Exploring the 2017 Ford Explorer
· 13 min. read
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I recently had the opportunity to test drive a 2017 Ford Explorer. I grew up learning how to drive a Ford Windstar so I figured an Explorer shouldn't be that much different. Sure, one is an SUV the other is a van, but a Ford's a Ford, right? Well, not exactly. From the moment I sat down, I knew it would be a very different experience from what I was used to.
There were things about the Explorer I liked, and some that I didn't, but it was overall a very nice vehicle. It drove smoothly, turned nicely and handled grid roads very well. I found the brakes to be a little touchy, but by the time the week ended, I mastered how to brake without awkwardly lurching myself forward.
Beyond the learning curve with the brakes, here are my positive and negative experiences with the 2017 Ford Explorer:
One of the handiest things about the Ford Explorer was the GPS. A lot of vehicles have them built in these days, but my car doesn't. As a result, I'm often pulling over on the highway, taking out my phone and seeing how far I still have to go before I get to my destination ? or where I made the wrong turn. The GPS in the Ford Explorer fixed that problem. Not only did the GPS say how long it would take to get there, but if I had enough gas to get there.
Another thing I liked was the Bluetooth capabilities. If I wanted to listen to Spotify in my car, I have to pull out a dirty, twisted AUX cord, plug it into my phone and stereo and crank up the volume to play at a decent level. If I forget to turn the volume down once I'm done, I'll get blasted with the radio the moment I unplug the cord. The Ford Explorer made this much easier. Instead of using an AUX cord, I can just use my phone's Bluetooth and link to the car to play music. I can even change songs on the touchscreen's dashboard. This makes it a lot easier ? and safer ? to skip to the next song when Despacito plays for the umpteenth time.
Bluetooth also allowed me to make phone calls while driving. I never thought about this until I was cruising down Albert Street and a Telemarketer called, wanting me to do a survey. The quality sounded great, and I had no trouble understanding them at all. While my experience wasn't practical, this feature would be great for conference call while on the road or getting inventory of last minute groceries while heading to the store.
The vehicle also has collision sensors built into it. If I got too close to a curb, or I was backing up and didn't see somebody coming, the vehicle would beep and let me know. This was a handy feature I (thankfully) didn't have to use too much. They have flaws though, and I'll talk about that later.
The vehicle holds five people normally, but can hold up the seven people if you use the folding backseat. Using the backseat isn't a new concept, but the Ford Explorer had controls in the back to easily manoeuvre the seats into position. When I grew up, the only way to move the seats up or down was by attempting to solve a jigsaw puzzle of levers and ropes. Now, all you have to do is push a button, and the vehicle does all the work for you.
The Ford Explorer also has a built in automatic parallel park system. To use it, turn the system on and drive up beside the vehicle you want to park behind. The sensors will find the gap and the vehicle will take over from there. To activate, flip the vehicle into reverse, and take your hands off the wheel and it'll do all the magic for you.
As great as that sounds, I found it absolutely terrifying. I like being in control of the vehicle and I like knowing where it's going. Letting the vehicle take over felt almost alien, and the first few times I aborted the automatic parallel park because I didn't feel comfortable. The scariest part involved the front of the vehicle swinging to the right. It felt like I was about to smash into the vehicle ahead of me. However, the computer knew exactly what to do and the parallel park was executed perfectly. I ended up close to the curb, snug between two vehicles and I had plenty of room to get out.
This last feature I discovered by accident. I was driving out in the country and I approached a farm where a farmer was cutting his grass. Some of his grass clippings had blown onto highway, and the vehicle ahead of me roared through them, blowing them back into the farmer's face. I felt bad, so I veered around the grass into the other lane and then back into my own. A moment later my dashboard lit up, signalled "Driver Alert Warning Rest Now" and showed a little cup of steam.
I immediately panicked. It had been a hot summer day, and I been on the road for several hours. Was the car overheating!? I quickly pulled over to see what that warning message meant. When I realised what had happened, I let out a snort and got back on the road.
Because I left my lane and quickly went back into it, the vehicle thought I was falling asleep behind the wheel. The "Warning Rest Now" didn't mean for the vehicle to rest ? but for me to rest instead. The cup of steam I saw wasn't the engine overheating either, but instead the recommendation I have a cup of coffee. It's a handy, cute little warning message that is potentially lifesaving.
The first thing I didn't care for in the Ford Explorer was the driver's seat because it automatically moves. From the moment I turned the car on the seat moved forwards, and the moment I turned it off the seat moved backwards. This freaked me out, and I never got used to it. When I turn something off, I want that something to stop. Feeling the seat move made me panic and think the whole vehicle moved, not just me. This is a little feature I could go without.
Another feature I had mixed feeling over was the collision sensors. Mostly, they are very handy, but sometimes they were a little too sensitive. During my time with the Explorer, I took a few pictures in some canola and around some tall grass. Every time I did that, the sensors would go haywire. The vehicle didn't know the difference between another car and a tall blade of grass and would beep multiple times per second. To make matters worse, there is no way to lower the volume of the collision sensors (for obvious reasons) so positioning the car to take some of these pictures became very annoying.
Another feature I liked but had trouble with was the GPS. For the most part it worked great. On my way to a ghost town south of Moose Jaw, the GPS told me how to get there the whole way. For whatever reason though, about 15 minutes from my destination, my GPS cut off. I pulled over, tried to get directions to my town again, but it couldn't find anything. I'm not sure if I hit a spot that lacked Internet service or if something else happened, but the GPS had no idea where I was or where I needed to be. I had to resort to using my phone, which although worked fine, defeated the purpose of having a GPS system.
The last thing I didn't like about the Ford Explorer were the headlights. Maybe I'm "old school" but I can't stand the bright, white florescent headlights some vehicles have. I felt bad every time I drove behind somebody or they went past me on the highway. I knew from experience that my headlights were stabbing their eyes and making it hard to drive, and there was nothing I could do about it. Ford understands these lights are way too bright for the human eye, so the rear-view mirror darkens at night automatically and makes these lights dimmer. But, for somebody driving an older vehicle, they were at the mercy of these atomic white headlights.
Overall, the 2017 Ford Explorer was a great vehicle. It only cost about $50 to fill up at the pumps, ran at 11 Litres per 100 kilometres and fit 7 people. If I was to go camping with my family and friends, it would be great. The sensors make driving extra safe and the hands free phones make last minute phone calls incredibly convenient.
But, because I often travel alone and I have a short commute to work and back, the 2017 Ford Explorer isn't for me. It's a beautiful vehicle, it's great on gas and the technology is fantastic, but it's just too big for one person. Every time I drove it, I couldn't help but thinking there were six empty seats around me. For a family or a group of people, this vehicle is perfect, but if it's just me, I'll stick with my car.
Would you drive a Ford Explorer? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
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Categories: Canada, Ford Canada, Regina, Saskatchewan