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In-depth reviews

Ford Explorer review

Ford’s long-awaited electric SUV drives well, has some neat touches and impresses for efficiency

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

  • Good ride and handling
  • Great range and efficiency
  • Some nice interior features
  • Other electric SUVs are cheaper
  • Infotainment isn’t perfect
  • VW switchgear not replaced
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Quick verdict

Ford has brought back the Explorer name and borrowed the Volkswagen MEB platform but the resulting Ford Explorer feels like a fresh start in the EV space for the brand. Efficient with long range figures, a practical interior and a well-judged driving experience, it can mix-it with the top mid-size electric SUVs on today’s market. Only some ambitious pricing and a few control interface niggles really hold it back.

Key specs 
Fuel typeElectric
Body styleSUV
Powertrain52kWh Standard Range rear-wheel drive
77kWh Extended Range rear-wheel drive
79kWh Extended Range four-wheel drive
SafetyNot yet NCAP tested
Warranty3yrs/60,000 miles
Battery and electric motor 8yrs/100,000 miles

Ford Explorer: price, specs and rivals

Ford is finally getting serious about electric cars, and has plenty of catching up to do with the new Explorer. That’s the positive angle on this new Ford EV. The detractors would say that a revamped Volkswagen ID.4 - not the most sparkling of EVs to start with - and the resurrection of another old brand name previously seen on a larger SUV, and predominantly in the States, doesn’t exactly scream of a new beginning. And that’s before you mention the delays to a car that finally emerged around nine months later than initially hoped, as Ford held off on the launch until battery tech was where it wanted it to be. 

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This is Ford’s second proper production EV, joining the Mustang Mach-E and glossing over the electric Focus that it never really got behind, and the Explorer name returns having been sold in the UK between 1997 and 2001, although in America the nameplate has been a constant since 1990, where it became the best-selling SUV of all time in 2020. 

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But this new Ford Explorer EV comes with a choice of two trim levels - the higher Premium trim is either rear- or four-wheel drive, while the Select trim is only rear-drive. There will be a £40,000 smaller battery model coming in late 2024, but from launch you’re looking at almost £46,000 for a rear-drive Select, topping out at just under £54,000 for the AWD Premium. That’s a little higher than the Skoda Enyaq, while the admittedly significantly less powerful and less efficient Renault Scenic is significantly cheaper. 

Equipment levels are decent, with entry cars getting 19-inch alloys, a powered driver’s seat, heated front seats with massage function, wireless charging, a 14.6-inch touchscreen and a host of safety kit. Step up to Premium for just over £4,000 on the only comparative model, and the alloys go up to 20-inch, and Matrix LED headlamps are added, along with a B&O audio system, a powered hands-free tailgate and a panoramic roof. 

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Until the 168bhp/239-mile range entry car with a 52kWh battery arrives, the choices are the 77kWh battery on the rear-driven model or a slightly larger 79KWh battery for the all-wheel-drive range-topper. Top of the official range figures is the Select rear-drive car with 374 miles, dropping by over 20 miles when you go for the higher trim level, and coming down to 329 miles for the all-wheel drive car. On our test drive of the rear-drive model we found it was doing a decent 3.6 miles per kWh, which equates to a real world range of almost 280 miles.

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The all-wheel drive car’s bigger battery charges at an impressive 185kW maximum rate, but that drops to a more modest 135kW for the rear-drive car’s 77kWh battery, although according to Ford that only adds two minutes to the charging time from 10-80%, the two versions taking 26 and 28 minutes respectively. 

The extra power of the all-wheel drive car - 335bhp versus 282bhp in the rear-drive - makes more than a second of difference on the 0-62mph acceleration times at 5.3 and 6.4 seconds respectively, but the less powerful car is still lively enough to make the AWD seem an extravagance. 

