On-Road Dynamics
Ford Explorer

What is It?
Double A-arm independent front suspension with struts and anti-roll bar; double A-arm independent front suspension with struts and anti-roll bar. Hydraulically assisted rack-and-pinion steering. Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS.

What We Like
Add an independent rear suspension to any vehicle that once had a solid axle, and you'll see an instant improvement in handling. The current-generation Explorer proves it on the pavement, as the Ford handles smooth corners with ease and provides a compliant ride, without requiring its occupants to invest in kidney belts. The XLT's steering is sharp, and turn-in is spot-on. The Explorer's suspension tuning was the harshest of the three, but on the open highway, it's good to feel what's happening underfoot. Kudos to the tire engineers that chose the BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A tires: They may be noisy on-road, but deliver tenacious grip on wet roads. Fitted with four-wheel disc brakes and ABS, the Explorer had the best binders in the test.

What We Don't Like
When cornering hard, the tightly wound suspension exhibited more bumpsteer than an import tuner car. Choppy road surfaces only made the situation worse, compromising directional control. In the trucking lane, the Explorer bounced riders around like Jiffy Pop, and had a few editors checking for loose fillings after driving on a washboard-like surface. And while the Explorer outbraked the competition, we were nonplussed by the spongy-feeling pedal.

How It Works
In its day, the Explorer was king of the hill, but as other fresher product is introduced to market, it's been relegated to midpack status. True, the AWD version of the Explorer is marketed for those who'll see nothing more extreme than a graded dirt road or snow in the wintertime. That said, it wouldn't hurt Ford to fit this sport/utility with a softer set of springs and stiffer shocks, which would eliminate pothole tremors to the interior and help keep it planted in the corners.