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An Honest review of 5th generation Explorer (long)

Rubberhead

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Joined
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Messages
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City, State
Fort Mill, SC
Year, Model & Trim Level
2023 Timberline w/TechPak
I’ve spent nearly a year and 22,000 miles with my new 2014 Explorer. More importantly, I’ve spent an entire duck season with the new Ex. The honest review is that I am completely disappointed.

Background: I have owned a 1995 XLT and a 2003 XLT V8, and I still own a 2007 Eddie Bauer. I adored every one of these previous Explorers. The 2003 XLT was a reliable, rugged gem of a car. Because of this, I never considered replacing the 250,000 mile V8 with anything other than a new Explorer. In 20,000 mile hindsight, I would have researched alternatives to the new Explorer. This is the car I bought: http://www.inventory.ford.com/services/inventory/WindowSticker.pdf?vin=1FM5K8D86EGC19585

Engine: The brochure tells me the engine is more powerful than the 4.0L in my Eddie Bauer and the 4.6L in my sold XLT. That may be so but it doesn’t translate to on the ground take-off power. Worse, the learning transmission has learned to be sluggish when I try to take off from a stop. It didn’t do this new; it appears to be learned behavior. I really notice the lack of power most when I drive my wife’s 4.0L Eddie Bauer that provides a clean, even torque band from idle up to max RPM. I have owned three Hondas and the Gen 5 Explorer engine reminds me of the performance of a Honda motor.

Driving: I love the surefootedness of the new, 4WD Explorer. The Terrain Management system is a very refined solution to most people’s driving needs. Anyone getting a new Ex should seriously consider spending the extra $2k to get the AWD version. There is some torque steering effect that I noticed at first but not so much now – I’m getting used to it, I guess.

Gas Mileage: My V8 would get a legitimate 19-20 mpg in pure interstate driving at 75 MPH. The new Explorer can get 22 mpg but only when I keep it down to 55-60 MPH. On the Interstate at 70+ MPH I don’t think it’s much better than the 4.6L. In city type driving, the new Ex is getting around 15 when the V8 got 14mpg. So there is an improvement there. Yes, I know I went from a RWD to an AWD and that hurts fuel economy but I’m also down 2 cylinders and more than a liter of displacement. The fuel economy panels on the new Ex overestimate fuel economy by at least 1 mpg (assuming the odometer is accurate). The fuel tank is way too small. It should be 22-25 gallons not 18.6. The hill start assist is a very useful feature when pulling a boat up a ramp.

Towing: The second biggest disappointment was the towing. Not the towing capability but the process of towing with the new Explorer. First, I have to remove a panel to get to the receiver hitch. It’s a pain made necessary because the receiver is not built into a solid bar bridging the open gap in the rear bumper. The receiver is on a bracket attached from above leaving open the view to the spare tire well – this looks terrible hence the flimsy plastic cover. When connected, the hitch rattles where the same hitch in the V8 and Eddie Bauer is stable and quiet on most road conditions. The tow button only does part of its job. It should turn off the Reverse Sensing System (RSS) and change the DTE calculation to ‘towing’ too but it does neither. My other two Explorers with back-up alarms have a button that turns off the alert. The new Explorer either requires a series of clicks on the left controller to turn off the alert or to simply put the car in reverse endure the tone in my ears while I make several clicks on the left controller to turn off the RSS. Also missing is a compartment adequate to hold the hitch when it’s not being used. The 3rd and 4th generation Ex’s had this in the floor of the rear hatch area. I really felt that these compartments in the ’03 and ’07 were a nice and necessary safety feature to keep the metal hitch and locks from flying around the car in an accident.

