If you have ever seen National Lampoon’s Vacation, you are then quite familiar with the gaudy station wagon used by the Griswolds for their cross-country expedition to Wally World. The station wagon played a prominent role in the movie and has since become an icon and a symbol for everything wrong with a vehicle. The car in the movie is a 1979 Ford LTD Country Squire, with some modifications, of course, and it represented everything you don’t want in a car when going on a road trip. The Griswoldmobile was uncomfortable, ugly, and it got lousy gas mileage, everything you would not expect in a car built for adventure. After watching the movie, you might beg the question: What features are ideal for a vehicle primarily used for road trips and other adventures? There are two SUVs that boast we think are best suited for a road trip, so we will see which one reigns supreme when comparing the 2021 Ford Explorer vs the 2021 Chevy Traverse.
You might be in the midst of doing some research about the best SUV for adventures. Stop for a moment and think in terms of features that will make long road trips and adventures safer, more comfortable, and more enjoyable. For example, the station wagon in the Vacation movie had eight headlights, which might look ridiculous, but actually are quite handy if you are traveling down a dark and empty highway in the middle of nowhere after the sun has set. Score one point for the Griswoldmobile. The station wagon in the movie was also long enough and sturdy enough to carry poor Aunt Edna’s corpse on the roof; how handy was that? OK, let’s get serious and discover the best features in an SUV for road trips and adventures.
Infotainment and Navigation
The Griswolds enjoyed an AM/FM radio and ham for entertainment on their trip to Wally World. This was probably fine for the time, but it simply wouldn’t suffice today. The ideal adventure SUV would have to be equipped with an infotainment system and an intuitive navigation system.
SYNC 3 is part of Ford’s infotainment system that offers plenty of impressive features as well as voice-activated controls, which is critical for those long hauls. With SYNC 3, you will enjoy hands-free and easy-to-use controls that allow you to make phone calls, send and receive text messages, and switch between smooth jazz and death metal. You are also able to adjust temperature settings while driving without having to take your hands off of the wheel or your eyes off of the road.
Another handy feature available for the 2021 Explorer is the Ford Co-Pilot360 suite, which is a collection of driving assistance programs and includes automatic forward emergency braking, rear cross-traffic warning, blind-spot warning, and more. The Co-Pilot 360 is a blessing for road trip enthusiasts.
Chevy offers an infotainment system for the Traverse with many of the same features and options. Auto manufacturers recognize how important it is for drivers to be engaged with their mobile devices without them being a distraction.
Both SUVs offer navigation systems that help make travel easier. Nothing enhances a road trip better than an SUV that navigates you to your destination and estimates the time of your arrival.
Cargo and Seating
The perfect SUV for road trip enthusiasts and adventurists has a third row of folding seats, like the Explorer. The Explorer King Ranch features over 85 square feet of luxury leather seating and front bucket seats that are heated and ventilated, as well as being power-adjustable 10-ways. Even the second row of seats is heated! For those adventurists and road trip enthusiasts who have kids, the third row of seating is nice even if it is utilized to keep them separated and give them more personal space.
Any SUV utilized for road trips must have enough cargo space to transport luggage and other necessities. Both the Ford Explorer and Chevy Traverse offer ample cargo space with third-row seats that fold to make even more room for the things you need.
Power and Performance
When comparing power and performance in the Explorer and Traverse, this is where we see a little separation. The Chevy Traverse offers one engine choice, which is a 3.6-liter V6 with ample power. Ford offers the Explorer with a standard turbocharged four-cylinder engine which is quite sufficient on the road and can tow an impressive 5,300 when equipped with the towing package, which is critical if your road trip plans include a day on the lake in your boat. Should you desire a little added power, you can opt for the 3.0-liter V6, which will boost horsepower.
Another nice option is the hybrid, which pairs a 3.3-liter V6 with an electric motor, which helps with fuel efficiency. Whichever engine you prefer, the Explorer is an athletic machine with the performance you desire.
Ford’s optional Terrain Management System allows you to shift on the fly from one setting to another, depending on the terrain you are driving on. In the Normal position, torque is concentrated to the front wheels and is sent to the back wheels only when needed. The Mud/Rut option is an aggressive mode that limits upshifting and desensitizes stability control to allow the tires to spin freely as needed. The Sand mode gives your Explorer maximum torque and keeps the transmission in low gear for a longer period of time to allow the wheels to spin aggressively. The Grass/Gravel/Snow mode ensures wheel slip is minimized to get you through slippery situations.
The Little Things Matter
There are several little things you get with the Explorer that make it the ideal SUV for the adventurer. If you want your Explorer to look a little more sporty, you can opt for the 20-inch wheels, which really give this SUV a good look. If an 8.0-inch touchscreen isn’t sufficient, the higher trims offer a 10.1-inch touchscreen that is vertically orientated. On the top-tier Platinum trim, the 12-speaker B&O audio system comes standard.
Ford’s Cargo Management System is also a neat feature for those who love to travel. The available Cargo Management System provides extra storage pockets on the side and a storage area underneath the floor.
Lastly, the King Ranch trim is the epitome of luxury. The King Ranch is a recent addition to the Explorer lineup and has been offered on the F-series trucks for several years. Do you want to turn heads while cruising down the highway to your destination? The King Ranch badging, 20-inch wheels, and chrome exhaust tips are sure to attract attention. A center console wrapped in Mahogany leather and a Sapele wood-trimmed dash will have you never wanting to leave the driver’s seat. The King Ranch trim is for those who want to travel in the ultimate comfort and style.
Let’s put it this way; if Chevy Chase’s character Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Vacation had to choose between the Explorer or Traverse for his family’s next vacation…never mind, he would totally make the wrong choice. While the Traverse is a good SUV in its own right, we think you would be better off choosing the Explorer, especially if you plan on doing a lot of traveling. The only thing that could possibly make the Explorer a better buy would be the addition of six headlights and wood paneling on the sides.