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Christian Wardlaw

Review QuickTakes:

What is the 2022 Ford Explorer?

Thirty years ago, Americans started purchasing SUVs in droves, and the original Ford Explorer accelerated the trend. Today, the 2022 Ford Explorer remains among the most popular midsize three-row SUVs you can buy. You can choose from eight trim levels offering turbocharged or hybrid power and rear-wheel drive (RWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD). Up to seven people can ride in the Explorer.

What's New for the 2022 Ford Explorer?

Ford adds the new Explorer ST-Line to the lineup for 2022. The ST-Line has the sporty look of the Explorer ST but without all the sporty performance. Ford also adds a RWD version of the Explorer ST for 2022, infuses the King Ranch and Platinum with more power and technology, and expands the availability of a second-row bench seat to more trim levels.

How Much is a Ford Explorer?

This year, 2022 Ford Explorer prices range from the mid $30,000s to the mid $50,000s, including the destination charge to ship the SUV from the Chicago assembly plant that builds it to your local dealership.

2022 Ford Explorer Trim Levels and Configurations

With the addition of the new ST-Line trim level, there are eight Ford Explorer models from which to choose:

Ford Explorer – Though lightly equipped, the least expensive version of the Explorer has a powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a triple-zone automatic climate control system, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with connected services, and a Co-Pilot360 collection of advanced driving assistance and collision avoidance systems.

Ford Explorer XLT – The popular Explorer XLT adds heated front seats, second-row captain's chairs, and other upgrades to elevate it one rung above the base trim. Choosing the XLT also opens the door to more options and packages.

Ford Explorer ST-Line – Based on the XLT, the new-for-2022 Explorer ST-Line has a performance-oriented look plus upgrades to the infotainment system and safety technologies.

Ford Explorer Limited – With Limited trim, the Explorer adds leather seats and comfort upgrades, features more technology, and offers optional access to a gas-electric hybrid powertrain.

Ford Explorer Timberline – Introduced for the 2021 model year, the Timberline treatment gives the Explorer a rugged look to go along with all-terrain tires, an off-road suspension, added ground clearance, underbody skid plates, and a trailering package.

Ford Explorer ST – Driving enthusiasts will want to consider the Explorer ST. It has the ST-Line's exterior look combined with a twin-turbocharged V6 engine and several performance upgrades.

Ford Explorer King Ranch – Equipped with lots of luxury features and decked out in a western-style King Ranch theme, this twin-turbo V6 version of the Explorer has premium "branded" leather, real wood trim, and a full menu of tech.

Ford Explorer Platinum – As the pinnacle of Explorer style and luxury, Platinum trim offers exclusive features such as 21-inch wheels, massaging front seats, autonomous parking technology, and more. In addition, you can choose between a twin-turbo V6 and a gas-electric hybrid V6 powertrain.

Christian Wardlaw

2022 Ford Explorer Review and Test Drive

By Christian Wardlaw

Test Drive QuickTakes:

In 1990, Ford stretched its stubby Bronco II model, added a larger back seat and two rear doors, slapped an "Explorer" badge on the tailgate, and set afire a passionate flame for SUVs that today stretches beyond U.S. borders and across the world. That original 1991 Ford Explorer (like the Bronco II, based on the Ranger pickup) blended what people loved about traditional trucks, SUVs, and station wagons into a family- and budget-friendly alternative to the popular minivans of the time. And when you fast-forward 32 years to the present day 2022 Ford Explorer, that original recipe remains the same.

Ford last redesigned the Explorer for the 2020 model year, and the SUV has been on a plan of continuous improvement ever since. New trim levels, a wider variety of configurations, and added power make the 2022 Ford Explorer lineup the most appealing one ever. Highlights of the sixth-generation Explorer include a return to a RWD/4WD platform, an available hybrid powertrain, the performance-tuned ST and luxury-themed King Ranch and Platinum models, and healthy tow ratings.

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For this 2022 Ford Explorer review, I test-drove one with King Ranch trim in Southern California. It came with 4WD, extra-cost Rapid Red paint, a twin-panel sunroof, and a Premium Technology option package, bringing the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) to $60,060, including the $1,495 destination charge. Ford provided the vehicle for this Explorer review.

2022 Ford Explorer Review: The Design

When Ford redesigned the Explorer for 2020, the SUV took on new proportions thanks to its RWD/4WD platform but carried over a handful of signature styling cues to ensure people knew what it was. As a result, the Explorer boasts a very short front overhang and a cab-rearward appearance, with the interior set further back on the chassis. It also appears to taper more as the roof, glass, and character lines converge toward the SUV's rear. Long, low, and lean, the 2022 Explorer boasts an appealing design.