Hauling: The seating configuration is fine and the cargo capacity with the 3rd row active is way, way better than the previous Explorers. The ’03 and ’07 I owned both have the then optional 3rd row with rear A/C. For my use the configuration of the ’03 where the 3rd row was a solid bench and the second row was 40/20/40 was best. I could carry four adults, a good bit of cargo and boat paddles fit nicely in the laid down center section. The 3rd row bench kept dirt and small items from falling between the folded down seats of the 3rd row. The panel that slid up to the back of the second row really did a good job of approximating the usefulness of the cargo area of a 2-row Explorer – it was really difficult to tell that there was even a tucked 3rd row.\
I had a canoe rack on the ’03 and cross rail pads on the ’07. With this, I was able to carry a 14’ canoe and two 9’ kayaks on the two vehicles. Now, with the ’14, the canoe racks are interfered with by the absolute worst place to put the antenna – the center rear of the car’s roof between the cargo rails. The ’07 has a satellite antenna bump in the very front passenger side and the radio antenna on the hood in front of the passenger. Neither of these ever got in the way of hauling anything with the old Exs. I just don’t understand the engineering that would bother with roof rails (which I like and use) and a stickup antenna squarely in the way of using those roof rails for hauling a canoe or kayak. I just don’t get it. (yes, I know I can unscrew the antenna but I never had to before)

Lights: The headlights are the biggest disappointment. I drive a lot at night, usually in the very early hours. Natural human road traffic is at a minimum between 1am and 5am and wildlife has responded by being most active during this period. The headlights on the 2014 XLT are woefully inadequate especially on roads that are not arrow straight and perfectly level. I never noticed any problem with prior generation Explorers. The fog lights are basically meaningless as are the high beams. I know there are some aftermarket solutions but I thought headlights were a solved science and why should I have to pay to upgrade the headlights on a $40k vehicle anyway? To make matters worse, there is no ground level illumination to the immediate right or left. In urban driving, this might not be noticeable but try maneuvering in a completely dark boat ramp parking lot where an empty boat trailer just to the right or left of the car is invisible to the driver. I have had to get out with a flashlight and make sure I wasn’t going to hit someone parked trailer. It’s a minor nuisance but I’ve waited since my first Explorer for them to fix the cartoonish panel lights for high beams and fog lights. It just isn’t that these are really oversized but that their brightness is not affected by the adjustable panel brightness. In rural driving, I usually turn the panel lights down pretty low but the high beam and fog light indicators stay at a uniform brightness and counter the reason to drop the panel brightness in the first place.

Interior: I have BLIS and the second-row middle seat is near useless. I really like the idea of the outboard inflatable seatbelts and would take them even at the cost of an adult-sized middle seat but I shouldn’t have to. There’s unused width in the second row between the door and the seats. The front console is nice and I like the odd shaped, deep compartment in the plastic insert is perfect for reading glasses. The sound of the entertainment system is a letdown but the dual-bluetooth and dual-USB connections are convenient. It still seems odd that soft programming reflects the old button system. It seems like some rethinking might have made the MFT more efficient. Taking climate off of the right controller seems like a downgrade. The heated seats are way too hot in the bottom when the back is just right. Chevy has for years, had seats where the heated back could be turned on without the seat bottom. Comparatively, the heated seats in the Eddie Bauer are only a single intensity but it’s pleasantly perfect with most of the heat going to the lower back. Why are there two chimes when I hit the button to activate voice recognition? I am slowly learning to wait for the second chime but many times I start speaking after the first chime but the car doesn’t listen to until the second chime. Then it only gets the second half of what I said and usually chides me for saying something it didn’t understand.

Burning Smell: Yep, I got it; bad actually. How, after 3-years with this generation Explorer, is this still a problem? How could I have taken it to a Ford dealer for service and not have them immediately ask if I’ve had the problem and offer to fix it. I am completely embarrassed when my family is with me and I have to pass someone. I feel like I’m poisoning my wife and other passengers. Also, I have a scorched oil smell when I park the hot car in my garage. I’ve asked the dealer to look for an oil leak but they haven’t found any yet but I can’t help but believe it’s there, somewhere. I’ll continue to ask about the oil leak and I may reach out to a Ford person on this forum and get help with the burning smell during acceleration problem.

Vision: I know the pillars are designed for safety in a roll-over or other collision but there are several roads that I have driven for years where I, since getting the new Explorer, can’t see the direction of traffic without having to move around in the seat. Even then I still don’t get the full picture of oncoming traffic. I have to move my head like an owl to get a read on when it is safe to pull out. I’m long-waisted and just under 6’ but the rear-view mirror is too low and steals some of the view of the road in front of me. In a hilly environment, I catch myself leaning forward to see areas behind the rearview mirror.

