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It’s a thrill to discover that one of my favorite Ford nameplates improved significantly on its latest iteration. The Ford Explorer that made a mark on me was from its generation of roughly 10 years ago, and it did so mainly because it stood out from the Ford product line then, with its unconventional aesthetics and its silky smooth V6 powerplant. It breezed through our checklists of what a premium SUV should be all about back then in terms of power and performance, size, comfort, features and amenities, and naturally, good looks. But of course, our automotive tastes and needs evolve, and the auto brands always keep up, if not stay a step ahead. Let me tell you why.

The all-new Ford Explorer Limited 4WD is certainly a remarkable update and upgrade for 2022. It’s Ford’s full-sized 7-seater that sits between the sprightly Territory and the gargantuan Expedition, and for me it’s the ideal combination of size and configuration in terms of flexibility for an SUV-smitten country such as ours. Sure, the competition in its category offer third row seats, but the Explorer’s is what I’ve found to be the most spacious with the most “workable” sitting position for 2 adults; translation: not a token third row seat.

That can be attributed to the Explorer’s considerably longer rear overhang, that effectively allows for more legroom or cargo space, depending on how you use it. The third-row seat splits 50/50 and automatically folds down- what Ford calls PowerFold seats. The second-row seats have the most legroom, separate AC/climate control, the requisite USB port, and even an actual 230V electrical socket. The front row seats are heated and ventilated, and are power adjustable: 10-way for the driver’s, (with memory setting), and 8-way for the front passenger. I’ll fire off my only complaint about the Explorer here- I find the driver’s seat a bit too firm and not as bolstered and snug as I’d prefer it to be. Maybe it’s my less than perfect anatomy, but it may take a toll on comfort levels during long drives.

Quintessential Traveler

While subcompact SUVs are great as city runabouts, medium to full-sized SUVs herald their worth on long-distance excursions in terms of comfort, stability, and a somewhat better safety rating. Here, the Explorer shines first and foremost with its robust and fuel-efficient 2.3-liter Inline-4 Ecoboost gasoline engine that’s mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. It churns out 304PS at 5500 RPM, and a quite enjoyable 420Nm of Torque at 3500 RPM. It’s light on its feet so to speak, positively agile and athletic given its dimensions, and provides for effortless handling with its very light yet precise steering. One would tend to drive it like it was a smaller vehicle, but despite that, it feels reassuringly planted with absolutely no wallowy feel.

The Explorer is equipped with Ford’s Co-Pilot360 Technology, which again one would make the most of on out of town settings, as it’s packed to the brim with advanced safety features that’ll best protect you when you’re not nearly immobilized by heavy traffic. I found its Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control really useful on the expressways. Just set and forget to rid yourself of worrying about the speed limit and radars, as it automatically slows down when you’re approaching a slower vehicle, and speeds up to your set speed when the obstruction is gone. The Lane-Keeping System is also useful- giving you subtle but discernible nudges on the steering wheel, when you’re unintentionally drifting off lane. What I wasn’t able to test for obvious reasons is the Evasive Steering Assist, which by the term alone, suggests it’s a great feature to have. It also has seven Driving Modes, that enable it to tackle various terrain and road conditions, kind of like an incentive for you to be more adventurous.

Loaded Abode

Stylishly sophisticated, the Explorer’s interior is kind to the eyes- well designed, it’s a pleasant balance of a hefty serving of matte aluminum, leather and some faux wood accents. Interestingly, its gear selector is a knob- such a small and simple interface, for something that has very significant control. It’s got an 8-inch capacitive touch screen for its infotainment system that’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, and it sounds great too, with a Bang & Olufsen 12-speaker audio setup. Sweet! It’s also equipped with Ford’s SYNC 3 for enhanced voice recognition, to control some communication and entertainment functions. Let’s not forget its dual-panel panoramic Moon Roof, which simply emphasizes the expansiveness of the Explorer’s interior when the power shade’s slid open.

Indeed, it’s a leap in the right direction for this nameplate, for it’s improved in every respect. The form factor alone made it sleeker and sportier, looking like it’s shed a lot of pounds without compromising spaciousness. I love that it has 20-inch rims off the factory, making its profile more symmetrically pleasing. The front end strikes me as a bit too tame though, but the rear end is clean, tight and simple.  With its looks, amenities and its dynamics, it’s a package that’s hard to beat.

The new Ford Explorer Limited 4WD strikes me as the sweet spot in Ford’s SUV line, as its improvements cover all bases and it poses as a good value, at P2,998,000. 

So if you’re in the market, it’s certainly a great ride to explore and conquer destinations with.

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