The new model year sees the introduction of a package available on XLT model Explorers called the Sport Appearance package. Added features include dark gray accents on the 20-inch wheels, grille, mirror caps and rear bumper appliqué along with black side moldings, roof rails and an Explorer hood badge. The package gives buyers the look of a Sport model without having to make the jump to the large turbocharged engine and Sport-level hardware. Inside, the package adds two-tone seats and door trim done up in dark gray leather and suede, as well as logo floor mats.
Additionally, XLT and higher grade models have the option to upgrade to Ford’s new Sync 3 infotainment system, which is more intuitive and quicker responding than the previous MyFord Touch system. The touchscreen uses swipe and pinch gestures and enhanced voice recognition with Siri integration. And when updates are available, the system will automatically update over Wi-Fi.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, LED taillights, rear privacy glass, roof rails, a rearview camera, cruise control, air-conditioning, rear climate controls, a 60/40-split second-row seat, 50/50-split third-row seat, an eight-way power driver seat (manual recline), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 4.2-inch dashboard display screen, Sync (Ford's voice-activated phone/entertainment interface), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and USB/auxiliary audio inputs.
Standard on the base and XLT trim levels is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 290 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. With this engine, you have your choice of standard front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive. The latter gets hill descent control, hill start assist and Ford's Terrain Management System, which is a driver-selectable system that optimizes traction for a variety of driving situations.
According to the EPA, a front-wheel-drive 2017 Explorer with the V6 will deliver 20 mpg combined (17 city/24 highway). With all-wheel drive, the V6 drops slightly to 19 mpg combined (16 city/23 highway). In Edmunds testing, an AWD Explorer Limited with the base V6 went from zero to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds, which is about average for this size of vehicle.
Standard safety equipment for the 2017 Ford Explorer includes stability and traction control, trailer sway control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, a front-passenger knee airbag and MyKey, which allows parents to specify limits for vehicle speed and stereo volume. The Explorer's stability control system also includes Ford's Curve Control, which can monitor speed carried into a corner and decelerate if necessary.
A rearview camera is standard on the Explorer, while a 180-degree front camera is optional. Rear parking sensors are also standard on all but the base Explorer. Optional on the Limited and Sport but standard on the Platinum is a forward collision warning system with brake priming (bundled with the adaptive cruise control), lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist (Limited only), a blind-spot monitoring system (with rear-cross traffic alert) and inflatable seat belts for second-row outboard passengers. You can now get blind-spot monitoring with rear-cross traffic in the XLT this year as well.
The Explorer's seating could be a bit disappointing for families looking for maximum space. Second-row comfort is decent, but overall it's not as roomy (particularly for installing rear-facing child safety seats) as you’d expect for a vehicle of this size. The third-row accommodations, meanwhile, very much depend on the second-row design. If you get the standard fixed bench, there's not much third-row legroom, allowing only small children to fit comfortably. Opting for the sliding second-row captain's chairs opens up considerably more legroom; however, we’d note the Explorer is reduced to six seat belts in that configuration. Cargo space in the Explorer is great with the seats in place but less competitive when all the seats are folded.