2011 Ford Explorer Limited: Mama Still Needs a New Sled

July 27, 2011


Note: This is not a sponsored post. I am actively searching for a new car and am sharing my adventures with you. The opinions are mine and mine alone based on cars I choose to test drive. Pictures may be my own or a combination of stock and personal as long as it actually reflects the car I drove. If you get a text from the courthouse it is merely because my aggressive test driving was discovered by The Man. Do not panic, but please send bail money.

Since we last left off things have gotten to be a bit more urgent. August is upon us and some decisions will need to get made soon about what lovely new ride will join our family. Last weekend I had the opportunity to take a 2011 Ford Explorer Limited for a few days.

In all honesty, I had never been a Ford person. In a previous life I worked for a GM company and drank the Kool-Aid in that regard, but, truth be told, I have never really been an American car person. However, I have recently been impressed with Ford. Their decision to eschew government intervention got my attention. Their focus on technology and restyling kept it.

My criteria for this search remains the same. As a review:

Third row seat option
Decent gas mileage
Plenty of (a) cup holders and (b) power outlets, preferably USB
Tight, sporty ride: Defined as tight steering, great brakes, tank-like feel, excellent road handling and acceleration
Heated seats (Not for snow, for my back)
Dark interior

Yes, the vanity. It remains.

So. Let’s get down to it.

Here are the questions I wanted answered:

Does it have a comfortable and functional 3rd row?

Yes. Not only is comfortable and functional, it has a power option. THAT is nice. It is easily accessible and there is plenty of headroom and leg room back there for kids. And there actually seems to be a nice amount of cargo space still left behind that third row when it’s engaged. Not a ton, but it’s not next to the liftgate.

Will my gas bill be lower than my mortgage payment?

Not likely. It says 17 city 23 highway on the sticker, but because most of my driving is neighborhood driving – meaning lots of stopping and starting. In 2 days I averaged 15 MPG in a healthy combination of highway and street driving what pretty reflective of my car life. Now, again, there were roughly 147 miles on the car and it’s not fair to judge the gas mileage average on that. The highway efficiency was good and I suspect the average MPG would go up as I drove the car more.

Can everyone plug all their electronic toys in at one time?

OMG YES. There are plenty of car charging outlets and power outlets all over the car including two USB ports in the front.

Can I easily contain the juice boxes, sports bottles and Starbucks cups?

Yes. There are three cupholders up front plus two in the doors and tons in the back – including the third row.

Sunroof / Moonroof?

Check. It has dual sunroof/moonroofs so the front and / or the back one can be opened. Nicely done, Ford.

Is it a tight, sporty ride?

Yes. This thing feels like a tank. It is not the fastest acceleration, but once you get trucking it is easy to look down and see you are going 82, um, accidentally. Whether or not you choose to continue driving 82 is totally your choice, but, for the record? It’s pretty great.

For all the largeness and truck-like towing capacity, the Explorer really does ride more like a car. It’s an easy, interesting drive, but not soft.

Heated seats?

Yep. And cooled as well! They come standard on the Limited. It also helps that there is lumbar support for the driver’s side AND passenger’s seat. That was a nice bonus for a non-luxury brand car.

Dark Interior?

YES. I loves me some black interior and this one was lovely. Sleek and well-designed.

Is it possible I’ll be mistaken for a hot co-ed in this car?

Doubtful. This car does lean a little “mommy”, but it’s still interesting and eye catching. Inside and out it’s a little more elegant than others in its class. So to match its look you’ll need not only a pair of killer sunglasses, but some badass heels to step out of it. Trust.

Here are some other thoughts:


There are some large blind spots in this car in the back corners. As a work around for that the Limited has some bonus blindspot mirrors on the side mirrors. It takes some getting used to, but they do work. Additionally, there is their Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) that uses sensors in the rear quarter panels to identify if a vehicle has entered the defined blind spot zone – it will alert you to that. There is also a rear-view camera display on the console.


Ok THIS is where Ford really knocks it out of the park. Their SYNC technology is just really outstanding. Not only can you sync your smartphone and music, you can voice activate it. Additionally you can send Google Maps information to SYNC and get turn by turn directions. (You’ll have to decide if you trust Google Maps directions, though.) And while it’s not quite GM’s OnStar, you can have the system connect to 911 through your phone in the case of an accident. All of this integrated with MyFord Touch makes for a very personalized experience. Kudos to Ford on all the thoughtful focus on their customers.


Although this is the first generation of the redesign and there are no safety history, I have absolutely no worries about the safety of this car. There is stabilization, brake assist, traction control and a safety system that notifies emergency response providers if you have been in an accident. There are airbags for driver and passengers. MOST interesting there are inflatable rear seatbelts – a first.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I loved this car – and I had my sincere doubts that I would. I am/was a German car snob and would even pick a Japanese-designed car over an American one. Ford has seriously changed my point of view towards American cars. Their design is functional and thoughtful and their technology is outstanding. If their intent was to create a personal, elegant, interesting and comfortable driving experience, they did it. I have several friends looking at cars in the next few months – if they don’t think looking at this car is worthwhile, I’ll drive them to the dealership myself.

2011 Ford Explorer Limited

As tested: $46,392 MSRP

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5 Responses to “2011 Ford Explorer Limited: Mama Still Needs a New Sled”

  1. Joe Says:

    You’d rock this truck! Drop it a few inches, get the spin rims…no mommy look now.

  2. elz Says:

    I drove an Explorer years ago. Then, I started working on Ford rollover cases. I had to get rid of the car soon thereafter!

  3. elz Says:

    But, I’m sure they have improved signifcantly since then. And the inflatable rear seatbelts are nioe. Still love my Pilot though.