Christian Wardlaw

King Ranch models have a fancy interior with exclusive two-tone Mesa Del Rio leather. It is chocolate brown with caramel inserts and features lasso-shaped perforations and the distinctive King Ranch Running W branding mark on the front seat backs. Ford also stamps this logo onto the center console cover's surface and the bottom of the steering wheel.

Critics knock the Explorer for the amount of hard plastic in the cabin, but they could levy the same accusation at any of this SUV's rivals in the midsize, three-row segment. In King Ranch spec, you won't notice it much, thanks to the leather on the seats and dashboard, genuine Sapele open-pore wood trim, silver and gloss black accents, contrast stitching, thick carpeted floor mats, and large digital displays. Also, it's worth noting that the Explorer and its corporate platform-mate, the Lincoln Aviator, draw from the same parts bin for certain bits and pieces.

The control layout is logical, and Ford supplies large knobs for stereo volume and tuning and a climate control panel that is distinctly separate from the 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system display. Other controls are conventionally intuitive except for the rotary transmission selector, but you get used to it in short order.

Christian Wardlaw

Explorers are comfortable for four people (or five if you get a second-row bench seat). The third row adds two more seating locations, but the Explorer's platform and packaging requirements make it hard for adults to enter and exit this area. In addition, the seat itself is relatively uncomfortable for grown-ups due to legroom and foot room restrictions and a low, flat, bottom cushion supplying little support.

The King Ranch test vehicle came with power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row captain's chairs, and a heated power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel. My family of four was quite comfortable in this SUV, and taller adults will be happy with the second-row accommodations. The King Ranch also had manual rear side-window sunshades, but they left a rather large gap at the windows' trailing edge.

Ford includes thoughtful storage solutions in the Explorer, including the smartphone slot next to the cupholders, the wireless charging pad just forward of the center console bin, the cupholders molded into the rear door panels, and the floor-mounted tray and cup holders between the second-row captain's chairs. Collectively, the SUV supplies plenty of space for your things.

Christian Wardlaw

Behind the King Ranch's power-folding third-row seat, cargo space measures 18.2 cubic feet. There is a hidden storage area under the cargo floor, and you can lower or remove the load floor panel to expand volume. Keep it in place, fold the third-row seats down, and the Explorer has 47.9 cu-ft of cargo space. Fold the second-row seats down, and the maximum cargo volume number is 87.8 cu-ft. These are generous but not class-leading figures for the segment.

2022 Ford Explorer Review: The Technology

When Ford designed the latest Explorer's interior, it planned to embed an 8-inch touchscreen display between the center air vents and above the stereo and climate controls. It seems, however, that late in the planning stages, Ford decided it needed a bigger display for upper trim levels. How else to explain the portrait orientation of the 10.1-inch touchscreen seen in the test vehicle, which looks like a personal tablet computer propped on a shelf on the dashboard?

Christian Wardlaw

Furthermore, Ford's most advanced infotainment technology at that time was called Sync 3. The company has since moved on, offering Sync 4 and Sync 4A in Ford models designed and engineered since then. Sync 3 isn't a significant detriment, though the native voice recognition capabilities are far from class-leading.

Sync 3 highlights include Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM satellite radio, AppLink with Amazon Alexa compatibility, and FordPass Connect subscription services, including access to a Wi-Fi hotspot. In addition, the test vehicle had a navigation system, an excellent Bang & Olufsen premium audio system, and a 12.3-inch digital instrumentation display with lush, creative graphics.

As far as the 10.1-inch touchscreen is concerned, it is too tall and too narrow, but that's what Ford needed to design to squeeze it between the existing air vents. When you set your favorite radio stations, they appear at the bottom of the display, and I found it too easy to activate a "swipe" action instead of a "push" action to choose a new station. That was irritating.

The native voice recognition capability is aggravating, especially if you frequently use your smartphone's digital assistant to ask questions and get directions. Sync 3 could not process half of my standard voice requests, and in some cases, it required specific command use to achieve the desired result.

Beyond this, when attempting to find a nearby hospital, the navigation system did not filter its database for medical businesses that are not, specifically, hospitals. And when searching for the closest coffee and burrito joints, it only returned one result instead of a list of choices. When you're on a road trip, you want to stop at the next place coming up, not something that's behind you or miles off the highway.

Another problem cropped up during testing. The stereo speakers quit working correctly, offering only intermittent sound for the duration of the week-long evaluation period. Most likely, this was due to a loose wire, but still.

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As far as safety features are concerned, every 2022 Ford Explorer comes with Ford Co-Pilot360. This collection of driver-assist and collision-avoidance technology includes forward-collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic high-beam headlights.