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Though Ford mentioned the Volvo EX30 as a potential rival, the more logical competitors include the new Renault Scenic, as well as the Volkswagen ID.4 and Skoda Enyaq that share much of the underpinnings. 

Electric motors, performance & drive

Ford has made improvements versus the VW ID.4 sister car, although the RWD car is fast enough to negate the more expensive all-wheel drive model
ModelPower0-62mphTop speed
Ford Explorer Standard Range RWD168bhpTBC99
Ford Explorer Extended Range RWD282bhp6.4112
Ford Explorer Extended Range AWD335bhp5.3112

One of Ford’s strongest claims with the new Explorer is that its reputation for producing cars that are fun to drive, cultivated for more than 25 years, has been maintained. Engineering changes compared to the Volkswagen ID.4 sister car mainly centre around the suspension, dampers and roll bar, as well as electronics, and within the confines of the Explorer still being an electric mid-sized SUV, the engineers have largely succeeded in developing a car that’s an enjoyable steer.

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Ford’s usual suspension wizardry has made the Explorer a car that’s comfortable across rougher roads and speed bumps yet also keeps body roll well under control for briskly attacked roundabouts or a bit of B-road fun. It’s also comfortable for high-speed runs, with a little background road and wind noise, but nothing to take the edge off it as a relaxing long journey companion. Basically a pretty impressive set of skills that doesn’t neglect one area to score well on another.

Around town, the Ford Explorer is very manoeuvrable, with a great turning circle helping complete tight turns. That’s handy, as visibility through the narrow rear window is pretty poor, although a rear parking camera, and front and rear parking sensors, should keep the Ford away from parking scrapes. The only real complaint with the driving experience is that the steering feels a little light at higher speeds when you make the first move off-centre, but does quickly add more weight. It’s also a shame, particularly around town, that there’s no full one-pedal driving mode or even many different levels of brake energy regeneration. It’s just the Drive or Brake functions activated using the very familiar VW Group stalk. 

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While there’s over a second between the two power options on the 0-62mh dash, the ‘lesser’ model, which still has a very useful 286hp, is perfectly potent. It reacts with immediacy, even for anyone familiar with electric vehicles, as soon as you touch the throttle, and you’d have to be working the Ford Explorer hard to regret not paying the extra for the all-wheel drive 335bhp range-topper. 

Range, charging and running costs

Impressive range and efficiency, even versus the Volkswagen Group sister vehicles, although charging speed isn’t anything special
ModelBattery sizeRangeInsurance group
Ford Explorer Extended Range RWD77kWh355-37428E-29E
Ford Explorer Extended Range AWD79kWh33132E

Considering it’s so late to the party, it’s a good job Ford has rolled into the electric SUV mainstream with something to boast about. 

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The Extended Range rear-wheel drive Explorer in entry specification has an official range figure of 374 miles, and on a pretty brisk test we saw efficiency that would have it heading for 280 miles in the real world. Which outpoints almost all the competition and is more than enough for the vast majority of the driving population. Interestingly, it’s a decent chunk more than the VW ID.4 with which the Ford Explorer shares much of its componentry. 

Opt for the higher Premium trim level and the range figure drops down to an official 355 miles thanks largely to the bigger alloy wheels, while the extra power of the all-wheel drive Explorer sees the range figure at an official 331 miles. That power and the four-wheel drive traction cost £4,000 versus the rear-drive price tag. 

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The all-wheel drive car charges at an impressive rate of 185kW for a 26-minute 10-80 per cent charge on an ultra-fast charger, but it’s a more run-of-the-mill 135kW for the rear-drive car. That means a charge of 10-80% should take around 28 minutes. That’s decent enough, but doesn’t move the game on. At home, you’re looking at just over five hours for the same charge on an 11kW charger, or seven-and-three-quarter hours to go from 10 to 80 per cent at 7kW charging. 