I knew about the Mickey Mouse spare and small gas tank before I got the Explorer but they still bug me. I just took a trip to Oak Island, NC. We had a lot of people going so I drove the ’14 and my wife drover her 4.0L ’07. She had 190 miles left with her tank and I was down to 90 something. I pay for the little bit of additional fuel economy by having to stop more frequently. My time has value too.

Again, I never considered anything else when I replaced my last Explorer but Ford used up their ‘freebee’ on the 5th Generation Explorer and will have to re-earn any future repeat business of mine.
 



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People who expect the same out of this 5th generation that they got from previous generations are sorely disappointed. I knew this going in but felt there aren't many other options out there. They have all morphed into "girly cars". Sad state of affairs.
 






The sad truth of the move from a body on frame SUV to a crossover. I like the unbiased review for sure. Of the new options, I would have to say the new Grand Cherokee is the closest to a true SUV anymore other than the Tahoe, etc and the Expedition.
 






I don't tow, so no concern there. With the halogens the regular beams are lame, but the high beam is fine to me. I don't have a prob with visibility, but I have driven previous Generation Ex's, and the current model does not have as good all around visibility, but that does not bother me.

Again, I don't have the previous engine to compare (I had a 6 cylinder GMC Jimmy for 16 years), but I find the engine solid. Power is more than fine for a NA V6, and if you want more, get the Sport. I also think the engine/tranny will hold up over time.

Quite happy with ride comfort on the new model on paved roads - which is how we do most of our driving. Suspension is better than my previous Jimmy or the older gen. Ex's I have driven. Few rattle noises up by the sunroof that bother me. Seem to come and go. Offroad the AWD is not bad at all. Problem is ground clearance.

I'm a bit disappointed with city/heavy suburban gas mileage, but highway is fine.

Quite happy with cargo capacity and third row is fine for average sized adults for short trips.

I do find the fact that it only seats two with the inflatable seat belts in the 2nd row quite annoying.

Fit and finish is not very good.

Still, I really like the way it looks in general and the driving comfort around town and cargo capacity work for me.

My biggest concern is how the paint job will hold out since I am buy and hold. Already getting a new hood due to the hood paint bubble issue with $$$ out of my pocket.

That has really soured me for now. Will see how I feel down the road. I just have a bad feeling given the fit/finish/paint issues that the body will start falling apart in due time. I think the engine/powertrain will be fine.
 






Of the 5 Explorers I have owned, (2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and now 2014) the best was the 2004. It didn't have Advance Trac or RSC and had true 4WD. It also had the split tailgate that was really handy.

I could put all terrain tires on and go places that F-150s couldn't because of the smaller size and maneuverability. Now the whole car is lame and only suited to driving on the highway.
 






Thanks for the review. Honest reviews instead of singular complaints are much more useful to prospective buyers like me.

We traded our loaded '05 Z71 Tahoe for an Edge a few years ago. My wife is sorely missing the size and third row. Unfortunately, the Explorer is too small for her and I'm too aware of its shortcomings. We'll be looking at an Expedition or Tahoe later this year. My mother-in-law just got a new loaded Tahoe and I'm going to have a hard time selling my wife on the Expedition when the time comes. I'm afraid the Explorer has all but fell out of contention now. The visibility is one of my wife's major concerns and the way the navigation and phone work in the Tahoe have her sold. I have a long, uphill battle to get her into another Ford.

Not that the Edge has been bad. It's been a great vehicle with absolutely no issues other than the finish on the interior door handle peeling on the backside. I'll probably keep it as my daily driver.

One thing is certain: we won't be in a Chrysler product. We'll go German or Japanese before that.
 






The deal breaker there for me is the engine. I was sure I was going to buy an 11, but had reservations about no 3.5 Ecoboost. After reading many reviews about not enough power, I went for a 12 MKT instead. Now that is has the 3.5 Ecoboost and real buttons on the infotainment system, I'm ready this time.
 






The deal breaker there for me is the engine. I was sure I was going to buy an 11, but had reservations about no 3.5 Ecoboost. After reading many reviews about not enough power, I went for a 12 MKT instead. Now that is has the 3.5 Ecoboost and real buttons on the infotainment system, I'm ready this time.
I had the 2011 Limited with the 3.5L engine and thought it was good. Not as quick as the 3.5L in my MKT though. Buttons or no buttons is no big deal for me. The touch has been just fine as well. In most cases I use the voice commands.

