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Explorer is a changed SUV

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 26, 2012 at 12:41 pm •  Published: December 26, 2012

Wow, the Ford Explorer sure has changed. No longer a truck-based sport utility vehicle, the Explorer rides comfortably and is generously sized, with noticeable roominess.

Inside, the 2013 Explorer can be stocked with high-tech features, including a navigation system offering the most fuel-efficient route to your destination.

For 2013, the Explorer also has more safety features than ever and earned a top, five-out-of-five stars in federal government crash testing. And, with an optional, turbocharged four-cylinder engine helping the 2013 Explorer earn a government rating of 20 miles per gallon in city driving and 28 mpg on the highway, the Explorer ranks as the best large-sized SUV in highway fuel economy.

Pricing is on par with large SUVs that offer three rows of seats.

The seven-passenger, 2013 Explorer has a starting retail price of $31,995 (with destination charge) for a front-wheel drive model with 290-horsepower V-6 and automatic transmission. The 2013 Explorer with the fuel-efficient, turbocharged four cylinder costs about a thousand dollars more, and the turbo four is available only on front-wheel drive Explorers.

Competing SUVs include the 2013 Honda Pilot, which has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $30,350 for a front-wheel drive model with 250-horsepower V-6 and seating for up to eight. All-wheel drive 2013 Pilots start at $31,950.

Another competitor is the 2013 Dodge Durango, which has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $30,490 with rear-wheel drive and 290-horsepower V-6. All-wheel drive 2013 Durangos start at $32,690.

Note the Pilot is available with V-6 only, while the Durango is offered with choice of V-6 or 360-horsepower V-8.

No V-8 is offered for the Explorer any more. But a new-for-2013 Explorer Sport, with price starting at $41,675, gets the 365-horsepower, turbocharged V-6 that's in the performance Ford Taurus SHO sedan.

In 2000, the Explorer was the top-selling SUV in the United States, with annual sales of 400,000 or more. But highly publicized rollover crashes and questions about the Explorer's Firestone tires hammered sales, and competitors proliferated and benefited over the years.

Through 11 months of calendar 2012, for example, Explorer sales totaled 146,963.

Still, buyers wanting a competitively priced, roomy, domestically built SUV that's can pack in the safety and convenience features of a sedan will find much to like in the 2013 Explorer.

The Explorer now uses a more car-like platform for a nicer ride. It's the same one used in Ford's Flex crossover SUV, and it gave the test Explorer a compliant ride over road bumps and a bit of cushioned ride over sharp humps on an off-road trail.

Yes, the Explorer still is offered with a drive system for all four wheels, and the test Explorer, a Limited model that topped out at just over $47,000, included the easy-to-operate terrain management knob with settings for driving in snow, mud and sand.

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