2010 Ford Explorer Review and Prices

Last Updated: Aug 5, 2011

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2010 Ford Explorer Buying Advice

The 2010 Ford Explorer is the best midsize SUV for you if you want an “old school” truck-based SUV that’s family friendly and capable of moderate towing/hauling and off-roading.

The original Explorer debuted for model-year 1990 and helped spark America’s sport-utility-vehicle obsession. Offered as a two- and four-door wagon, Explorer was perennially the top-selling SUV though most of the 1990s and into the 2000s. Its popularity has waned in recent years as the market migrated toward car-based crossover models. Still, Explorer remains a handsome if conservatively styled SUV inside and out and is a solid performer in most respects. Family-focused features and multiple safety systems are highlights. Crossovers use an integrated body/frame construction called unibody and are typically front-wheel drive with optional light-duty all-wheel drive. As with most traditionally engineered SUVs, Explorer attaches a body to a separate truck-like frame, which beats crossover designs for towing and hauling strength, though it’s heavier and so not as fuel efficient. Explorer’s basic powertrain is rear-wheel-drive and it offers four-wheel drive with low-range gearing for tackling the tough terrain or deep snow drifts. The 2010 Explorer belongs to a design generation introduced for the 2006 model year. It comes in XLT, Eddie Bauer and Limited trim levels. For 2010 it receives a standard Trailer Sway Control feature that uses selective braking and throttle control to reduce trailer sway and improve handling while towing. An updated navigation system includes the subscription-based Sirius Travel Link system that delivers real-time traffic and weather information, sports scores and news headlines, and local movie times and gasoline prices.

Should you buy a 2010 Ford Explorer or wait for the 2011 Ford Explorer? Buy a 2010 Explorer if you’re an SUV traditionalist because this is the final model year for the Explorer in its body-on-frame form. Wait for the 2011 Explorer if you want an all-new crossover version based on the engineering of the Ford Taurus sedan. The Explorer name will be just about the only major trait carried over to the new model. Styling will be familiar but modernized and instead of today’s V-6 and V-8 engines, the 2011 Explorer will share updated powertrains -- including the turbocharged Ecoboost V-6 engine -- with the Taurus. The 2011 Explorer also will be the first vehicle to incorporate airbags into the rear seatbelts to help minimize head, chest, and neck injuries in a collision.

2010 Ford Explorer Test Drive back to top

Interior: The 2010 Ford Explorer comes in a single body size but offers five- and seven-passenger capacity. In either configuration, the first two rows of seats afford ample comfort. The available third-row seat is best suited for the kiddies. Otherwise head, leg, and shoulder room is more than sufficient for average-sized adults. An upright seating position affords good outward visibility, aided by large and relatively upright windows all around. The interior design is understated but functional; all controls are within easy reach, with legible gauges on the instrument panel. Cup holders and storage compartments are plentiful.

Cloth or leather upholstery is available. An optional XLT Sport package dresses up the Explorer’s interior with Charcoal Black cloth seats, a white instrument cluster, and all-weather floor mats.

Optional convenience features include a power-folding third-row seat, adjustable brake and accelerator pedals, keyless entry/push-button start, and a rear DVD entertainment system. Also available is Ford’s Sync infotainment system that makes  possible hands-free operation of cell phones, iPod, navigation system, and audio systems. Sync links with external devices via a standard audio input, USB port, or Bluetooth wireless interface. The latest version of Sync includes turn-by-turn route guidance and the ability to access and personalize content. Sync is available alone or in combination with the optional voice-activated navigation system, which includes the subscription-based Sirius Travel Link system for more detailed instructions and information.

Exterior: The 2010 Ford Explorer’s styling is familiar to most anyone because it’s the same basic look -- albeit refined along the way – this SUV’s enjoyed for the last two decades. Horizontal lines and right angles are the order of the day and put to good use. A bold front-end treatment helps give it a more-masculine appearance than most crossover SUVs.

While power-deploying running boards are available, they’re not as necessary here as they would be on a full-size Ford Expedition because Explorer’s ride height is low enough to afford easy access for most people.

The aforementioned XLT Sport package adds black-accented wheel lips, exterior step bars, and unique lower fascias for a bit of visual flair. Note that Explorer has a near-twin in the form of the 2010 Mercury Mountaineer. The two differ mainly in styling details.