Peter
 






Thank you for an honest review.

I have had 3 1st gen and a 2nd gen during my explorer life. I was trying to convince the wife into another ford, but she is pretty well set on a tahoe, suburban, etc.

After reading this unbiased review, I think I will let her stick with the GM side, as I have a bad taste in my mouth over Chrysler/ Dodge as a whole. If ford hasn't fixed the spark plug issue and upped the fuel economy with the 5.4 v8 Expedition, I have no use for them either. I have dealt with many ford 5.4 v8s from 98-05 and almost all of them had issues.
 






We are buying happily Fords for the past 25 years now and overal we are very happy. I have this full option limited, for 5 weeks now, but the experience could be better.

I do not Tow, no concerns. I am glad its uni-body, it is very comfortable and feels VERY safe. I got the HID headlights, they do fine, plenty of light. I know the paint on aluminium can be an issue with Ford (I had major bubble issues with our 2010 Expedition), but I do not keep our cars longer than 2 years anyway. The interior material has a high quality feel and is fitted very well; no issues there. The concern I have is related to the fit and finish of the exterior. I have found so many "small" defects, that I am asking if there is any quality control going on in the factory:

- Passenger front door misaligned. (fixed it myself to safe time)
- Passenger windshield pillar cover (Outside) was not fixed on the top (sat very loose and misaligned). Dealer took the car 2 days, and replaced both the left and right cover as the internal clips where damaged (presumably in the factory as per dealer)
- Rubber molding of the small window in the passenger rear door is deformed, and sticks out (It is damaged, is ordered and replaced during the next service)
- Rubber window molding of the left rear and front door was not installed properly, and looked misaligned (Fixed by the dealer by refitting it)

There was also an issue with the AC, it stopped working while driving in 110F heat. Dealer found no issues, did a master reset. All seems to be fine now.

New cars are complex, something can go wrong, that is ok. But that a car could have left the factory with easy to observe defects I have seen in the fit and finish (and pass the PDI with the dealer) is puzzling to me for a product of 2015...
 
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Thank you for an honest review.

I have had 3 1st gen and a 2nd gen during my explorer life. I was trying to convince the wife into another ford, but she is pretty well set on a tahoe, suburban, etc.

After reading this unbiased review, I think I will let her stick with the GM side, as I have a bad taste in my mouth over Chrysler/ Dodge as a whole. If ford hasn't fixed the spark plug issue and upped the fuel economy with the 5.4 v8 Expedition, I have no use for them either. I have dealt with many ford 5.4 v8s from 98-05 and almost all of them had issues.

Every single make has issues..The company I worked for had several Expeditions [2002-2014] and we had very little issues with them...None had the spark plug issue...We had some Tahoes and they had a lot more issues then the Ford..The Tahoes would constantly idle erratically and stall in traffic.

As far as Dodge/Chrysler goes...Even our law enforcement down here is moving away from them and going back to Ford [Taurus&Explorer Utility] due to so much down time and high maintenance.

I am up in the air on getting a late model Explorer or Expedition [5.4] later this year..I really wish Ford put the 3.7 in the Explorer..At least as a option..Just IMHO.
 






It's just a tiny thing among your big review, but as far as the hitch receiver and elect. outlets being hidden behind the cover being a negative...that is a bonus in my books. Looks 100% better from the back covered up. And It takes seconds to remove or install. And the fact you can see in to the body painted spare well, who really sees it when you're towing anyway? Spray it mat black.

But I do quite agree with your mention of the rear sensing not auto disabling. How easy would it have been for them to program that in?
 






Like others, I appreciate the honest review as well. I have no desire or interest in purchasing a brand new vehicle, but I'm glad to be able to read something about the 5th gens that doesn't make me roll my eyes and gives me a good insight about these vehicles.

