The latest-gen Ford Explorer does have a lot to offer SUV buyers. It’s got 3 rows as standard, there’s a hybrid model available, and it recently beat out the Toyota Highlander in Kelley Blue Book’s comparison. And, for those wanting some extra performance, there’s the Ford Explorer ST. But, although it may be fast, is it $60,000 fast? Hooniverse isn’t so sure.
Ford Explorer ST specs and features
On paper, the Ford Explorer ST impresses.
Under the hood is a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 developing 400 hp and 415 lb-ft, linked to a 10-speed automatic. And to help put that power down, it has all-wheel drive. It’s also 127 pounds lighter than the last-gen Explorer, Car and Driver reports. With launch control, it can go 0-60 in 5.2 seconds. Power, though, isn’t the ST’s only upgrade over the standard Explorer.
The Explorer ST gets upgraded brakes and suspension components from the Police Interceptor Explorer, Car and Driver reports. That includes larger anti-roll bars, stiffer springs, and retuned dampers. In addition, the SUV has a Sport Mode which speeds up gear changes and sharpens throttle response. There’s also an ST Handling Package which adds larger brake rotors and high-temperature seals.
The Ford Explorer ST also comes with quite a few standard features, appropriate given its $55,835 starting price. There’s built-in navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot, automatic parking, and a wireless charging pad. The steering wheel, 1st– and 2nd-row seats are all heated; the front seats are also ventilated.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as are various advanced driver-assistance features like lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control. An 8” infotainment touchscreen is standard but can be upgraded to a 10.1” screen. Doing so also gives you a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system.
Why the Ford Explorer ST isn’t worth its asking price
To be sure, the Ford Explorer ST does handle reasonably well, especially for a 3-row SUV, Autotrader reports. And with the optional high-performance tires, Car and Driver found the Explorer ST fairly athletic.
Hooniverse also praised the SUV’s new chassis design, saying the latest-gen Explorer is significantly better than the model it replaces. Host Jeff Glucker reports the seats are comfortable and well-bolstered. And although the optional 10.1” screen is vertically-arranged, not horizontally, it places information at a higher level for added visibility and safety, Gear Patrol reports.
However, there are some criticisms. In Sport Mode, the transmission holds each gear longer for added power. However, it can hold the gears too long, and the SUV doesn’t sound particularly good at high RPM. And outside of Sport Mode, Car and Driver reports, the transmission prioritizes fuel-efficiency, meaning there’s a significant delay between when you press on the gas pedal and the Explorer accelerates.
In addition, Hooniverse reports the interior is sorely lacking for an as-tested $60,000 SUV. There are some good interior materials, but overall, there’s just too much hard plastic for this price point. The Maserati Levante Trofeo faces a similar problem: a good-handling SUV let down by less-expensive roots.
Also, the Ford Explorer ST has been having some reliability issues. First-year quality problems aren’t unusual, but Gear Patrol noticed instrument panel rattling and excessive low-speed vibration on a tester with fewer than 4000 miles on the clock.
Alternatives to consider
In the same vein as the Ford Explorer ST is the Toyota Highlander XSE. However, while it improves the crossover’s handling, it adds no additional power. But it is noticeably cheaper: Roadshow estimates it will start at around $42,000.
There’s also the Dodge Durango SRT, which has a 475-hp 5.7-liter V8. And Dodge confirmed a Hellcat-powered Durango is coming. But the Durango SRT starts at just under $63,000. And Car and Driver reports it’s not necessarily any faster or sharper than the Explorer ST.
If you don’t need that last row of seats, a Porsche Cayenne is also worth considering. The base model is more expensive than the Explorer ST, starting at just under $67,000. But even though it makes less power than the ST, Car and Driver reports it’s just as fast out in the real world. It’s also significantly more reliable, with an interior worth the asking price.
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