Giveaways and Reviews My Fabulous Life

2011 Ford Explorer Vs. Our Family

Last month, our family had the opportunity to check out the 2011 Ford Explorer Limited for a few weeks.

When asked to check out the vehicle and give my feedback on it, of course I was game.  Actually, I think in the case of this review my husband was probably more excited than me.

Guys seem to go gaga over new vehicles, and my Twitter followers read how he and I would argue over who got to go grab the morning coffee from Tim Hortons since it meant that person could take the Explorer out first thing in the morning.

I’ll leave all the stats and performance discussion on the 2011 Ford Explorer for reviewers who actually know what they’re talking about.  The truth of the matter is, I’m like many moms who, when looking for a vehicle, have an entirely different set of criteria.  The 2011 Explorer may have a projected 290 horsepower and 255 lb of torque…but is there enough space between the seats to keep the kids from wacking each other?  Are the seats leather (i.e. projectile vomit-proof?)  These are the kind of questions on my mom checklist.

The interior of the 2011 Explorer Limited is indeed leather-trimmed, but thankfully I had no reason to test it’s durability against anything projected from the kids.  Still, given the choice between fabric and leather for a vehicle interior, I’ll always choose leather.  I know many people don’t like leather because it can be very cold in the harsh winter weather and painfully hot in the summer months.

Car manufacturers have countered the winter issue with heated seats but it wasn’t until driving the Explorer that we learned how awesome having cooled leather seats can be!  Imagine getting into a hot vehicle in July and being instantly cooled off like that!  Add to it the 10-way memory power front bucket seats (seriously, how many angles can your seat be?) and an available memory feature for 2 drivers (no more adjusting the seat every time you get in after your husband moves it…again), and you’ve got one happy mom (and dad).  Our weather has been cool so far this spring, so there wasn’t an opportunity for me to check out the cooled front seats but my husband tried it driving home from the gym one day and was impressed…and chilled. 😉

The available My Ford Touch system was really advanced, and we didn’t even explore all the options with it in the time we had the vehicle.  Music, maps, phone contacts, a personal calendar, temperature adjustment – it’s all there and easily accessible with just a tap of the finger or voice command.  The home screen is full of info including what street you’re on at every moment, the song/artist on the radio, a list of favorite channels, and even the temperature on either side for the driver and passenger.

When I told people, both in my every day life and through this blog, that I was reviewing a Ford Explorer one of the first questions inevitably was, “Does it have a third row?”  I’ve come to learn that a third row isn’t just necessary because we have 3 kids.  In the past, I drove an SUV with just two rows that seated 5 people.  At the time we had 2 kids, yet we were outgrowing our vehicle.  Even though 2 car seats fit fine in the back seat of the vehicle, having no third row meant that it was impossible to take a third adult with us anywhere and if I needed to hop into the back seat to comfort an upset toddler – as experienced when we traveled from Saskatchewan to BC in the summer of 2009 – it was a very uncomfortable fit.

Of course, once there are 3 children in a family a third row becomes necessary.  Even with 2 kids though, I think it’s so much more convenient to have.  Now, with a second and third row and three kids some planning and organization is in order.  Who should be seated where?

Because there is a console in the middle of the second row of the 2011 Ford Explorer Limited (seen here in the photo above), one of the second row seats needs to fold forward in order for anyone to get to the third row.  However, with a permanent infant or children’s car seat on the actual seat itself, it can not fold forward.  So, in our case we had to have the two oldest kids sit in the third row so that one of the second row seats was left open (without a car seat on it).  If the console was removed, folding the seats forward wouldn’t become an issue and two children’s car seats could be in the second row.  This is the only feature of the 2011 Ford Explorer that I would like to see changed in order to make it more attractive to families.

This actually didn’t prove to be as big of a deal as I initially thought it was, because of the awesome way the second row seat folds forward to allow the kids to get in the back.  With just the push of a button, the seat folds forward and out of the way with ease.  Mom (or dad) doesn’t have to pull on any levers or try and maneuver the seat forward.  In fact, I could easily hold baby in one arm and move the seat because all it took was the push of a button – this is definitely something that can not be done in our van.

