What do our experts think of the 2023 Ford Explorer? We look at powertrain, interior options, trim levels, and more. Find out our thoughts here.
As we’ll cover in this 2023 Ford Explorer review, the venerable 3-row SUV from the Blue Oval continues to be a well-rounded – if expensive – vehicle. The nameplate goes all the way back to 1991, a history we look at here, arguably kicking off the SUV craze.
These days, the Explorer is back to its rugged RWD roots with engine options for burning rubber or sipping fuel in hybrid form. There are few updates over the 2022 model that we review here aside from a $1,000 bump in price for base and Platinum models. Also new is the ST SUV Driver Experience which promises to teach buyers of ST models the finer points of performance handling.
2023 Ford Explorer – ford.com | Shop 2023 Ford Explorer on Carsforsale.com
Strong towing capacity
Brawny good looks
Bewildering layers of options
Best content requires a package
No Blue Cruise
As good as ever
Most 2023 Ford Explorers are powered by a turbocharged 2.3L inline-4 making 300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. King Ranch and ST models are motivated by a twin-turbo 3.0L V6 cranked up to 400 horses and 415 torques. Both of these motors are branded “EcoBoost” by Ford to indicate the presence of forced induction.
The third option, which comes standard on the Platinum, is a mildly hybridized 3.3L V6 rated for 318 hp and 322 lb-ft of torque. In all cases, power is sent to the rear wheels by a 10-speed automatic transmission. AWD is a $2,000 extra on all Explorers except the Timberline that comes with it as standard equipment. When so equipped, the driver-selectable Terrain Management System offers seven modes to choose from including Deep Snow/Sand, Trail, and Slippery.
The 2023 Explorer lineup rides on a MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear setup that is tuned for comfort. Timberline models are jacked up a smidge with 8.7 inches of ground clearance to the 7.9 inches on other models. These more rugged Explorers also come with all-terrain rubber and improved angles to allow for greater off-road capability. If athletic handling is more your speed, the Explorer ST is up to the task with a sport-tuned suspension and an available high-performance braking package.
The base 2023 Ford Explorer can tow 5,300 pounds when equipped with the Class IV towing package. This figure maxes out at 5,600 pounds for models with the 3.0L EcoBoost V6, but even the hybrid can handle 5,000 pounds. As we note in our new vs. used comparison, this towing capacity is substantially higher than the 3,000-pound rating for the prior generation Explorer.
Fuel economy for the base 2.3L engine is rated at 21 mpg in city driving and 28 on the highway – subtract one mpg from each for AWD Explorers. The twin-turbo 3.0L V6 comes in at 18/26 mpg in city/highway driving and sees the highway figure drop by two with AWD running gear. For local commuting, nothing beats the hybrid with its 27 mpg city rating. It is rated for 27 on the highway with AWD reducing those figures to 23/26 mpg in city/highway driving.
With a standard two-position third row, the 2023 Explorer can handle up to seven occupants. Though XLT trim and above comes with second-row captain’s thrones that drop max occupancy to six, swapping in a middle-row bench is a no-cost option. Legroom for these rear rows is competitive at 39 inches in the middle and 32 for the way back. A GMC Acadia, which we compare to the Explorer here, measures 40 and 30 inches, respectively. All back seats can be folded flat for 88 cubic feet of storage, nearly 10 cubes more than the Acadia manages.
Seat upholstery ranges from the usual cloth and leather to a sporty ActiveX leatherette with Miko suede-like inserts. ST-Line models add red stitching to the seats and door panels while the Timberline is done up in a handsome Cypress and Tangerine scheme. Heated front seats are included from the XLT on up with ventilation added once you get to the Limited. Active Motion front buckets, with five different massage themes, are just the thing for long drives but do require an optional package.
There is a portrait-oriented 10-inch infotainment touchscreen available in the 2023 Explorer but it requires a package on all models. The standard size measures eight inches and comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Wi-Fi hotspot capability. A 12-inch fully digital gauge cluster is included on ST trim and above with Platinum models adding a 12-speaker audio system from Bang & Olufsen.
An available wireless device charging pad and voice-activated navigation are features of ST-Line and Limited trim but are not included on the more expensive Timberline. There is no head-up display on offer, which seems unusual given the nearly $60,000 price tag of top models but there is a 14-speaker stereo – also from B&O – that is rather nice.
All 2023 Explorers come with Co-Pilot360, Ford’s suite of driver aids. It includes a lane-keeping system with a driver alertness monitor, blind spot monitoring, a rear cross-traffic alert, and forward collision mitigation. Adaptive cruise control and an evasive steering system are included on the ST-Line and above but Ford’s BlueCruise semi-autonomous software is not available. Though not yet tested by the NHTSA, the 2023 Explorer earned a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS.
The entry-level Explorer comes with full LED exterior lighting and 18-inch wheels. Cabin amenities consist of cloth upholstery and triple-zone automatic climate control. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, as is a Wi-Fi hotspot, all managed via a central 8-inch infotainment touchscreen.
XLT trim brings heated side mirrors, a 6.5-inch gauge cluster screen in color, and heated front seats. Other improvements include dual USB ports for the second row to go with the standard dual front ports and the $1,695 option for a panoramic moonroof.
Sporty ST-Line models feature dual chrome exhaust tips, blacked-out exterior lighting, and 20-inch rims. ActiveX seat covering with Miko inserts adds cabin flair while a 12-speaker B&O stereo system and 360° surround-view monitor bolster the tech roster.
Leaning luxury, Explorer Limited has leather upholstery in your choice of brown or black with climatized seats up front, heated seats in the second row, and the option for hybrid power – though that latter option will run you nearly $6,000.
True off-road upgrades to the Timberline include a full complement of steel skid plates, jacked-up and tuned suspension bits, Torsen limited-slip differential, and Hill Descent Control. The gloss black rims and all-terrain rubber look the part as well.
Featuring the twin-turbo V6, ST models are as fast as they look with quad exhaust tips and the option for unique 21-inch wheels with red-painted brake calipers.
Laden with adaptive headlights, a power-folding third row, real wood cabin trim, and Active Park Assist, the Platinum is one nice Explorer. But tick all the options and the price tag nearly touches $65,000, so consult the latest new car incentives before doing so.
Channeling the Southwest, King Ranch models have exclusive Del Rio leather upholstery in a handsome two-tone brown scheme with King Ranch logos galore and the 12-speaker B&O audio system.
Ford’s warranty remains unimpressive with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic term and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain window. Kia’s powertrain warranty runs for 10 years or 100,000 miles and Toyota includes two years of complimentary maintenance, something Ford does not include at all. Hybrid components are covered for eight years or 100,000 miles.
2023 Ford Explorer – ford.com | Shop 2023 Ford Explorer on Carsforsale.com
By and large, this 2023 Ford Explorer review illustrates a competent 3-row SUV that offers something for everyone from simple commuting to real off-road chops to luxury and serious speed. Pricing is in line with the likes of a Kia Telluride but that vehicle features far more standard content and value overall making the Explorer feel a bit pricey.
Nonetheless, the 2023 Explorer remains a compelling option for those seeking a comfortable SUV that can tow weekend toys and handle family duties with ease. For just about $50,000, a Limited model with the $995 Technology package boasts climatized leather front seats, a bumping stereo, and the large touchscreen. I’ll take mine in Jewell Red Metallic please.