Living in The Age of the SUV comes with a lot of different takes on the Sport Utility Vehicle. Born from generations of truck-bodied, four-wheel drive vehicles, the modern SUV comes in many shapes, sizes, and flavors. There are compact crossovers, midsize crossover SUVs, and even three-row full-size SUVs. Some–but not all–of them offer all-wheel drive. Some–but not all–of them include sporty turbocharged engines and upgraded suspensions that make driving a nearly blessed occasion. Some–but not all–of them are intended to climb mountains and ford streams. So is an SUV like the 2022 Ford Explorer more sport, more utility, or…just a vehicle?
A lot of what we know about SUVs comes from the image created by their name, but some of those are legacy names that depict a by-gone era of ruggedness when “Sport” referred to outdoor activities, and “Utility” indicated how much it could tow or stow. Over the generations, these vehicles have evolved so that each has its own variety of characteristics. So does the 2022 Ford Explorer really give drivers an opportunity to hop off the beaten path and see what adventure lies in the distance? Is it more Sport, Utility, or Vehicle? In a nutshell: yes.
Understanding the 2022 Ford Explorer
There are many ways to describe the Ford Explorer. 2022 marks the third year of the sixth generation of Explorer, which tells drivers that it’s a tried and true formula. In fact, it’s been a regular top seller for Ford since its debut on the market in 1990. It’s a three-row midsize crossover. It hauls either six or seven passengers, depending on whether the second row of seating is outfitted with a bench or bucket seats. It has 18.2 cubic feet to 87.8 cubic feet of cargo space, depending on how many seats are filled and how many are folded. It can even tow up to 5,600 pounds.
But does this really tell anyone what the Ford Explorer is?
The 2022 Ford Explorer comes in 8 different trims. There are three different engines available. The spacious interior can be configured in a variety of ways, with seats stowed and filled as needed. There can be tow hooks, tow hitches, roof racks, and cargo management systems to maximize the Utility part of the equation. If you lean more towards the Sport part, there are black-out appearance options and off-road-ready versions of the Explorer, catering to both potential definitions of the term. On top of that, there are two luxury trims for those who prefer to do their exploring in style.
In short, the Ford Explorer can be whatever each individual driver needs it to be to seek out their destiny.
The Power and Performance of the 2022 Ford Explorer
For many people, the first consideration of an SUV is “what can it do?” Can it hold a certain number of passengers? Can I sleep in the cargo area when I’m out in the backcountry? Can it tow my snowmobile or boat or camper? All of these questions circle back around to the power and performance capabilities of the vehicle. After all, you can’t tote around three rows of passengers without an engine that can safely propel that much weight. You can’t get to the backcountry if your vehicle lacks the torque to head off-road. And you’re definitely not towing anything without the proper equipment and power.
The 2022 Ford Explorer covers all of these bases. The base Explorer trim, as well as the XLT, ST-Line, Timberline, and Limited trims, are all equipped with a 2.3L turbocharged inline-4 that provides 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Available as rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive–with the exception of the off-road inclined Timberline, which is all-wheel drive only–this engine provides plenty of output for a variety of scenarios, both on and off-road. You could call this the “Utility” engine.
The ST, King Ranch, and Platinum Explorers feature a 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6, good for 365 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque in the two luxury trims or 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque in the sporty ST trim. That latter trim can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in approximately 5.2 seconds. This definitely qualifies as the “Sport” version.
The 2022 Ford Explorer is also offered in two hybrid trims: Limited and Platinum. Pairing a 3.3L V6 engine with an electric motor, these versions provide a robust 318 horsepower and 322 lb-ft of torque, making them somehow both sporty, thanks to their impressive performance, and utilitarian, with up to 28 MPG highway fuel economy on rear-wheel drive models.
Which Explorer Is Which?
The secret to the Ford Explorer’s success is that each version is ready to explore; however, the frontier to be discovered varies between trims. Just as you wouldn’t buy a boat to traverse the desert, the standard Explorer will be less equipped to become a luxurious road trip companion, just as the ST is not nearly as well prepared to face the trail as the Timberline. Each trim has its own specialty when it comes to adventure.
- The base Explorer includes an impressive array of standard features, including LED head and tail lamps, tri-zone automatic climate control, and power assistance in all the right places, including a power-operated tailgate.
- The XLT includes tasteful luxuries, such as heated and power-adjustable front seats, second-row captain’s chairs, and additional USB ports so that passengers don’t have to share for the entire duration of the trip.
- The ST-Line and the ST are similar in appearance but are not the same in their capability–on purpose. The ST-Line offers the sleek and sporty appearance features of the ST without the 3.0L V6 engine, sport-tuned suspension, enhanced brakes, and quad exhaust. However, both offer a bounty of fantastic features, including Bang & Olufsen audio systems and additional safety equipment. The ST-Line maintains its “practical sporty” persona with helpful features such as a self-dimming rearview mirror and rain-sensing windshield wipers. The ST goes all out with a 12.3-inch driver information display, a 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment center, and more.
- The Timberline is the most rugged Explorer, with higher 8.5-inch ground clearance, steel skid plates, and limited-slip rear differential. The Timberline’s Intelligent 4WD with Terrain Management System allows drivers the ability to select between seven different drive modes, including Trail and Deep Snow/Sand, as part of its dedication to the wild side.
- The Limited trim may not be super-sporty or super-utilitarian, but it does offer quite a few creature comforts, such as optional power-folding third-row seats, a standard hands-free tailgate, and your choice of hybrid or turbocharged powertrains.
- The King Ranch and Platinum are the chart-toppers in the Explorer lineup. The King Ranch passes a nod at its rugged Western heritage while filling the interior with deluxe trappings, such as massaging front seats and heated steering wheel. The Platinum decks out its cabin in real wood and leather and allows the driver and front passenger to store memory settings for their in-seat massages.
Ready For Modern Adventures
Some people may fret that the Sport Utility Vehicle is becoming too “citified.” It’s hard to argue that heated, ventilated, massaging seats aren’t a bit of a fantastic luxury, especially when just a few decades ago, SUVs didn’t necessarily have rear seats or even air conditioning.
However, when judging whether a vehicle like the Explorer is really “exploration-worthy,” it’s important to note that there are many different types of exploration. For some of us, the adventure is watching our families grow and bloom. For others, the distance between here and there is only measured in the memories they create as they wind their paths around the world. Some prefer speed, while others need room. Each of us is carving out our own journey in this world, and whether that path includes highways or trails, there is a 2022 Ford Explorer to meet the needs of every driver’s own personal adventure.