Why is the Ford Explorer Hybrid in Last Place?

The 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid is in last place among hybrid SUVs, according to U.S. News & World Report. The vehicle received no major changes for the new model year, though it was new in 2020. There are loads of hybrid SUVs now, meaning there’s a ton of competition. Unfortunately, the Ford Explorer Hybrid is at the bottom of the rankings on just about every reviewer’s list.

What’s so bad about the Ford Explorer Hybrid?

A silver Ford Explorer parked outside with a sunset background
Ford Explorer | Ford

The Ford Explorer Hybrid isn’t all bad. It’s a good vehicle that lacks in places making it worse than its competitors. One of those things, in particular, is fuel economy. Gas mileage is one of the most important things for any buyer looking at hybrid vehicles, so if the hybrid’s fuel economy is bad, so is the vehicle.

The Explorer’s 3.3-liter V6 engine and electric motor combine for 318 horsepower. The two combine for 23 city and 26 highway mpg with four-wheel drive. Though those numbers do outperform most nonhybrids, they put the Explorer at the bottom of the list for hybrid SUVs. Comparatively, the Toyota Highlander hybrid gets 35-36 city and 34-35 highway mpg.

It has a cheap interior cabin

A black interior on a 2021 Ford Explorer
2021 Ford Explorer Interior | Ford

The interior of the Ford Explorer hybrid is for lack of a better word, unimpressive. U.S. News notes the large number of plastic materials throughout, making it feel very cheap for a vehicle that costs upwards of $50,000. Hard plastic materials are what’s usually found in much less costly vehicles, which puts a bad taste in your mouth about the Explorer hybrid’s price tag.

What the Explorer hybrid lacks in quality materials, it makes up for in cargo space. It offers class-leading 87.8 cubic feet of space after folding down the second and third rows. Unfortunately, it isn’t leading any classes in passenger space. It can fit up to six passengers, but the third-row passengers will be uncomfortable. The legroom is tight, seats are low to the floor, and they’re just not very comfortable to sit on.

How well does the Ford Explorer Hybrid perform?

A blue Ford Explorer parked near mountains and water
Ford Explorer | Ford

The power and acceleration of the vehicle are very good, but transitions between gas-powered and the electric engine are not smooth. Like most hybrids, the Ford Explorer has the ability to turn its gas engine off when stopped. Many older hybrid vehicles felt like a really rough shift when accelerating again. The 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid is no different.

Since even off-road SUVs are getting hybrid options now, it needs to be noted the Explorer isn’t the best in that category either. We don’t expect it to compete with the Jeep Wrangler, but it could definitely be better. Though with four-wheel-drive and the traction management system it is a little more capable than some SUVs.

How do the critics rate it?

According to U.S. News, critics give the Ford Explorer Hybrid a score of 6.7 out of 10. Its performance gets a 6.1 and interior a 6.7. These are two of its weakest points, but reliability isn’t much better. J.D. Power gave it an 81/100 for quality and reliability, which isn’t too bad compared to most other vehicles in its class.

ModelJ.D. Power Quality & Reliability Rating
2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid81/100
2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid82/100
2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid77/100
2022 Honda CR-V Hybrid84/100

Overall, the 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid isn’t a bad hybrid SUV. It does lack quality materials and passenger space on its interior, making it less than luxurious for its high price tag. The poor fuel economy hurts it tremendously since those shopping for a hybrid SUV are seeking high gas mileage. Those are the reasons the Ford Explorer Hybrid is in last place against similarly sized hybrid SUVs.

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