With the seat folded forward, I could easily lean in and buckle up my daughter’s car seat.  The added benefit of two kids in the third row and a seat left empty in the second row is that, should the baby fuss, I could hop into the empty seat which is exactly what I did on our drive back from a shopping trip an hour away.  So, it depends on the family and their needs.  If you have two very young children and require them both in the second row, yet a third child that needs to sit in the back, the console may be problematic.

The same simple push-button feature is available should you need to fold down the third row.  It’s absolutely genius that Ford utilizes this in the Explorer because I can tell you that since we purchased our new van this past winter, I have never folded the third row seats down in it myself because I can’t figure out how to do it.  I know it’s a “simple” process of pulling a lever, folding something and pulling another lever, but I just avoid it altogether.  Pushing a button and having the work done for me?  Priceless.

The area behind the third row seat gives you 16 cu. ft. of cargo volume according to the site, but what does this mean for a mom?  It means you can easily fit a stroller and groceries in the back (depending on how shop-happy you get at Costco, you can store the stroller vertically if needed!)  However, for bigger shopping hauls, there’s always the option of folding down the third row seat, as mentioned.

Other features that we liked in the 2011 Explorer include the Advanced Navigation System (the kids loved plotting out our route and watching along the way), the Rearview Camera (which is much better than the one in our van) and the available BLIS (Blind Spot Information System).  The BLIS with Cross Over Traffic Alert uses sensors in the rear quarter panels that actually monitor your blind spots for you (!!!) and illuminates a light on your side mirror if a vehicle is detected.  It surprised me when the alert sounded as I was backing out of a parking space alerting me that a vehicle was approaching.

Curious about other features?  Check out the FAQ section on the site for more information on the 2011 Ford Explorer.  We had a great time driving this vehicle and it was sad to see it go.  The 2011 Ford Explorer is worth checking out if a crossover SUV is something you are considering.  It’s definitely family-friendly but with a ton of features that help mom and dad maintain their cool…and their sanity.


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  • What a fabulous ride!! I am totally in love with how the temperature can be controlled on either side (hubby and I are always fussing about that!) This vehicle has so many great features but the one that blows me away is how the seat folds down with a simple touch of a button(HEAVEN!)LOL! I’m glad you were able to review this snazzy ride so all of us readers could get the info on how this vehicle benefits an everyday family.

  • Wow…totally jealous!!! Great review Tenille. I have had my eye on the new Explorer, and even more so now. From your review it seems to have everything we (as a family of 4 only) needs (as the kids get bigger so does their stuff and friends to truck around!) As you showed…it is all about who and what will fit where! I am loving some of those featurs too (push button folding seat, navigation system, camera and the blind spot warning…wow!). I don’t need a new vehicle yet…but this one is on the top of my list when the time comes!

  • Ohh man I am trying my hardest not to covet that car =) We are looking into getting a new vehicle in the next yr and I’ve just added ‘folding seats with a push of a button’ to my list ;-).

  • I’m in Love! With the car that is..

    We are actually looking to downgrade our larger sized SUV to something mid size like this. My husband loves FORD so I will have him check out your review. I can still remember the times he would pick me up in his blue Ford Escort and we would hit the town, Oh what memories! He LOVED that car.

    Anyways, Sorry to get off track but looking at the details and already loving the features, I think this would be perfect for our family of four. Thanks for sharing Tenille. Our decision just might be easier. Of course we wouldn’t be sure until I’m actually sitting behind the wheel, I’m on the short side finding something compatible with me would get my vote lol.

  • The dashboard and My Ford Touch system look really cool! And I had no idea they made cooling seats now. Love it! Looks like a really good vehicle. We’ve always had good experiences with Ford SUVs.

  • Wow! I love the new Explorer. Such a great review. I’ll definitely be looking at it when my time comes to buy a new vehicle. It looks much better than I anticipated and the interior is deadly!

    Can’t wait to see what you review next…

  • Great review. I love the idea of cooled seats in the summer. We always choose cloth seats because you stick to leather in the summer. I love the voice command option…making hands free. We love Fords and own a Ford Escape which is perfect for us. Thanks for all the info.

  • you had me at “chilled seats” lol What a great vehicle and a great opportunity for you and your family!

  • Sounds like a great vehicle but I think I would find it hard to give up my sliding doors. Maybe if we weren’t planning a 4th child it would work. I am surprised to see how many wonderful features it has. I think it would be a perfect vehicle for smaller families or those with older children.

