Different stiffening ridges stamped into the roof sheetmetal cut the drumming vibration of the large roof, and, with the other improvements, cut the noise level in the second and third rows. This makes it easier for the driver to talk with people in the back seat without anyone shouting. At least, not until the "He hit me first!" accusations start to fly.

Seat comfort was a top complaint of Explorer owners, so the company worked with supplier Lear to upgrade the chairs. It succeeded admirably, producing seats that should be comfortable over the long haul. In the second row, the seats previously folded forward into a tilted heap, defeating an owner's desire for a flat load floor.

In the seven-passenger version of the 2006 model, the second row adds an extra step to the convoluted folding action, ending in a flat position. Seatback angle also is adjustable, so second-row occupants aren't doomed to perpetually ride in the jumbo-jet-like "fully upright and locked position for landing" vertical angle.

Back in the third row, the seat is split into halves, giving drivers the option of putting cargo and a passenger in the back. Electric power-folding third-row seats are now an available option. Ford realized that most customers would trade the previous truck's abundant third-row headroom for higher seats that didn't leave them with that parent's-night-at-kindergarten feeling, so the new seats are 1.75 inches higher, allowing for better thigh support.

For those who don't need to haul seven people, the Explorer is available as a five-seater (no third row), and as a six-seater, which replaces the second-row bench seat with a pair of buckets and a (sad to say) nonremovable center console.