2017 Ford Explorer road test: Comfortable, capable and luxurious

High-tech and luxury features are great, of course, but many of these items are strictly optional. There are other, perhaps more important considerations for prospective buyers who want to pay less and keep their 2017 Ford Explorers for a number of years.

Is it powerful enough? Can it take a corner without feeling as if it might tip over? Are the brakes strong? What about gas mileage? How many people will it hold? Will they be comfortable? What about getting in and out of it? How much cargo can you stuff into it?

Explorer third-row seats

Explorer third-row seats

After a week and several hundred miles with a 2017 Ford Explorer Platinum I am ready to pass on my observations.

There is no need to be concerned about power. Although Ford has downsized from V-8 engines to smaller turbocharged power plants, the Platinum edition comes standard with a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 that generates 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque.

You can gallop to 60 mph in about 6 seconds and easily wind your way through mountainous terrain with a vehicle full of passengers or a heavy load of cargo. The engine and its 6-speed automatic transmission are also up to hauling boats or trailers up to 5,000 pounds.

Fuel mileage is another story. Hauling nothing but me, I averaged between 17 and 22 miles per gallon of regular grade gasoline. That compares well with the EPA estimate of 16 to 22 mpg, but those figures certainly will not hold up when the 2017 Ford Explorer is used as intended.

Explorer cargo area

Explorer cargo area

As for drivability, the 2017 Ford Explorer is in no way sporty, but the independent suspension makes it a comfortable and satisfactory performer in normal driving circumstances. The electronically assisted power steering is accurate but numb, as is to be expected of a vehicle which weighs nearly 2 1/2 tons. The four-wheel disc brakes are up to the job, too.

The test car came with second-row bucket seats, but a three-person bench would have upped the allowable passenger total from six to seven. Consider the two-passenger third row as a haven for kids only. Adults will find that wedging themselves behind the second-row seats is not a fun chore.

Day-to-day storage space is 21 cubic feet behind the the third row. For more serious hauling needs, the power third row seat can be folded flat, unleashing 43.9 cubic feet of space. Fold the second-row seats forward, too, and the 2017 Ford Explorer Platinum’s cargo space jumps to 81.7 cubic feet.

Among the many luxury features that come with the Platinum edition are a premium interior with leather seats, leather trim and wood grain accents; Sync3 infotainment system with central touch screen, 500-watt premium audio system with available satellite radio; voice-activated navigation; dual-zone climate control; keyless entry and ignition; sunroof; and hands-free liftgate.

Safety features include a full complement of airbags and curtains, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, electronic brake-force distribution, emergency brake assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic braking, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning, 180-degree front-view camera, and rear-view camera with cross-traffic alert and automatic high- and low-beam headlights.