2014 Ford Explorer Review

fuel-efficient turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a standard V6, or a strong turbocharged V6. Front-wheel drive is standard on the Ford Explorer with four-wheel drive optional. 4WD is standard on the Sport model.

The introduction of the Ford Explorer for 1991 helped cement the popularity of the sport-utility vehicle all across America. A rugged alternative to a station wagon, it was a perfect match for the times. Since then, the family SUV landscape has changed quite a bit, but the 2014 Ford Explorer has kept up with the times. Its combination of power, fuel economy and interior refinement makes it far more desirable for everyday use than previous versions.

Like all modern crossover SUVs, the Ford Explorer has adopted carlike unibody construction in lieu of older models' truck-based underpinnings. The advantages are many, as today's Explorer offers more interior space, better fuel economy and a more comfortable ride, all of which are desirable in a family vehicle. The Ford is also pretty upscale inside, with seating for up to seven passengers and a comprehensive list of convenience and safety features. The latter includes advanced options you won't find on many other similarly priced crossover SUVs, such as second-row seatbelt airbags as well as lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist.

The standard 290-horsepower V6 will meet most buyers' needs, but the Explorer's turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is a viable option, too. It actually costs extra to get this engine, but we've found it's still suitably powerful and its fuel economy numbers are best-in-class. In theory, the fuel savings will also pay for the engine upgrade in just a few years. On the performance side of the spectrum, there's the Explorer Sport model, which comes with a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that generates 365 hp. In addition to that potent engine, the Sport also comes with firmer suspension tuning and special interior and exterior trim details.

There are a few drawbacks to the 2014 Ford Explorer, depending on your priorities. Taller families may not be happy with the second- and third-row seating, which isn't as roomy as in other crossovers. It's the same with total cargo capacity. We're also not fond of the MyFord Touch interface's frequent glitches, or the way that the Explorer feels bigger behind the wheel than it really is -- even with all the available tech features onboard, it's not an easy vehicle to maneuver in tight spaces.

As such, it's a good idea to shop around a bit. Possible alternatives include the roomier 2014 Chevrolet Traverse and 2014 Mazda CX-9; the refined 2014 Dodge Durango, which also gives you more versatility for towing; or even the Explorer's more wagonlike sibling, the Ford Flex. If you're drawn to the upscale look and many comforts of the 2014 Ford Explorer, however, it still stands as a respectable choice.