The first thing I noticed about the Explorer is its sheer bulk, unlike the (earlier tested) Traverse or the Durango. I wonder how anyone shorter than I am would not feel overwhelmed. The width, the low seating position, the distance to the door just made it feel cumbersome.
Pass with care: It is tough for Explorer drivers to see what's coming up on either side. Be especially careful about passing a 2011 Explorer on the right.
A good handle: I was surprised how well the Explorer actually handled. It didn't feel as if it floated over the road, as big vehicles sometimes do.
And yet, it still felt really big to drive.
But the 3.5-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic provided plenty of power, and were very smooth.
Low buttons: The steering-wheel cruise and radio buttons were just too low and awkward to operate.
Touched: The MyFord Touch has been panned everywhere from Consumer Reports to the New York Times to here.
This example's $1,750 of options include MyFord Touch, rearview camera, dual-zone auto AC, and premium plus single CD. I'd avoid the MyFord Touch.
Blank screens? Three times in seven days. "Performing System Maintenance" notices? Twice in seven days.
Simply finding a radio station requires a series of steps. And your eyes must leave the road to change from radio to CD to navigation.
It's made by Microsoft. 'Nuff said.
Other options: Trailer-towing package, $570; dual-panel sunroof, $1,595; voice-activated navigation, $795: candy-apple-red paint, $395.
SugarHouse interior? The dashboard has a distinct slot-machine feel to it. The over-technologizing doesn't stop at the MyFord Touch screen; little screens on each side of the speedometer add to the information overload.
And it is hard to read the gears in shift mode, which comes only paired with the world's tiniest tachometer.
Oh, give me land, lots of land: The Explorer was the hardest to park of the three (Traverse, Durango). The vehicle just seemed so wide on the outside, but I didn't see that translate into extra space inside.
Saving gas: Ford's marketing department is right: The fuel economy was the best of the three. I got just under 22 m.p.g. while I had it, for the four-wheel-drive version, compared with 17 for the Traverse 4WD and 22 for the Durango, with just RWD.
Friends and stuff: Like the Durango, the Explorer offers 2-3-2 fixed seating. The standard cloth seats are nice.
But getting in the back is awkward. The seats only fold down, not out of the way. The back is just for kids, but the middle is roomy.
A 4-by-8 sheet of plywood will fit in the door, tilted. But the door - Just. Won't. Close. Ties Durango, beats Traverse.
Where it's made: Chicago.
How it's made: The Explorer fared poorly in J.D. Power & Associates' Initial Quality Survey (in large part because of the MyFord Touch), but its predicted reliability is better than average.
In the end: I wanted to like the Explorer. Ford seems to have had a lot of success with its new models, such as the Fiesta, Focus, and Fusion. But even notwithstanding the MyFord Touch, the bulkiness makes the vehicle too much for the Philadelphia area, and the graphic dashboard is brought to you by Excedrin.
Despite its lousy mileage, the Traverse won me over with its interior flexibility, drivability, and overall family-friendliness. The Durango would place a close second, because it was nice but didn't have all the capabilities. Unfortunately, I'd say the new Explorer needs to catch up.
Contact Scott Sturgis at 215-854-2558 or email@example.com.
To watch an auto reviewer fight with modern technology firsthand, visit Sturgis' blog, "A Different Spin," at www.philly.com/differentspin. Read his recent columns at www.philly.com/driversseat.