In addition to these systems, the test car had the Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+ package of driving tech. It adds adaptive cruise with stop-and-go capability, lane-centering assist, and an evasive steering assist system that adds stability to the SUV when the driver takes sudden evasive action to avoid an object.

You can also outfit a 2022 Explorer with trailer coverage for the blind-spot monitoring system, a surround-view camera, and Active Park Assist 2.0 (APA 2.0). The APA 2.0 technology is impressive, taking complete control of the steering, transmission, accelerator, and brakes to autonomously park the Explorer in a parallel or perpendicular parking space. The only caveat is that the driver must remain behind the steering wheel, ready to take control at any time.

During testing, all of the Ford Co-Pilot360 technologies performed beautifully. Not only are they accurate and refined, but drivers have broad control over whether or not they're active, their sensitivity level, how they warn a driver, and more.

Christian Wardlaw

I have just three minor complaints. First, when using adaptive cruise control and another motorist cuts into the gap ahead of the SUV, the Explorer can brake a little too much in response. Second, when using adaptive cruise control and lane-centering assist, the steering wheel sensors frequently thought I had removed my hands from the wheel rim when I had not. Third, while using both of these systems on Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, California, the lane-centering assist cycled on and off, unable to remain effective in some of the sharper curves on the road.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the 2022 Ford Explorer earns a Top Safety Pick+ rating. However, as this review was written, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had not assessed the SUV's crashworthiness.

2022 Ford Explorer Review: The Drive

Choose a Ford Explorer with base, XLT, ST-Line, Limited, or Timberline trim, and it comes with a turbocharged 2.3L four-cylinder engine. A member of the company's EcoBoost family, this turbo-four does duty in several Ford and Lincoln models, including the Mustang. The base engine makes 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, and supplies up to 5,300 pounds of towing capacity.

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Upgrade to ST, King Ranch, or Platinum trim, and you'll get a twin-turbocharged EcoBoost 3.0L V6 engine. Last year, only the ST trim supplied 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque. Starting with the 2022 model year, all three variants deliver this amount of power, which is mighty satisfying. The maximum towing capacity with this engine is 5,600 lbs. when the SUV is appropriately equipped.

A third powertrain is available with Explorer Limited and Platinum trim levels. It's a hybrid drivetrain using a 3.3L V6 engine and a 10-speed automatic with an integrated starter generator, and it makes a total of 318 hp and 322 lb-ft of torque while returning up to 27 mpg in combined driving. With the Explorer Hybrid, you can tow up to 5,000 lbs., and 4WD is available.

The turbocharged engines also use a 10-speed automatic transmission, which powers the Explorer's rear wheels unless you opt for the 4WD system. Driving modes include Deep Snow/Sand, Trail, Slippery, Normal, Eco, Sport, and Tow/Haul, and when you adjust between them, the digital instrumentation puts on an impressive graphics show.

Christian Wardlaw

I enjoyed driving the 2022 Ford Explorer King Ranch. From behind the steering wheel, it feels more like a traditional SUV than a crossover, and in my book, that's a good thing. This rugged sensation likely results from the 20-inch wheels and 255/55 tires, the suspension tuning, and the SUV's robust platform and architecture. Collectively, these traits quell unwanted noise, vibration, and harshness while delivering a firm, controlled ride and responsive, athletic handling.

Granted, the King Ranch is softer than the Explorer ST, but that's by design, considering the target customer for each of these trim levels. Plus, the test vehicle proved itself remarkably quiet at all times, and the automatic engine stop/start system is nearly imperceptible. It helped the King Ranch average 20.6 mpg on the testing loop, which is better than the official EPA fuel economy rating of 20 mpg.

Christian Wardlaw

Outward visibility is good, and depending on how you position the driver's seat, you can easily gauge where the front corners of the Explorer are. Unfortunately, if you're reversing from slant parking and looking over your right shoulder, the second-row head restraints block the view out of the SUV's right rear quarter window. Fortunately, the view straight back is clear when the third-row seat is folded flat.

I took the Explorer off-roading, and it performed well. The King Ranch won't inspire you to tackle challenging terrain, but this SUV will get you places you'd never try to reach in, say, a Ford Edge. In addition, the Terrain Management System that comes with the optional 4WD system certainly adds confidence when traveling off the pavement.

A week of driving the Explorer in and around Los Angeles demonstrated that this SUV is an excellent all-arounder. Furthermore, in many ways, it is superior to its primary rivals.

Is the 2022 Ford Explorer a Good SUV?

