The first thing that you notice about the Explorer is that it is massive and makes no apologies for it size. The exterior exudes the idea of industrial grade strength with clean
lines and simple shapes that make it an attractive beast.
The fit to the exterior panels was quite good except for the headlight/turn signal pods which had slightly different gaps top to bottom. The interior is much improved and attractive, and had leather seats that were much more comfortable than those in any of the Japanese, German or Korean counterparts.
The gauges were large and easy to operate as were the heater/air/radio controls. What was annoying was that the dash top and the right rear door panel did not sit flush against the pieces they mated to. This would be fine for a less expensive car but not in a fairly pricey SUV.
The ride, handling and braking on the Explorer were much better than expected. The last SUV we had was the very popular Honda Pilot. And while the Pilot handled like an Accord around town, on the highway it wallowed disconcertingly no matter how carefully we changed lanes.
The Explorer is a large vehicle, but once we were used to its size it was easy to drive in traffic. Parking the Pilot was easier because it was narrower but the turning radius on the Honda was no where nears as good as on the Explorer which was easier to maneuver because of it's tight steering and its ability to turn on a dime.
The Explorers highway manners were quite good. Not small car nimble, but quite predictable and completely stable at whatever speed the fast lane was moving along at. As with the Honda the Explorer is a seven passenger SUV, and both suffered from a Mini Cooper sized storage capacity when all the seats were up.
However, the Explorer's bench allows enough room that side-by-side child safety seats are feasible, allowing the remainder to fold and slide forward giving reasonable access to the third row seats.
The power and thrust of the Explorer can only be described as massive. There is little reason to wonder why most people who tow trailers choose something from Ford or GM to do it with. Parking, don't even want to go there, pull into a small/regular sized space and your width is at the lines, in some places you can get in, you just can't open the doors to get out
The "peanut galley" loved the windows that rolled down all the way allowing great views from their child safety seats. And the seats were easy to load and remove.
The downside of the Explorer is the downside of any large SUV, gas mileage, we got an abysmal 14 mpg. With gas at $2.35 plus per gallon, that's harsh.
The rule of thumb is that if you are towing, buy something with twice the capacity required for what you are hauling.
Therefore anything larger than a light trailer means that you need a large stable vehicle that has a big engine, and poor gas mileage, unless you go diesel.
Ford has a solid reputation for longevity in building vehicles in the size. We own a 1993 Ford E 150 van with 90,000 plus miles on it. Eleven years and the only major service was overhauling the transmission, it's been a great vehicle for us.
In spite of the minor imperfections we grew rather fond of the Explorer. Would we get one? Well, we have the van and no need to tow anything ~ so no. But if we needed to tow something large the Explorer would have been right up there on the list of vehicles we'd check into.