The latest Explorer XLT Ford will benefit Family-focused shoppers

2017 Ford Explorer XLT

2017 Ford Explorer XLT

See Also: Our Review on the 2017 Ford Explorer

The 2017 Ford Explorer XLT is right for…

Family-focused shoppers looking for a balance of comfort, driving ease, and available safety features. This is a great value in a roomy, nice-driving seven-passenger midsize crossover SUV. Explorer is America’s top-selling midsize crossover and the XLT is its most popular trim level, accounting for about 45 percent of sales.

Pros include…

A capable 290-horsepower V-6 as standard, along with such family-duty essentials as second- and third-row split-folding bench seats, rear-obstacle detection, a rearview camera with washer, steering-wheel audio and cruise controls, and keyless entry with pushbutton start. The XLT also comes with Ford’s basic – and reliable — Sync hand’s-free audio and smartphone interface.

Cons include…

Midpack EPA ratings: 22 mpg city-highway combined with front-drive and 21 with AWD. Explorer rates the maximum 5 stars in government crash-test ratings but is unavailable with the frontal-collision-mitigating automatic braking needed for top ratings from the influential Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

It costs…

Including Ford’s $945 destination fee, XLT prices start at $34,570 with front-wheel drive and $36,720 with all-wheel drive (AWD). Stick with the base engine, add AWD, and option it with a navigation system and key safety and convenience features, for a very reasonable bottom-line sticker of $42,495.

In the Explorer line, the XLT slots betwee the Base model ($32,105, $34,225 with AWD) and the luxury Limited ($42,470, $44,620 with AWD). Costlier still are the performance-oriented Sport ($46,150) and the flagship Platinum ($54,180), both with standard AWD.

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The best options are…

The XLT Technology Feature Bundle ($1,095), which imbeds a navigation system so you maintain GPS mapping even without a cell signal for your smartphone app. It also includes the safety of blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection. The 202A package ($4,680) adds such choice amenities as leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats and steering wheel, power driver’s seat with power lumbar, front obstacle detection, LED fog lamps, remote engine start, upgraded audio, and a foot-activated power liftgate. It also contains the automaker’s capable new Sync 3 infotainment interface. Combined with onboard navigation, the 202A option doubles the size of the dashboard screen to an 8-inch display.

Superfluous options?

The turbocharged four-cylinder engine ($495) will save some gas but its power delivery isn’t as linear as the standard V-6’s. And while the new-for-2017 XLT Sport Appearance Package ($1,295) brings the Sport model’s darkened exterior trim and leather-and-suede front-bucket seats, it’s 20-inch wheels and tires make for a bumpier ride than the standard 18-inchers.

The XLT is better than the…

Hyundai Santa Fe Limited and the Kia Sorento EX, both of which are slower and less-inviting to drive; the Nissan Pathfinder SL, which has better mileage but suffers poorer drivability from its continuously variable automatic transmission; and the Mazda CX-9 Touring, which offers fewer features and tighter third-row seating.

The XLT is not as good as the…

Honda Pilot Touring, which is priced on par with our ideal $42,495 XLT but beats it for fuel economy and handling and comes standard with the Honda Sensing safety system, earning it top IIHS safety ratings; Dodge Durango Limited with the Hemi V-8, which consumes more fuel but can tow more and benefits from rear-wheel-drive-based handling; and the redesigned GMC Acadia SLT-1, which boasts a lighter and newer design, comes with a more powerful V-6, and carries a more upscale image.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]