats with heating and cooling, 10-way power for the front driver and passenger seats and a PowerFold 50/50 split/folding third-row bench seat.
Highline options on the Explorer Limited include a power liftgate, 20-inch polished alloy wheels, Voice-Activated Navigation with SiriusXM Travel Link, Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Warning with Brake Support and Active Park Assist, which takes control of the steering and parks the vehicle once it has detected an open parking spot, leaving you to simply work the throttle and brake pedals.
For all its refinement, the Explorer Limited retains its reputation as a workhorse, offering up to 80.7 cubic feet of maximum cargo space, 7.6 inches of minimum ground clearance and a 16.5-degree ramp breakover angle. You can also opt for the Class III Tow Package and get 5,000 pounds of maximum towing capacity.
In its review of the all-new Explorer, Edmunds.com called it “the catalyst that started America’s love affair with the SUV.” The latest iteration of this iconic seven-passenger SUV serves only to deepen those bonds of affection with the 2012 Ford Explorer Limited aiming straight at the heart of buyers looking for segment-shattering levels of comfort, technology and refinement at a price they can afford.