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2011 Ford Explorer

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2011 Ford Explorer Review

An excellent choice for individuals wanting the convenience and versatility of an SUV without sacrificing the comfort, ride, and fuel economy associated with smaller vehicles.

Reviewed by Automotive on


The 2011 Ford Explorer marks a significant redesign for Ford's flagship SUV. Virtually no aspect of the 2011 Explorer goes untouched, offering improvements to almost every part of the vehicle.

The 2011 Explorer comes in three trim options: base, XLT, and Limited.

The Range

Body Styles: full-size SUV
Engines: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 3.5-liter V-6
Transmissions: six-speed automatic
Models: Ford Explorer, Ford Explorer XLT, Ford Explorer Limited

What's New

One of the most significant changes to the 2011 model is a departure from the truck-related mechanicals that formed the foundation of previous Explorers. Instead, Ford has opted for a unibody construction, similar to the Ford Flex. The result is an SUV that rides more like a car, instead of a full-size truck.

Adding to the comfort is a cabin that is larger than previous years thanks, in part, to the 2011 Explorer being almost four inches longer and five inches wider than the 2010 model. The cabin also sports a higher degree of refinement and luxury than Explorer owners may be accustomed too, thanks to Ford's emphasis on interior design.


The 2011 Explorer features similar styling to the Ford Edge, however the Explorer measures a few inches longer and much wider. The added length and width gives the Explorer a squatter, more carlike appearance.

The 2011 Ford Explorer base comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, and blind-spot mirrors. The XLT adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a keyless entry code pad, automatic headlights, fog lights, and rear parking sensors. The Limited features 20-inch wheels.

The XLT and Limited are both eligible for a dual-panel sunroof upgrade. Also, the Rapid Spec 301A package adds a power liftgate.


Standard features for the base include cruise control, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, and a six-way power driver’s seat. The XLT features upgraded cloth upholstery, while the Limited adds a 12-speaker Sony stereo and keyless engine start.

For the XLT, Ford offers its Rapid Spec Option Group 201A, adding dual-zone climate control, a rearview camera, and an upgraded speaker system. Rapid Spec includes the Driver Connect Package, which has the MyFord Touch electronic controls, Sync system, two USB ports, an RCA input jack, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The Rapid Spec 202A also includes leather upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver’s seat, and a front-passenger seat with six-way power.

In addition to the Rapid Spec features, the Limited includes a 110-volt outlet and an upgraded Sony sound system, complete with HD radio and 12 speakers.

The Rapid Spec 301A package includes ventilated front seats, a power-folding third-row seat, and a navigation system.

The Rapid Spec 302A package includes adaptive cruise control, automatic parallel-parking, blind-spot warning, collision warning, and brake support.

All versions of the 2011 Ford Explorer come standard with the MyFord driver connect technology, including a 4.2-inch LCD screen. MyKey programmable vehicle keys also come standard, allowing parents to set safety limits for the vehicle. For example, top speed, audio volume, and speed alert chimes can all be programmed.

Performance & Handling

Under the hood, the 2011 Explorer is a whole new beast. Gone is the 292-hp V-8, replaced by a 3.5-liter, 290-hp V-6. The new engine not only provides better fuel economy but, surprisingly, also has better acceleration, despite its smaller size.

The 4WD 2011 Explorer also features a terrain management system. Instead of the more traditional four-high and four-low settings, the terrain management system offers situational selection. The four settings include Normal, Mud, Sand and Snow. All settings are available by shift-on-the-fly and provide engine, throttle, transmission, and traction control behavior specific to that particular setting. Ford's Hill Descent Control system also provides engine breaking when descending a steep decline.


The 2011 Ford Explorer comes with an impressive array of safety equipment, including Ford's brand-new Curve Control technology, which aims to reduce the risk of rollovers. The system senses when a driver takes a curve too rapidly by comparing the rate of turn with the speed of the vehicle. If a danger is perceived, the system reduces engine torque and applies four-wheel braking to reduce engine speed by as much as 10 mph in a single second. Curve Control proves effective on both wet and dry pavement. Ford anticipates Curve Control to be especially useful when entering and exiting freeway ramps.

EPA Fuel Economy

Ford Explorer: 17/25 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • High-class interior utilizes quality materials
  • Wide array of high-tech features
  • Good ride quality and handling

You Won't Like

  • Lacks third-row and cargo space
  • Big and slightly unmanageable feel from behind the wheel
  • MyFord Touch has ergonomic inefficiencies

Sum Up

An excellent choice for individuals wanting the convenience and versatility of an SUV without sacrificing the comfort, ride, and fuel economy associated with smaller vehicles.

If You Like This Vehicle

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  • Buick Enclave
  • Chevrolet Traverse
  • GMC Acadia

See the New 2015 Explorer.

Front & Driver Side View