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The Ford Explorer remains essentially unchanged for 2017, save for a new Sport Appearance package that makes its debut this year. The new package includes exterior enhancements such as stylish grey wheels, a matching grey grill, black exterior cladding and grey leather interior.
The Explorer is offered in base, XLT, Limited and Platinum models, but no matter the model, it comes with three well-designed rows of seating and room for up to seven (the second row comes with two bucket seats for adults). While the third row is kid-sized, it's easier to fold than those on just about any other model, thanks to the simple, single-button power-folding system. Parents will also note that LATCH fasteners for child seats are included in the second-row outboard positions. Both the second and third rows flip forward, giving a cavernous 81 cubic-feet of cargo space.
The base engine is a 3.5L V6 that produces 290 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque, with EPA ratings of 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. The optional 2.3L EcoBoost 4-cylinder makes a healthy 270 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, and fuel economy is best in class at 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.
The 4-wheel-drive system in the Explorer is available with both engines, and it is designed with the urban driving done by most Explorer owners in mind. The system includes a Terrain Management system that cleverly recalibrates itself for snow, sand or mud when needed. With 4-wheel drive, there's also Hill Descent Control, to help maintain composure on steep, slippery slopes.
Standard equipment on the Explorer is more extensive than what's found in most mainstream-brand vehicles. Cruise control, a media hub system, four 12-volt powerpoints, capless fuel-filling and the MyKey control/monitoring feature are all standard on the base model, while optional or standard goodies on the upper XLT or Limited trims include dual-zone climate control; remote start; power-folding, heated side-view mirrors; reverse sensing; ambient lighting, adjustable pedals, a rearview camera system, push-button start and a 110-volt AC outlet. The top-of-the-line Platinum trim includes quilted leather seating, brush aluminum accents, and ash wood inlays.
MyFord Touch combines a host of vehicle, information and entertainment functions in an interface that appears a bit like that of iPads or other tablet computers. The system works together with Ford's Sync interface to interact seamlessly -- and with voice commands -- with media players, smartphones and music on USB sticks.
All Explorers include both Roll Stability Control and Curve Control sophisticated stability control systems. Safety Canopy side-curtain airbags also cover all three rows and an SOS Post-Crash System helps alert authorities if the airbags deploy. Safety-related tech features on the Explorer include adaptive cruise control with a collision warning system that includes brake support as well as a Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert.