We were lucky to be provided with a vehicle for our family trip this year. It was so nice to save the wear and tear on our own mini-van. Yes, *gasp* I’m a mini-van mom! After getting over the shock of driving an impeccably clean vehicle with no juice spills, crushed goldfish crackers and lord knows what else, we drove the Ford Explorer 13 hours (plus ferry ride) from Calgary out to Comox on Vancouver Island. We rode in it for about 10 days while there and then drove all the way home again. I felt we got a chance to use the car like we really would’ve if we’d owned it for real.
My FordTouch Console
The Ford Explorer we were given came equipped with a crazy touch control console. It had a zillion options for heating and air conditioning (including heated/cooled seats.) It had an integrated GPS system. It had a back up camera (in color!) It had integrated Sirius satellite radio. It was crazy how many things you could fiddle with without even leaving the parking lot.
The first thing I enjoyed was the keyless system. You put the keyfob in your purse and leave it there…then you grab your kids and all your junk and haul it out to the car. Without having to worry about fumbling with your keys as your kids wiggle out of your grasp the vehicle recognizes you and pops the locks. Same thing with the ignition…just get in and push the button and you’re good to go. As a mom, I loved this feature. I do have some concerns about what would happen if your keyfob decided to go on the fritz or run out of batteries. I guess you’d have to have a spare battery in your purse just in case. While I loved it, not having a ‘real’ key kind of freaked me out a little.
The Explorer has a bunch of anchors for car seats. You could easily fit 4 car seats in this baby – maybe even an extra booster too if you needed it. I had no problem installing our seats in the center row (the model we had had two bucket seats in the center and I thought this was ideal.)
Stowaway Third Row seating
One of the reasons we bought a mini-van was for the third row of seats. We don’t need them on a daily basis but when we have company from out of town we certainly DO need those extra seats. However, pulling the rear bench seat from our van for extra cargo room is a HUGE pain in the rear. I adored the folding stowaway third row the Ford Explorer features. I’d have to say, if we owned one, it would be a feature I thanked heaven for over and over again.
There was loads of space in here – more than I expected and while we tried, we didn’t come close to filling it to capacity.
Here’s a shot of what we crammed in, we could have fit a lot more had we organized and packed a bit better. Plus, you can’t see them but there are two large green garbage bags full of Christmas presents from well organized relatives and they took up a lot of room. With this much cargo room it was nice not to have bags and stuff all over the passenger area. We just had the diaper bag up with us.
I also loved how spacious the general cabin area was. Hubby and I are not tiny people. We need leg room. We need head room. We need to be able to maneuver around comfortably and we had no trouble at all. There was enough room to get past our front facing car seat to move around to the third row of seats. I sat back there several times and had no problem getting in and out. In fact, crazy as it sounds, baby N started to freak out while we were parked in the ferry line up and so I took off my seatbelt (we were parked) and crawled over the center storage hub, past the car seats and hung my butt on the folded back of the third row (talk about cargo space! haha!) so I could reach him and comfort him without having to take him out of his seat (it wasn’t safe to do so where we were parked waiting.)
It wasn’t all perfection. Even though I generally liked the Explorer there were a few things I want to mention that could have been improved.
Voice Activated GPS
While driving, the keypad for the GPS system is automatically disabled – it’s a safety feature so people aren’t trying to fuss with it while driving. Fine. But as a passenger I was annoyed that I couldn’t just type in our destination. It forced me to use the voice controls. And while that might be ok if they worked well, I found the voice controls were pretty fussy. I mean, they mistook me saying ‘Tim Hortons’ for ‘Subway’. SO NOT THE SAME. Don’t they know a cup of timmies is essential to a road trip? I mean, don’t you dare mess with suggesting Subway instead GPS lady!
I had this same issue with pretty much anything I tried to search for via voice command. Honestly, I think hearing me fight with the GPS system was much more distracting to the driver than it would have been if I could’ve just type in what I’d wanted. Plus, there were plenty of other buttons that were just as distracting which were not shut down while driving. While I loved having the GPS, I felt it could have been a bit easier to use.
Large Door Size
It appears everything on this vehicle was over sized and the doors were no exception. I don’t know about you but NOTHING makes me madder than trying to get my kid in their seat if someone has parked a bit too close for me to open the door properly. This is what I like about the mini-van. As much as you might hate them, that sliding door has it’s benefits.
I guess you could just be super mindful of where you park but in the case of the ferry – it was very close quarters and we had barely enough room. On the way there I had to pass the baby out the other side and crawl out after him. On the way back – well, you can see the photo. I’d say there was about 2 feet between our car and the truck that was next to us and we couldn’t open the door well enough to comfortably get the baby in his seat. We managed…but it was still irritating.
Some Other Points of Mention
I was pretty surprised that the Explorer was so good on gas. It was as good as or better (I’m leaning to better) than our mini-van. For such a large vehicle, with so much power (it was awesome to drive through the mountains!) I expected to pay way more for our gas than we did. For example – on the way out, we drove about 13 hours straight and it cost us about$125 worth of fuel. We left town with a full tank and arrived in Comox with about a half tank after two fill ups along the way. That’s pretty good considering the size of the car and how mountain driving can be hard on gas consumption.
Blind Spot Assistance / Reverse Camera
I liked how it warned me if I had a car in my blind spot. That was a nice feature and I felt it functioned well. Along the same lines, the rear view camera was just as handy and if you’re nervous about maneuvering such a large vehicle you’ll be happy to have these features.
The Ford Explorer offers gadgets you didn’t even know you needed until you find yourself intuitively using them to make your trip safer and more enjoyable. The spacious cargo area and passenger cabin will fit large families well and as a mom, there were many features I felt were built with me in mind. Because I’m a ‘less is more’ kind of person, I felt that some of the gadgets were a bit unnecessary and worried about loss of functions if they went on the fritz (although, I didn’t see anything that made me think they would be ‘fritzy’. ) I really loved the amount of space in this SUV and while the large doors bothered me a bit, I’d say the benefits outweighed the negatives. If we were in the market for a large family SUV, the Ford Explorer would land itself on our short list. Overall I liked it a lot.