2017 Ford Explorer
Since it first arrived for 1991, the Ford Explorer has been a top seller among larger SUV’s and crossovers, with over 7 million sales to date. But, the market for three-row family utilities is bigger and more cut-throat than ever. So, the latest Explorer is outfitted with lot of little changes that Ford hopes will bring big results, with less exploring and more conquering.
2016 marked the 25th anniversary for the Ford Explorer. And while it was far from the first SUV, it was clearly one of the first that made a case for being a family vehicle more than just a rutted roads runabout.
Today’s Explorer bears little resemblance to that truck-based original, now riding on a three row crossover platform that debuted for 2011. Styling updates for ’16 included more than just the usual front fascia; as hood, headlamps, and fenders were new as well.
Most everything got freshened in back also; lift gate, bumper, and taillights. And of course there’s some new wheel styles to choose from. 20-17 adds a Sports Appearance Package with 20-inch wheels and Magnetic Grey highlights for the XLT trim.
A straightforward 3.5-liter naturally-aspirated V6 is still the base engine. More entertaining is this twin-turbo EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 with 365-horsepower and 350 lb-ft. of torque.
The newest option, is the Mustang’s 280-horsepower 2.3-liter I4 EcoBoost that replaces the 2.0-liter.
If your budget is not restricted, by all means opt for the 3.5 EcoBoost. It makes the Explorer feel like a true performance-style SUV. Though all engines offer adequate power as well as all-wheel-drive; and come equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Max towing is a class-norm 5,000-lbs.
The all-wheel-drive system features Ford’s Terrain Management System with settings for Normal, Snow, Sand, and Mud. In our experience, you pick your road conditions and the Explorer responds.
Now, there seems to be no limit to how far manufacturers will go to add poshness to utilities, nor buyers’ appetites for same. So, Ford brings the Platinum series to the Explorer. It features real wood and aluminum trim, as well as premium Sony sound and quilted leather.
And it’s altogether very nice, almost Land rover spec. inside. The brushed aluminum accents are gorgeous, and the animal hides are Nirvana leather, but think more of the place you want to spend eternity in, not the alternative rock band playing right now on Lithium.
7–passenger seating is standard, with 2nd row Captain’s chairs, an option.
Being one of the larger 3-row crossovers means that cargo space fairs well at 21.0 cubic-ft. behind the 3rd row, 43.9 behind the 2nd row, and maxing out at 81.7 cubic-ft. A hands free lift gate is available with XLT and Sport trim; standard on Limited and Platinum.
Platinum trim also includes enhanced Active Park Assist; and on the safety front, inflatable 2nd row safety belts are now available on all models.
As before, the Explorer won’t yet apply the brakes for you if a collision is imminent; but it will give plenty of warning, and provide full braking pressure once you initiate the stop.
Turbocharging may not me a total replacement for displacement, but our twin-turbo V6 felt plenty V8-strong at our test track. There’s good torque down low, and grippy all-wheel-drive hookup, for a 6.5-second sprint to 60.
There was plenty of high-end grunt as well, accompanied by urgent shifting from the 6-speed automatic; taking us to the end of the ¼-mile in 15.0-seconds flat, at 94 miles-per-hour.
Through the cones, the Explorer still feels big and heavy compared to its many more nimble rivals. But there are still plenty of people out there who want their Bronco-type vehicle to still feel like a truck.
It’s certainly manageable, though. Just keep the speeds down and your inputs smooth.
Despite that big-truck feel, a 121-foot average stopping distance from 60 is quite good for any family-size utility. Nose dive was moderate, with pedal travel on the long side.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the EcoBoost V6 with all-wheel-drive are 16-City, 22-Highway, and 18-Combined. Our average with Regular grade was right on, at 18.1 miles-per-gallon. That makes for a poor Energy Impact Score at 18.3-barrels of yearly oil consumption with 8.2-tons of CO2 emissions.
There’s a wide variety in pricing, as you might expect, starting at $32,105 for a base 2017 Explorer; all-wheel-drive adds $2,150 more. While Platinum trim comes with a tag befitting the name, at $54,180
Even after a quarter of a century, Ford has managed to find ways to significantly improve the Explorer without any turnoffs. The luxury intentions of the Platinum are obvious, while the rest of the lineup still plays the large family vehicle part perfectly. We think that will keep Explorer’s market-conquering ways intact beyond the horizon.
- Engine: 3.5 liter
- Horsepower: 365
- Torque: 350 lb-ft.
