Review: 2012 Ford Explorer Limited FWD With Ecoboost – Part 6

So, I’m at the end of this review. I’ll cut to the chase. For the most part, I feel that Ford has got a winner on it’s hands here. The Ford Explorer Limited with Ecoboost is a vehicle that gives you all the usefulness of an SUV with a minimal gas penalty. My average fuel consumption for the week was 11.9L/ 100km in mixed city, back road and highway driving. Impressive by any standard. The interior is well put together and has a ton of nice features like the power fold down third row seating. The tech in this vehicle such as MyFord Touch, blind spot monitoring, cross traffic alerts, and MyKey are cutting edge. Not only that, they for the most part enhance the driving experience. It drives well and it has the power that you need for a vehicle of this size.

There’s some loose ends that I’d like to address. They are:

  • This vehicle has the Easy Fuel system. There’s no gas cap which makes refueling the vehicle a snap. Not only that, it’s self sealing. If you’ve ever had a check engine light because you didn’t tighten the fuel cap, you’ll love this feature.
  • Speaking of fuel, despite the fact that this is a turbocharged engine, you can fill up with regular gas. With gas prices the way they are, that’s a very welcome touch.
  • There are automatic headlights in this vehicle. When it gets dark, the vehicle will turn the headlights on for you. But unlike other vehicles that I’ve driven that have this feature (and I’m thinking of GM and Toyota when I type this), you can disable the system and turn the lights on and off yourself. Not only that, if you want to turn the lights off at night with the engine running, you can. I’ve driven GM and Toyota products that force you to shut the car off to turn off the headlights. Perhaps they need to copy what Ford has done as they’re doing automatic headlights the way they’re meant to be done.
  • The cupholders in the vehicle are a bit of a #fail if you have a travel mug with a handle. Several travel mugs with handles that I tried don’t fit properly. My Toyota Matrix has cut outs that allow these sorts of mugs to fit just fine. If however you only get your coffee from Starbucks in disposable cups, this is a non-issue.
  • I figured out what the issue was with playing music via Bluetooth from my Blackberry. Once connected, you have to choose the song or playlist from the Blackberry music app as it will randomly just play anything. MyFord Touch simply allows you to turn the music via Bluetooth  on and off. Not the worst thing in the world, but not exactly ideal. Another thing is that the behavior of music via Bluetooth was very inconsistent. Sometimes, I’d play a song on my Blackberry and I wouldn’t hear anything inside the Explorer. Sometimes, I would play a song and I would hear it but I would not get any artist and track info on the screen. Sometimes I would play a song and it will play and I will see the artist and track info, which I imagine would be the expected behavior. Disabling and enabling Bluetooth on the phone enough times would often get you to a point where things would more or less work. Clearly some work needs to be done by Ford on this front.
  • One thing that I didn’t really touch on was the ability to use your phone via MyFord Touch. I have to admit that it works quite well and the quality of the audio when making and receiving calls was great. You can also send and receive text messages via MyFord Touch as well. However, when you send a text message, the system tacks on the “This SMS sent from my Ford” signature to every sent text message. My wife found this to be very annoying and I was unable to figure out how to disable this. If you can’t disable this (because surely there must be some way to disable this), then that’s a #fail.
  • Whomever designed the backup camera and cross traffic alerts needs to get a raise. This is a feature that needs to be on every vehicle on the road as it makes the experience of backing out of a parking space less stressful and safer for everyone concerned (Meaning the driver, other drivers and pedestrians).
  • The Explorer has a collision warning system that flashes a red light on your windshield as well as beeping loudly when it thinks you might hit something. I had this go off when a slow moving car coming across my path from right to left suddenly stopped in the middle of the road (for no reason that I could tell other than the guy “Bambied”). I did see it so I was already in the process of taking evasive action. But it’s nice to know that had I not seen the car, I would at least had a shot at avoiding an accident.

I did wonder why this model was not available with an 4 wheel drive option (which by the way, I really think would be something that would fly off dealer lots). Here’s a couple of reasons why. First, I did some research and I found out that this version of the Explorer is 80 pounds lighter than the V6 version. So clearly this version was designed with fuel economy in mind. Second, Ford has announced a V6 Ecoboost version of the Explorer called the Explorer Sport. This will come with 4 wheel drive coupled with Ford’s Terrain Management System. Basically you get V8 like power with V6 fuel consumption along with 4 wheel drive. So if you want an Ecoboost engine with 4 wheel drive, this is going to be your only option.

So would I recommend this vehicle? If you needs include shuttling the kids to and from school and visiting the mall. You want fuel economy and you don’t need 4 wheel drive, take a good hard look at this vehicle. The 4 cylinder Ecoboost engine is a $1000 option, but my feeling is that you’ll make that money back in the form of the gas you’ll save over the V6 version. Keep in mind that the Explorer starts at just under $30,000 for a V6 variant with front wheel drive. So if my Explorer Limited with Ecoboost (which retails for just under $50,000 with all the options that it comes with) doesn’t fit your needs, there’s something in the Explorer lineup that likely will.

Would I buy this vehicle? The answer is no. Not because it’s a bad vehicle. It’s because I have no practical use for a seven passenger SUV. The Ford Edge or 2013 Ford Escape would likely fit my needs better. Plus they include many of the same technologies that the Explorer has including the 4 cylinder Ecoboost engine.

Here’s the bottom line. I said it in my look at the Ford Fusion a few years ago and I’ll say it again. Ford is putting out vehicles that can compete with and beat any car company out there. If you don’t buy what I’m saying, go into a Ford dealership and go for a test drive. You’ll be a believer. The Ford Explorer Limited with Ecoboost is one example of this and I was extremely impressed by it. If you’re looking for a mid sized SUV, you need to take a look at the Explorer. It is worthy of serious consideration.

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