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Ford offers an eight-year or 100,000-mile warranty on the battery and EV components, guaranteeing that the battery will still be at 70% of its original capacity. Disappointingly, a heat pump, which helps electric car efficiency in cold weather, is an expensive option, rather than being fitted as standard. 

Design, interior & technology

The exterior design hides the car’s dimensions well and there some clever interior touches, although cabin quality is mixed

The Ford Explorer certainly isn’t visually just a smaller version of the Mustang Mach-E, the brand’s existing electric SUV offering, with Ford adamant it won’t invoke what it calls “Russian doll” car design where the same look is trotted out for different sizes of car.

Which is why it’s handy, with little to link it to other Ford models visually, that there’s a huge Fold badge on the nose, to leave no-one in doubt as to what it is. The design hides the car’s size well - it’s a larger car than it looks - and the bold Explorer lettering front and rear is a new design detail likely to carry over to future models as Ford makes more of its famous nameplates. The Explorer certainly looks nothing like its VW ID.4 sister car, and is a pleasingly chunkier, more ‘SUV’ design, with the blanked-off grille making the point that this isn’t an internal combustion engine car that needs the air cooling. 

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Colour-wise, the only standard choice is white, with the other five alternatives all on a limited options list of the Drive Assistance pack of safety kit and just four other individual options - 21-inch alloys (AWD only), an EV heat pump, a towbar, and a dog guard. 

Inside, the materials are an odd mix. In some places the quality surprises, with softer plastics than expected. There’s also some shifts of shape and colour to break up the interior nicely, and an overall feeling that Ford’s made an attempt to lift the quality of its cabins - something it’s not exactly famous for. But then the bottom half of the car reverts to harsh black plastic. For example, the part of the door panel you rest your elbow on has a bit of squish to it, but the handle to pull the door shut is harder, even though you’ll touch it every time you get in the car.  

It’s also a shame Ford opted not to swap out the Volkswagen Group switchgear. Indicator and gear selector stalks are the same, as is the frankly stupid window switch that toggles clunkily between front and rear windows, just to save having separate switches on the driver’s door. 

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The cabin is dominated by Ford’s huge 14.6-inch touchscreen, mounted vertically smartphone (or Tesla of old) style.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

One of the big differences between the Explorer’s Select and Premium trim levels is the addition of a 10-speaker B&O audio system, blasting out with the help of a big speaker stretched across the top of the dashboard, what’s supposed to look like the kind of soundbar you’d have by the TV. It’s still there on the lower trim level, just not B&O branded, and with three less additional speakers dotted around the car. 

The big screen itself looks great on full map mode in particular, but has some usability irritations. It’s also too many presses to disengage the interfering driver assistance systems, although at least you can tailor a number of shortcuts to sit at the top of the screen. 

Cleverly, the screen and its entire casing slide up and down from near-horizontal to a 45 degree angle, for both personal preference and to help visibility in bright light. But behind it is a secret stowage area housing a pair of USB-C charging points and it’s also a space that, when the screen is fully down, is secured when you lock the car. It’s a good spot for any electronics that are being left in the car, for example.

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Less good are the buttons on the steering wheel. Because it’s effectively one big touchpad, it’s hard to feel with your thumb where the individual controls are, and you have to glance down to use them. 

Everything runs through the touchscreen rather than any nice physical buttons, but at least the climate controls are always positioned at the bottom of the screen no matter which view you’re in, and not hidden in menus. 

Boot space, comfort & practicality

There’s nothing particularly ground-breaking, but the boot is a decent size and there’s plenty of room for four adults
Dimensions 
Length4468
Width1871
Height1630
Number of seats5
Boot space445/1417

The Ford Explorer is a five-seater capable of carrying five people, with enough shoulder room and plenty of foot space thanks to the flat floor across the rear, and four adults will certainly find enough leg and head room to be comfortable for a long journey. The only complaint that might emerge from the back seats is that the car’s floor is a bit high, thanks to the battery packaging, which means passengers sit at a slightly unnatural angle where their knees are higher than you’d prefer and the back of their legs don’t rest on the seat base. 