I honestly feel bad for Ford as well as the customers. It's unfortunate what the Explorer has become, at least compared to previous generations, but like Halwg and STrunner has said, that's kind of the world we're in right now, and not much we can do about it. For some, these crossovers have been above and beyond any expectation, and for others, a complete waste of money. Consumers needs are always changing and what one wants or expects is not what others want or expect, so companies can only try to do what they can but it's always going to be what the $$$ says. There's some people out there like me who would like the convenience of a "new" ol' fashioned off-road ready SUV, but couldn't care less about 100 airbags, fuel economy, navigation, safety, etc. and others who want a family-friendly vehicle that's safe, good for the environment, convenient, and so on. Don't get me wrong, there's no excuse for some of the poor quality control, or certain inconveniences on a $40k+ vehicle, but I still find a vehicle to be just a vehicle with all the goods and bads, no matter how disappointing that can be. That said, there's not much else to do but move on and eventually find a vehicle that meets our own individual expectations, but keeping in mind that what works for one person, may not for another.

Great review though! I hope to see other honest, unbiased reviews in the future.
 






I honestly feel bad for Ford as well as the customers. It's unfortunate what the Explorer has become, at least compared to previous generations, but like Halwg and STrunner has said, that's kind of the world we're in right now, and not much we can do about it.

I've beat myself up trying to understand their reasoning but I still don't get it. The Edge was a nice crossover type vehicle. The Expedition is too big for my needs and family so the Explorer was the perfect platform for family and hunting/boating needs while being rugged enough for outdoor needs. Deciding to move the dividing line to include the Explorer as a crossover. I just don't get the reasoning especially with the Edge in the line-up.

It's just a tiny thing among your big review, but as far as the hitch receiver and elect. outlets being hidden behind the cover being a negative...that is a bonus in my books.
I know what you're saying but with the compartment missing I now have a hitch sliding around in the back of my Explorer when I'm not towing and a stupid plastic cover sliding around in the back when I am towing. I used to have neither whether I was towing or not. It's a pain for an OC like me. :D
 






I've beat myself up trying to understand their reasoning but I still don't get it.

Seriously? It's pretty obvious. Look at the drop in sales numbers up to 2010 (see link).

The demand for truck based SUVs has declined. 60,000 units in 2010 showed a dying platform. The truck based Explorers were terrible on the ride/handling category.

Making it a CUV is the reason many people buy, including my wife Look at sales post 2010.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Explorer
 






Suggestion: Opt to get an Ecoboost 3.5 Sport and you will be driving everywhere with a big smile on your face!
 






Seriously? It's pretty obvious.

Really? Plot Explorer sales against gas prices. It's called inversely proportional meaning when one goes up the other goes down. They're still selling less than half the volume they sold of my beloved 2003. As I mentioned the fuel economy of the new Explorer doesn't justify gas savings as being a motivating factor.
 






Really? Plot Explorer sales against gas prices. It's called inversely proportional meaning when one goes up the other goes down. They're still selling less than half the volume they sold of my beloved 2003. As I mentioned the fuel economy of the new Explorer doesn't justify gas savings as being a motivating factor.

True. Ford really pushed the gas mileage when the 5th gen. came out. That was a big marketing point. Thing is, many drivers are not seeing the advertised mileage number and they are closer to the previous generations in reality.

Another factor is the economy tanking. Sales of all new vehicle of all styles and makes took a beating after '08 with the economy tanking. Used car sales sky rocketed. Problem is they sky rocketed too much in price and auto makers started extending leases and purchase payments for longer terms to cut monthly payments and that boosted new car sales across the board.

Right now, 25% of purchased cars in the U.S. for 2014 are on 73-84 month loan terms. It was only 10% 4 years ago. That's insane. There is no real increase in demand for new vehicles. Banks and auto makers are making payments cheaper by locking you in forever.
 






This may just be me but I get great gas mileage from our 13 Explorer. My wife and I traded her 09 Dodge Caliber in towards the EX and the absolute best highway mileage I ever got with that (4cyl) was 26mpg. We just completed a trip from Tampa to Key West in the EX (regular V6) and our best highway mileage was 25mpg at 72-74 mph. I verified this by keeping a log of gallons and mileage and doing the math. Our MPG "gauge" is pretty close.
 



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I have posted before I can live highway but not liking suburban/city. About 22 highway, 15 city/heavy suburban.

I know others do better, and others are in my boat.
 






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