  • As if you can fold down the seats with just a push of a button?! Plus, it’s large enough to fit our Britax infant car seat! And it looks so spacious which is exactly what we’d need if we stick to our plan of having 4-5 kids!

  • Looks like you enjoyed your luxurious testaroo! 😉 Very down to earth and honest review. Loved it! 🙂

  • Looks like a great family vehicle. I love the idea of the My Ford Touch and leather seats. Strangely enough I never considered leather for kids worrying that it would get too damaged. This particular vehicle won’t be on our maybe to buy list but we have been happy with the performance of our soon to be 10 year old Windstar. I will have to see what they have that seats 7 or 8. Heck a 10 seater would be perfect.

  • What a gorgeous vehicle!!! I’m not even really into cars, but after reading your review I was drooling over it! I love the idea of the BLIS. I’m always so paranoid when changing lanes at high speeds that the guy in the other lane will have the same idea and we end up both trying to merge at once into the same lane. It would be great to have an early warning to protect you from potential catastrophe.

  • I’ve never been a ford fan but after reading your very honest ( and, in my opinion, impartial) review, I’m thinking about checking it out! Thank you for making me take a second look & making me realize that I shouldn’t always be closed off to second impressions 🙂

  • This is the first time I have ever heard of cooling seats! That is such a good idea for the hot days of summer. I also really like blind spot indicator and that it has third row seats. The dashboard has many cool features as well! Thanks for the review 🙂

  • Wow you are so lucky to have had the opportunity to test this great car! Looks fabulous. Loving all the features!

  • Cooling seats are a great idea. We have warming seats in our vehicle, but not cooling. The dashboard looks very innovative. I might find all this a bit confusing (I’m a simple person)

  • Oh, what a treat for you guys. I have one thing to say. They don’t make them like they used to. 🙂

  • Would love this Explorer, and I could use the navigation system! Being a one van family is tough and this would be a lovely addition.

  • I haven’t actually heard of seats that can be cooled in a vehicle before. That would be a cool feature!

  • We have the third row seating in our vehicle and I (and the kids) love it! They love when I put their car seats back there, it’s like they have their own little space 🙂 Such a lucky ducky you are!

  • This is really nice to know, thanks for writing the review! We are thinking of upgrading to a 3rd row seating SUV from out 4runner so we’ll have to check this out.

  • Loving the leather, the 3rd row and overall look of the Ford, although I don’t think I would like having the My Ford Touch System. Great review though.

  • I love this ford and tonight on American idol they gave four away, love it
    this is my comment for extra entry

  • My wife and I bought a 2011 ford explorer and fell in love with it until we got home and noticed something with our rear facing car seat which we didn’t have at the time of purchase. My wife could not seat in front passenger seat comfortably. She was right against the dashboard…this was definitely a safety concern. We tried 3 different rear facing car seats and they were all doing the same thing, they were pushing against front passenger seat which you had to move almost all the way up. We were very disappointed. We returned it back to dealership less then 48 hrs of purchase but they could only buy it back used. We only put 90 miles on it. The 2011 ford explorer is great if your kids face forwards or if person in front seat is under 5ft 4. So buyer beware.

    • Hi Derek! I know how you feel, we had almost that exact same scenario with an Uplander van 2 years ago. We could not comfortably put the car seat in the second row and had the same situation when we tried to bring it back (in our case it was within 30 days…they still bought it back used and we lost money).

      We had our infant daughter’s Britax Chaperone car seat in the second row of the 2011 Ford Explorer without a problem though, and my husband is 5’11”, so that’s interesting that it was an issue for you. I wonder if the car seat itself makes a difference?

      • Just found this post as I was looking for other people with the Ford Explorer and Britax car seats. We have the 2012 Explorer and cannot fit the Britax Chaperone in the third or second seat. How were you able to fit the chaperone? I wonder if it’s because you have the captain’s chairs in the second row? We have the bench-style second row seats (chose that one since it holds more passengers), and cannot fit the Chaperone behind the drivers side. It will fit in the passenger’s side, but whoever’s riding shot gun has to sit really close to the dashboard.

  • I LOVE this ride!!! I love the look of it and I love all the room! Would come in handy for my bunch as we are having our 3rd baby in october 🙂


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