- 0-60 mph: 6.5 seconds
- 1/4 mile: 15.0 seconds @ 94 mph
- EPA: 16 mpg city / 22 mpg highway,
- Energy Impact: 18.3 barrels of oil/yr
- CO2 Emissions: 8.2 tons/yr
Still The Same Mazda3, Just A Bit Better
When the fourth-gen Mazda3 arrived for 2019, it grew a little more stylish, a lot more upscale; and loads more practical too, adding all-wheel drive into the mix for the first time. How does it get better than that? Well, for ’23 the 3 adds an engine update that promises to deliver more power and better efficiency. Time to speak truth to this power.
The Mazda3 has always been a great compact car, big on both fun and value, and has earned numerous MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Awards over the years. This current-gen has been on the road for 4-years now, and it gets even better for 2023.
Starting with the powertrain, the base 2.0-liter I4 has been eliminated leaving just 2 versions of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, turbo and non-turbo. Base versions get a 5-horsepower bump to 191-horsepower, along with updates for its cylinder deactivation system. The 2.5 Turbo fits standard all-wheel drive and outputs the same 250-horsepower and 320 lb-ft. of torque as last year; provided you use Premium gas. Max ratings drop to 227-horsepower and 310 lb-ft. with Regular.
A 6-speed manual transmission remains available in front-wheel drive 3s, but AWDs come exclusively with a sport-tuned 6-speed automatic. We found it well-sorted and seemingly always on the same page as us whether we were shuffling through back roads or sitting in traffic. There is a softer overall feel compared to Mazda3s of old, which you’ll appreciate when encountering harsh pavement, but it still feels plenty agile when called upon.
That softer feel certainly carries over inside, where it has gotten much quieter, and quite nicely finished, consistent with Mazda’s Audi-like premium intentions. All 3s get an 8.8-inch center display, and all of the fingerprints on our test car’s screen signifies most people assume it’s a touchscreen. It’s not, however, as inputs are made with a rotary controller on the console. It’s not the most intuitive system, but once you’re past the learning curve, it’s tolerable.
The rear seat room doesn’t have the roomy feel of the Subaru Impreza, but space is certainly more than adequate compared to the rest of the compact set. Rear cargo space for this hatchback rates a good 20.1 cubic-ft. with trunk space in the sedan coming in at 13.2 cubic-ft. So yes, the Mazda3 remains available in both sedan and hatchback, but we still prefer the 5-door hatch both for its practicality and for its sporty looks. Top Turbo Premium Plus gets gloss black aero treatments including a roof spoiler and front air dam.
At the test track, power from the 2.5-turbo felt more than adequate off the line, using all-wheel-drive grip to bite into the pavement and get up and go to 60 in 6.0-seconds flat. There was virtually no turbo lag, and the engine felt nicely refined with its power delivery. Transmission operation was equally as smooth and kept the power flowing quite effectively throughout the ¼-mile, which ended in 14.5-seconds at 95 miles-per-hour. We really appreciate a well-tuned 6-speed in this world of overactive 8 and 10 speed automatics.
While there was definitely some understeer to manage in our handling course, the 3 turned in quickly and provided real, sporting feedback through our cone course. I-Activ AWD features G-Vectoring Control Plus, which uses both engine torque vectoring as well as selective braking to minimize body roll, and preserve the lively feel we’ve come to expect from Mazda. In panic braking runs, the pedal was soft, but that kept ABS pulsing to a minimum; and the results were great, as we averaged a very short 106-feet from 60, with minimal nose dive and stable, straight stops.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel drive Turbo are 23-City, 31-Highway, and 26-Combined; we averaged a good 28.4 miles-per-gallon of Regular.
Obviously by eliminating the previous base engine, prices have taken a jump for ’23, but so has everything else. Still they remain more than reasonable. The base S now starts at $26,855, with the top Turbo Premium Plus at $37,815, with many options in between. And sedan prices are even more sensible, starting at $23,715.
Like most brands, Mazda seems to be going all-in on SUVs; as the 3 is the last family sedan and hatchback in their lineup. And it would be a real shame if that were to change. As the 2023 Mazda3, the hatchback in particular, is just about the perfect car, offering utility vehicles levels of practicality along with better than average luxury, plus handling performance that few crossovers can match. So, long live the Mazda3!
- Engine: 2.5-liter Turbo-4
- Horsepower: 227 | 250
- 0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 106 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 28.4 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: 6-speed auto
- Torque: 310 lb-ft. | 320 lb-ft
- 1/4 Mile: 14.5-seconds at 95 mph
- EPA: 23-City / 31-Highway / 26-Combined