Ford Explorer review

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Ford's all-electric Explorer mid-sized SUV reflects the urgency of Ford's need to get into the mainstream EV market. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.

Ten Second Review

This electric Ford Explorer isn't the brand's first EV, but it's the company's first really significant step into this market. A mid-sized SUV that runs on a Volkswagen chassis and powertrain, but in every other way has been developed to look, feel and drive as a European Ford should. It's impossible to over-state the significance here: for its maker, this car has to work.


Most car companies are changing simply because they've started making EVs. For Ford, the difference goes a bit deeper than that. Tired of years of losses (£1.6 billion in 2022), the brand's board must have considered following General Motors in pulling out of Europe completely. Instead, they've turned the model range on its head, dispensed with 380,000 staff, closed a key factory (Saarlouis in Germany) and signed off eventual death warrants for Ford's two most recognisable model nameplates, Focus and Fiesta. In place of the Fiesta, at the company's German Cologne plant will be made this car, the Explorer.

You might vaguely know the Explorer name because it designates a big SUV hugely successful in the US, marketed briefly in the UK between 1997 and 2001 and lately sold in small numbers (as a Plug-in Hybrid) in Europe. This latest mid-sized Explorer is a slightly smaller SUV than that and of course it's all-electric, sharing its battery, MEB platform and basic architecture with the Volkswagen ID.4 as part of an agreement with Volkswagen which Ford reciprocates for by building VW-badged commercial vehicles in South Africa and Turkey. But you want to know about the Explorer, created as one of the company's four new 'product banner' sales categories, this one categorising SUVs and known as 'Adventurous Spirit'. The Blue Oval maker insists that, despite the shared underpinnings, this is a proper Ford in the way it drives, the way it looks and its cabin feel. Is it? Let's see.

Driving Experience

The Blue Oval brand promises that this Explorer will 'feel like a Ford' to drive. Which you might think a bit of a stretch given its Volkswagen MEB chassis and battery pack combination. In any case, given the company's new-found desire to trade on its American roots and the forgettable handling characteristics of most of its previous US market mainstream models, you might question whether a 'Ford-like' feel is even desirable here anyway. Undaunted, engineering manager Thomas Riehm promises that the car's steering, brakes, dampers, springs and anti-roll bars are specifically tuned for 'Ford-ness' and the Explorer gets its own bespoke Continental tyres.

But we're back to 'VW ID.4'-ness when it comes to the basic engineering detail here: rear wheel drive and a choice of two mainstream variants. Either a base 55kWh version with a 168bhp motor and 218 miles of range. Or a rear-driven 82kWk derivative with a 282bhp motor and 335 miles of range. As with the ID.4, there's a dual motor AWD model using the top 82kWh battery at the top of the line-up, though here it produces 335bhp, significantly more than a comparable ID.4 GTX. The dual motor model offers 305 miles of range and can tow 1,200kgs, 200kgs more than the rear-driven 82kWh version. Expect a sub-six second 0-62mph sprint time for this top variant. It'll be around 9 seconds for the base 55kWh version.

Design and Build

Given the quite prodigious size of Explorer models of the past, you instinctively expect this new-era electric design to be quite a substantially-proportioned thing. Actually, at almost 4.46-metres in length, it's positioned size-wise directly between the Volkswagen ID.3 and ID.4 models it borrows its drivetrain from. ID.4 customers are more the target market and this Ford is 12cm shorter than one of those, thanks to shorter rear overhangs, one of several fundamental design differences over that comparable VW (the others are further-rearward A-pillars, a less swept-back roof line and a wider track).

Ford wants its forthcoming designs have more of a US vibe and this one does, with references to the enduring Explorer model line including the grey 'sail'-shaped panel behind the rear door and blacked-out pillars that give a 'floating' roof effect. Plus there are big wheels - 19 to 21-inches in size. Ages was spent deciding whether to retain Ford's usual trapezoidal front grille; in the end, Jordan Demtiw's design team decided not, creating a stocky, aggressive front stance with blade-like LED headlamps that works just fine without it.

