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Ford Explorer: Interior Shortcomings Spotlight Distractions at Ford

It took me this long to drive a 2006 Ford Explorer because I only went back on the car beat last May. I had heard from peers of mine that Ford did a great job on it. To a degree, that’s true. It’s smooth riding and well appointed inside.

But the SUV has such a basic flaw, it makes me wonder what goes on in the Dearborn studios. I sit behind the wheel, and right away I notice that my left leg is having a hard time finding a comfortable place. I move the seat all aroound in its numerous positions. No good. The door handle is incomprehensibly placed below the door-opener and the arm-rest (which should have an integrated handle). And there is an annoying hard plastic map/flotsam pocket in the door with a bulging and useless cupholder. Between the useless handle and the useless cup-holder, a trip of just 1 hour and fifteen minutes was a drag. Why on earth Ford didn’t just give us a hand-hold integrated into the arm-rest??I daresay it would have been cheaper AND better.

I had been hearing anecdotally from dealers and other journalists that dealers had been reporting losing Explorer sales specifically to the stupid handle that you can’t grab without contorting your wrist. I can believe it now.

What were they thinking?

The ride of the Explorer is very good for an SUV. But the designers and packagers seem to have forgotten that a great many people buy an Explorer, especially with the third row of seats, as a substitute for a minivan. And minivans should be vehicles that sacrifice a little design candy in favor packaging smarts.

And one more thing…the single greatest feature on this vehicle, as well as the Range Rovers, is the dashboard readout that gives you a constant measure of your average fuel economy. With most of our driving being city/suburban driving, it’s a great wake-up call to see a constant reading, in the case of the Explorer, of 15mpg. It gets 20 mpg on the highway. But in mixed driving, I only got as high as 15.1 mpg. The Land Rover LR3 never got above 14 mpg in my test drive a few months ago.

I wonder if the other thing working against Explorer is word-of-mouth by owners who tell their friends about how awful it is to see the constant mpg read-out staring them in the face.

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