Rear visibility isn’t great thanks to the small rear window, although the little side windows to the rear let in some extra light for those in the back, despite not even being properly visible from the outside. 

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As well as the clever sliding screen with stowage hidden away behind it, there are a couple of other handy little things Ford has worked on with the cabin usability. The central stowage below the armrest is huge, for example, to the point where Ford has christened it the 'Megaconsole'. Capable of taking three 1.5-litre bottles and a one-litre, too, or even swallowing a whole laptop to keep it away from prying eyes while the car’s parked, it’s a smart piece of packaging. The door bins are less clever, and are a bit tight for even a modest size of drink bottle. 

The boot is a reasonable space at 445 litres, although the likes of the Scenic, Enyaq and ID.4 all have larger capacities, and has a pair of bag hooks, a 12V socket and a moveable boot floor so you can pick the height you want. The higher position creates a space underneath to stow the charging cable, which is useful for when it’s wet and you don’t want to mix it with luggage. But even in the higher position, there’s a small lip to heave heavier items over. 

The rear seats fold in 60:40 form via a button on the top of the seat, creating a space that’s almost flat. 

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Ford offers a towbar on the limited options list, with the Explorer rated at a towing capacity of up to 1.2 tonnes. 

Safety & reliability

There’s no NCAP test yet, and some handy safety kit is only part of the Driver Assistance options package
Key standard safety featuresEuro NCAP safety ratings
  • Lane Keep Aid
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • Cross traffic alert
  • Exit warning
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Euro NCAP safety rating - N/A
  • Adult occupant protection - N/A
  • Child occupant protection - N/A
  • Vulnerable road user protection - N/A
  • Safety assist - N/A

Ford hasn’t yet put the Explorer through the Euro NCAP safety test, but the Volkswagen ID.4 scored the full five starts in 2021.

Standard safety equipment is reasonable, with both trim levels getting lane keep aid, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and cross traffic and exit warning systems. But it is a shame that the only options package is the driver assistance package, which for almost £2,000 (£500 less on the higher Premium trim level as you already get the powered tailgate that’s part of the package) adds head-up display, lane centering with lane change assist, active park assist and 360-degree camera.

VW has had a few years of ID.4 to iron out any issues with the platform, so with the lower number of moving parts, reliability should be good. 

Should you buy a Ford Explorer?

Ford has managed to do more than just bring out a VW ID.4 with a different body, and that’s a relief because it really needs to start getting serious in the EV market. Efficiency, the driving experience and some of the clever cabin details give the car more of a chance in a crowded segment than the latecomer might otherwise expect, although the pricing looks a bit strong against some serious contenders. 

The Ford Explorer has plenty of space inside, with the rear seats offering good adult occupant room. Ford has managed to make an electric SUV that both rides pretty well, in town and at higher speed, and is a decent degree of fun in the corners. Most manufacturers struggle with one thing or the other, some with both. 

Combined with very good range and efficiency numbers, all this gives the Ford Explorer a good chance when going up against the likes of the excellent Skoda Enyaq, Renault’s Scenic and the Peugeot e-3008, as well as models from the more premium brands Ford is hoping to take EV SUV buyers from.

Frequently Asked Questions

Ford offers three-year or 60,000-mile warranty on the Explorer, whichever comes first. This is about as basic as you get on any car, but as it’s an EV, the electric powertrain components get an eight-year or 100,000-mile warranty, guaranteeing the battery will still have at least 70% of its original capacity.

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As Editor, Paul’s job is to steer the talented group of people that work across Auto Express, Carbuyer and Driving Electric, and steer the titles to even bigger and better things by bringing the latest important stories to our readers. Paul has been writing about cars and the car industry since 2000, working for consumer and business magazines as well as freelancing for national newspapers, industry titles and a host of major publications.

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