Inside, the Explorer is equally distinctive, the two-tone dashboard's highlight being a 15-inch portrait central screen adjustable in 20 stages by up to 30-degrees. In behind it is a stowage space (Ford calls it 'My Private Locker'). Plus you can stash stuff beneath the centre console, or in a 17-litre 'Mega Console' cubby between the seats big enough for a 15-inch laptop. Carry-over parts from an ID.4 are restricted to the rotating gear selector and (unfortunately) the window switches (still just two instead of four on the driver's door). You get a 5-inch digital instrument cluster and a standard-fit sound bar on top of the dashboard. Quality is a big step forward from any Ford we've ever seen in this part of the market before. Two adults will fit in OK in the rear, but more would be a squash. And those short overhangs reduce boot space to 450-litres, 93-litres less than an ID.4. Still, there's a removable boot floor and a seats-folded total of 1,400-litres.

Market and Model

You can expect prices to start at around £40,000 for the base rear-driven standard range model, but expect the asking figures to rise pretty steeply from there, to just over £50,000 at the top of the range. There are two mainstream trim levels - 'Explorer' and 'Explorer Premium'. All models feature niceties like heated massaging seats, a heated steering wheel, keyless entry and dual zone climate control, plus Ford will also throw in its dash-mounted soundbar and a 5-inch digital instrument cluster showing speed, range and navigational instructions. Media tech is taken care of across the line-up by a 15-inch central infotainment screen with 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring. The brand says that its 'Apple CarPlay' display is the biggest on the market, which will make it easier to use on the move. Plus this central monitor runs Ford's own 'SYNCMove' software that allows for full-screen mapping.

If you can stretch to 'Premium' spec, you'll get Sensico artificial leather upholstery and ambient lighting. The brand expects popular options to include an automatic tailgate, a full-length panoramic roof and a 10-colour ambient lighting system that reacts to the various drive modes. However you specify your Explorer, you should find impressive cabin quality: Ford has designed every touch point with soft-touch materials, including the door tops, which have a consistent 3mm of give for a classier feel.

Cost of Ownership

We gave you the driving range figures in our 'Driving Experience' section: 280 miles for the rear-driven 55kW model, 335 miles for the rear-driven 82kWh model and 305 miles for the dual motor 82kWh AWD derivative.

This Ford can charge from a 7KW AC home wallbox and is available in two capacities for DC ultra-rapid charging. You'll need to bear in mind that the 55kWh battery variant's fastest DC charging speed is restricted to 130kW, but the 82kWh pack that most will choose can charge at up to 170kW. Filling the 55 and 82kWh batteries takes the same time using a DC ultra-rapid charger, going from 10 to 80% in around 25 minutes. If you live in an outlying area that gets very cold in the winter months, we'd suggest you consider the (unfortunately optional) heat pump, which draws heat from the ambient air rather than using the climate system (and therefore the battery).

Whatever your choice of variant, the car's connected navigation system will identify up-to-date public charging locations during trips and prompt owners to charge at the most convenient points on each drive - all to help ensure they don't have to be anxious about how much range they have. The brand also gives customers access to the FordPass Charging Network, Europe's largest network of more than 125,000 public charging stations in 21 countries. An Explorer owner will be able to access any of these and pay for their power from a single account.


What Ford really needed at this point, particularly with the demise of the Fiesta and Focus nameplates, was a small, affordable EV to fill that gap going forward. This Explorer isn't quite that, but it's the next best thing and will make more profit for Ford than those old combustion models ever did. Partly because of all the parts it borrows from Volkswagen.

But these aren't things you can see or feel and when it comes to these, the Explorer it really is its own car - and a sea change for Ford in so many ways. Previous conventional models from the brand were often bought because of things you wouldn't immediately appreciate, like ride and handling. Few folk in living memory have chosen a Ford because it had a nicer cabin or better media technology than its rivals - but that might be the case here.

And overall? Well the reliance on Volkswagen engineering for the end result marks the reversal of market fortune that has taken place here; 25 years ago, VW's Golf needed head-hunted Ford engineers to improve its suspension technology. But the Blue Oval brand is where it is and this reborn Explorer model line does indeed represent a huge opportunity for a fundamental repositioning of this American marque. And not before time.

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