If you happened to be a Ford salesperson during the 1990s, chances are the Explorer was your cash cow. It didn’t take a lot of persuading to get car shoppers driving off the lot with a new one. This popular sport utility vehicle was so revered it was even outselling Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys.
Consumer’s loved the look of the Explorer, enjoyed its solid cargo space, its versatility and considered it a wonderful family vehicle.
However, the bubble burst on Ford’s most esteemed vehicle when the Explorer was experiencing rollover issues in 2001. For the past several years, no one was walking on a Ford lot looking to drive away in an Explorer. Sadly for this American auto manufacturer, the Explorer has never fully recovered.
The rollover issue, which Ford explained was largely due to over-inflated tires, has gradually eroded. Yet with its reputation now heading upward again, the Explorer has seen the competition grow in the over-stuffed mid-size SUV class.
The Explorer remains a truck-based model, while stiffer competition comes from the popular crossover SUVs that are car-based and more practical for every-day use. The Toyota Highlander, Nissan Murano, Honda Pilot and other well-received models like the Mazda CX-9, Hyundai Santa Fe and even the improved Suzuki XL-7 are worthy competitors.
That doesn’t mean the Explorer can no longer hang with the competition, it just doesn’t have a monopoly on the product. I spent a week test driving the Explorer XLT, one of only three trim choices available in the slimmed down lineup. Yet there are still plenty of choices; each trim line has four variations.
While the XLT is the base model, it has some nice features. This particular model had four-wheel drive, a large number of safety features, and came with more standard features than one might expect from an SUV with a price tag of $28,890.
Despite its truck-based underpinning, the Explorer doesn’t ride rough. Ford says the credit lies in the rear independent suspension that allows for a surprisingly smooth ride in normal conditions. Braking and responsiveness are two other solid qualities.
Not everything is as easy to like with the 2007 Explorer. Engineers decided to tinker with the door openers and left them in an odd position that has most first-time passengers groping to find them. Fuel economy is also an issue, with the mileage just 14-20 per gallon and gravitating toward the lower figure during my tenure with the Explorer.
This upgraded version of the XLT had plenty of power, featuring a 4.6-liter, V8 with 292 horsepower, controlled by a six-speed automatic transmission. The Explorer delivers quick acceleration when required and has the power to tow a 7,300-pound load.
For larger families, a third seating will be a selling point. Unlike most third rows, the Explorer provides some head and leg room that is lacking in other models. But it’s still mostly an option for the kids; adults will not be fighting to reside in the third seat. They will greatly prefer the freedom and comfort of the front seat or a fairly roomy second row that can squeeze in three adults.
Fast Facts: 2007 Ford Explorer
Power — 4.6-liter, V8, 292 horsepower; Mileage Estimates — 14-20 mpg; Standard Features — Traction control; lift gate with flip-up glass; power windows, doors, mirrors; tilt steering; roll stability control; remote keyless entry; center console; CD/MP3 player; fog lights; rear privacy glass; roof rails; antiskid system.