Driving: The 2010 Ford Explorer offers a choice of V-6 and V-8 engines. The base powerplant is a barely adequate 210 horsepower 4.0-liter V-6 mated with a five-speed automatic transmission. A more-powerful 292-horsepower 4.6-liter V-8 is offered and it uses a smoother, more sophisticated six-speed automatic transmission. Neither powertrain is particularly fuel-efficient, however, but at least the gasoline won’t just evaporate into the environment because you left the fuel-filler cap back at the gas station. Explorer has no gas cap, thanks to Ford’s Easy Fuel system that uses a baffled filler neck to save time and hassle at the pump.

The 2010 Explorer can tow heavier loads than similarly sized crossover SUVs. Maximum towing capacity is 5,375 pounds with the V-6 and 7,115 pounds with the V-8 engine. That’s quite sufficient for pulling a decent-sized boat or trailer to the lake or campsite.

A four-wheel independent suspension gives the Ford Explorer a reasonably smooth ride with respectable handling, especially for a truck-based SUV. Four-wheel disc antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and electronic brake assist are standard for sure stopping ability.

Ford’s AdvanceTrak stability control system with Roll Stability Control is standard, and provides added road-holding control, especially around sharp curves. It employs a gyroscope that senses when a rollover is likely to occur, engaging the brakes and controlling engine power in order to bring the vehicle back under control.

The Ford Explorer offers three drive systems. V-6 models are available with rear-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD). Rear drive is best suited to sun-belt regions. The 4WD system is preferred for snow-prone states and can left engaged on dry pavement. V-8 models come with a choice of 2WD, 4WD, or all-wheel drive (AWD). All-wheel drive automatically delivers power to the front wheels to sustain traction. Though Explorer is intended only for moderate off-road driving, both the four- and all-wheel-drive systems include low-range gearing for added traction in snow or on loose surfaces.

2010 Ford Explorer Prices back to top

The 2010 Ford Explorer price range is $30,095-$39,415 (prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Ford’s fee for the 2010 Explorer is $815).

The 2WD XLT model is the most-affordable entry and starts at $30,095. Four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive adds $2,320 to the sticker price.

2010 Ford Explorer Fuel Economy back to top

With rear-wheel-drive, the 2010 Ford Explorer is rated at 15/21 mpg (city/highway) with the V-6 engine and 14/20 with the V-8. With 4WD, V-6 models are rated at 14/19. With 4WD or AWD, V-8 Explorers are rated at 13/19 mpg.

2010 Ford Explorer Safety and Reliability back to top

In government crash testing, the 2010 Ford Explorer rates the maximum five stars for driver and passenger protection in frontal impacts. It receives five stars for side-impact protection for both the driver and passengers. It receives three out of five stars for rollover resistance, slightly below the four stars awarded to most midsize SUVs.

The 2010 Ford Explorer received an “about average” rating for initial quality and a “better than average” rating for expected reliability by J.D. Power and Associates, the leading automotive consumer survey firm.

2010 Ford Explorer Competition back to top

Jeep Grand Cherokee: Also due for a full 2011 redesign, the Grand Cherokee continues to combine a rugged demeanor with decent on-road performance. The standard 3.7-liter V-6 delivers a weak 210 horsepower while the optional 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 generates a considerably stronger 357 horsepower. The top SRT8 model comes with a 420-horsepower Hemi. A five-speed automatic gearbox with manual-shift capability is standard. This is one midsize SUV at home off-road. No less than three 4WD/AWD systems are offered, along with myriad convenience features. Base price range is roughly $31,500-$44,000.

Nissan Pathfinder: This seven-passenger body-on-frame SUV is purposefully styled and offers a choice of V-6 or V-8 power and three optional 4WD systems. It’s mechanically related to the Nissan Titan pickup truck and the more-basic Xterra SUV. Pathfinder performs well in most regards and provides a reasonably good balance between comfortable family transport and off-road ruggedness. It can tow up to 6,000 pounds with the V-6 and 7,000 pounds with the V-8. Base price range is roughly $28,500-$43,000.

Toyota 4Runner: Redesigned for 2010, Toyota’s long-running truck-based SUV is longer, taller, and wider than the version it replaces. A weak-feeling four-cylinder engine is standard, albeit only in the base rear-drive SR5 model. A new-for-2010 4.0-liter V-6 is included elsewhere in the line and generates a peppy 270 horses, though 4Runner’s weight limits it to a middling 5,000-pound tow capacity. The 4Runner Trail version has an advanced off-road terrain traction/suspension system while the suspension on plush Limited model automatically adjusts to road surfaces and cornering forces to maximize control and ride comfort. Base price is roughly $28,500-$40,500.

2010 Ford Explorer Next Steps