The old days of the highly-stratified brand hierarchy are getting more and more blurred by mass-market brands and models offering ever-more-opulent levels of equipment. Perhaps the best example is this 2013 Ford Explorer Limited we just tested. About the only option our tester didn't have was a sunroof. But going down the list, its equipment rivals Lexus, Land Rover or other upscale brands.

First, it should be noted that the Explorer Limited is an extremely well-equipped offering. About the only option our tester didn't have was a sunroof and the feature list on the Monroney reads more like the list for a Lexus, Land Rover, or other upscale brand. It's not just a big gadget-dump on an otherwise crude vehicle either. The Explorer has baked-in refinement that you can sense via its serene isolation from road noise and the muted hum coming from its 290-hp, 3.5-liter V-6.

As much of a first impression as the preponderance of technology and equipment makes, it almost comes across as overwhelming in a vehicle of this class. Since when did a heated power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel become an expectation in a mainstream midsize SUV?

To be fair, most of the over-the-top amenities are bundled in the $6460 Equipment Group 302A. The package includes voice-activated navigation, power-folding third row seats, power liftgate, the aforementioned steering wheel, inflatable rear seatbelts, blind spot monitoring, active park assist, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, HID headlights, and rain-sensing wipers. This is on top of the already high level of equipment on the Limited trim.

This generous level of equipment also carries a generous price tag. The total for our tester came to $46,850. For comparison, a Lexus RX350 AWD starts at $41,585, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4x4 starts at $40,220, and the recently-introduced Infiniti JX35 AWD starts at $42,500. Of course, comparably-equipped, these models can easily crest the $50,000 mark.

The Explorer feels very wide, an attribute backed up by its 78.9 inch width, which is greater than that of the aforementioned models. In fact, the Explorer is one-tenth of an inch wider than even the fullsize body-on-frame Expedition. While this makes for expansive comfort inside, it also results in an annoyingly prominent doorsill, which forces drivers and passengers to step over the sill to get out. For this 5' 11" adult male, it was a minor inconvenience.

As far as the newly-simplified MyFord Touch control and electronics interface, it's likely indicative of the future of automotive interiors, whether you like it or not. The Explorer's application of it is one of the more extreme examples of the feature, forsaking almost all conventional buttons on the center console for a flat surface with virtual buttons marked with white lettering. The only major physical control of note is a large center power button and volume knob for the radio.

MyFord Touch in this application also takes over most of the gauge cluster as well, with only the speedometer being a conventional needles & numbers analog display. The rest of the gauges and displays are configurable via steering wheel-mounted controls. Choices are too numerous to list here but include fuel level, engine temperature, and a tiny virtual tachometer about the size of the face of a men's watch. I much prefer the more balanced application of MyFord touch in the new 2013 Escape, which has traditional, prominent analog displays for the speedometer, tachometer, and fuel and temperature levels along with the multi-function display that's housed prominently but not obnoxiously between the two main gauges. The Escape also has redundant climate controls and physical buttons to access other features.

Few customers shopping for a midsize three-row SUV are likely to be itching for stoplight drag races. If you are one of those customers, Ford will offer the 2013 Explorer Sport, which shoehorns the 350-hp EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6 from the Taurus SHO under the hood. The boosted powertrain promises to slice about two seconds off the 0-60 sprint. Our Limited 4WD tester went from 0-60 mph in eight seconds flat and through the quarter-mile in 16.1 seconds at 88.7 mph, plenty acceptable for a 4782-lb SUV.

If you're looking for a quiet, comfortable three-row midsize SUV with gadgets galore, and aren't fixated on having a status-brand vehicle in your driveway, the Explorer Limited packs in a lot of goodies at a relatively reasonable price. Just don't expect an out-of-the-ordinary driving experience.

2013 Ford Explorer Limited
BASE PRICE $40,680
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 3.5L/290-hp/255-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4782 lb (54/46%)
WHEELBASE 112.6 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 197.1 x 78.9 x 71.0 in
0-60 MPH 8.0 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.1 sec @ 88.7 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 120 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.5 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 198/147 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 1.01 lb/mile