Though my test vehicle suffered an electrical glitch that rendered the excellent Bang & Olufsen sound system inaudible, and while Ford's Sync 3 infotainment technology is merely adequate, I think the 2022 Explorer is a good SUV. It is enjoyable to drive, returns good gas mileage, has lots of room for families of four, and can carry quite a bit of cargo. Unfortunately, prices are high, especially if you want the twin-turbo V6. Nevertheless, the Explorer King Ranch test vehicle looked and felt worthy of its $60,000 price tag, as it was a luxury SUV in all but brand name.

Ford Explorer Competitors for 2022

The 2022 Explorer faces no shortage of competitors. Rivals from General Motors and Stellantis include the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, and Jeep Grand Cherokee L. Additionally, the Explorer combats the Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, and Toyota Highlander. The exceptionally roomy Volkswagen Atlas also seeks success with the same customer base.

Ford Explorer Features

Highlights

Ford builds a 2022 Explorer to suit almost any preference. The Explorer covers all bases, from the budget-friendly standard model and the rugged Timberline to the performance-tuned ST and the luxurious Platinum.

2022 Ford Explorer Safety Features

  • Pre-collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking – Standard forward-collision warning system with pedestrian detection and automatic braking
  • Post-collision Braking System – Standard feature that brings the Explorer to a stop as soon as possible after an initial collision
  • Blind Spot Information System – Standard feature warns the driver when other vehicles are in the Explorer's blind spots, and it includes trailer coverage
  • Lane-Centering – Available feature that helps a driver keep the Explorer centered in its lane of travel*
  • Evasive Steering Assist – Available feature that adds stability when the driver takes sudden, evasive action to avoid an obstacle*

2022 Ford Explorer Technology Features

  • Sync 3 infotainment system – Standard 8-inch and available 10.1-inch touchscreen
  • Smartphone connectivity – Standard Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto
  • FordPass Connect – Available connected services, including a Wi-Fi hotspot*
  • 360-degree camera – Available surround-view camera system improves outward visibility*
  • Active Park Assist 2.0 – Available autonomous parking that works while the driver is sitting in the driver's seat*

2022 Ford Explorer Interior Features

  • 12.3-inch digital instrumentation – Available feature*
  • Leather upholstery – Available in standard and premium grades of leather*
  • Seat heating and ventilation – Available front and rear heating and front ventilation*
  • Massaging front seats – Available feature*
  • Twin-Panel Moonroof – Available feature*

2022 Ford Explorer Specs

2.3L turbocharged four-cylinder engine

  • 300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque
  • 10-speed automatic transmission
  • Rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive
  • EPA fuel economy rating of 20 mpg to 24 mpg in combined driving
  • 5,300-lb. maximum towing capacity

3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 engine

  • 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque
  • 10-speed automatic transmission
  • Rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive
  • EPA fuel economy rating of 20 mpg to 21 mpg in combined driving
  • 5,600-lb. maximum towing capacity

3.3L V6 engine, hybrid powertrain

  • 318 hp and 322 lb-ft of torque
  • 10-speed hybrid automatic transmission
  • Rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive
  • EPA fuel economy rating of 23 mpg to 27 mpg in combined driving
  • 5,000-lb. maximum towing capacity

*Availability is subject to specific trim level selections

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Christian Wardlaw
My first word was “car.” That’s what I’m told, anyway. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with them. The design. The engineering. The performance. And the purpose. I’m a car enthusiast who loves to drive, but I’m also most interested in the cars, trucks, and SUVs that people actually buy. Anybody can tell you that a sports car is fast. What you need to know is whether or not you should buy that new SUV, and why. My life purpose is to help you make that decision.

Explorer Features

Accessories
  • Window
    • Rear Defrost
    • Power Windows
    • Privacy Glass
  • Convenience
    • Cruise Control
    • Adjustable Steering Wheel
    • Intermittent Wipers
    • Variable Speed Intermittent Wipers
    • Steering Wheel Audio Controls
    • Immobilizer
    • Rear Parking Aid
    • Remote Trunk Release
    • Trip Computer
    • Telematics
    • Remote Engine Start
    • Back-Up Camera
    • Power Liftgate
    • LED Headlights
    • Requires Subscription
  • Telephone
    • Bluetooth Connection
  • Air Conditioning
    • Climate Control
    • Multi-Zone A/C
    • A/C
  • Locks
    • Keyless Entry
    • Power Door Locks
  • Mirrors
    • Power Mirror(s)
    • Driver Vanity Mirror
    • Passenger Vanity Mirror
    • Driver Illuminated Vanity Mirror
    • Passenger Illuminated Visor Mirror
  • Audio
    • AM/FM Stereo
    • Satellite Radio
    • MP3 Player
    • Auxiliary Audio Input
    • Hard Disk Drive Media Storage
    • Smart Device Integration
  • Floor Mats
    • Floor Mats
Accessories