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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
The last two days I've been driving a rental 2017 Ford Explorer Limited FWD. The mileage was 10k. My Pilot is a 2017 Touring and it has 10k on it as well. The Pilot is used for shuttling kids with car seats and that's what I've been doing with the Ford, almost all City driving.

Before I go into the comparison, one thing I am going to try and convey is that the Ford left me with the distinct feeling as though the vehicle was specifically engineered/crafted to elicit a response. When I compare my initial and gut reactions to the Explorer with my perceptions over the entire day, I have this sense that I'm being manipulated into seeing more than what I am getting. This is a somewhat nebulous, but not so subtle experience. I'll try to elaborate as I go through comparison points.

Price. The MSRP on my Honda was around $43,070. Using a website, it looks like the MSRP on the Ford was around $41-42k.

1. Throttle/Acceleration. As soon as you step on the throttle, the Ford responds. There's a definitely feeling of low end torque that makes one feel like the vehicle is more powerful than it is. Something about this is more visceral than what one experiences in the Pilot. However, I found that once out of 1st gear, the Honda throttle felt more responsive and consistent.

Yet, when the Ford is required to maintain that acceleration and spool up, it ultimately felt like less. This is odd because according to car connection, these cars have an almost identical power to weight ratio. But, it may be due to the Honda having a higher torque value at a higher RPM. So the Honda is pulling harder for longer in the range I tested it. I imagine if I pushed the tach to 6500 RPMs, the Ford might feel stronger, but most of us aren't driving our 3rd row crossovers at 6500 RPMs, even on an infrequent basis.

2. Shifting/Transmission. Though I've known this for sometime, driving the six speed Ford reminded me that regardless of how swooth the transmission is, shifting less is always going to be perceived as smoother. There's no doubt that because the gears cover a wider range of speeds, the six speed feels "smoother." The trade off is that the power isn't there when you need it because the wider speed range of each gear means you're less likely to be in the engine's power band.

Of particular note is that there was an audible whirring sound from the engine/transmission at idle. It sounded like the drive shaft or fly wheel was spinning or rattling. It wasn't the ventilation system. Kind of annoying for a car with only 10k.

3. Brakes/Handling. It's immediately obvious that the brakes in the Ford use less travel. In my Pilot, there is a comparatively longer travel range before the brakes are at full power. Psychologically, that makes one feel that the brakes are better/firmer, but harder to modulate. The brakes tend to operate more like an on/off switch. I suspect that over time one adjusts to the shorter brake travel and learns to use less force.

The handling and suspensions of the Explorer was much stiffer. This gives an initial impression that the steering is sharper, more precise. But on highway sweeper turns, the suspension feels less compliant and more erect, as if I might tip over. The stiffer suspension also gets annoying on some of the bad roads. I thought the Touring was a little stiff, but after driving the Explorer, I am less critical of the Honda.

Also, when mashing the throttle from stand still, the front wheels lost traction on a dry ride and there was a significant amount of wheel hop.

4. Comfort. This Explorer had black leather with the heated/ventilated front/2nd row seats. Without hesitation, I will say that the Explorer driver seat...is horrible. About halfway up the seat, there is a hump. Adding to the discomfort is one feels no side or shoulder support. Even with the electronic lumbar adjustment, the seat was one of the worst I've ever felt. What's odd is that I drove another Limited earlier in the summer and I don't recall it being that bad.

Though I did not ride or sit in the 2nd row, I could see from the placement of the child seats that there was substantially less leg room. I've ridden in the 3rd row the last time we rented an Explorer, and I don't recall it being that much worse in terms of space.

5. Exterior/Interior lighting. The Ford apparently comes with LED headlights. At night, in the city, this isn't any real advantage. Though the LED's are clearly brighter than the stock Halogens in the Pilot. Internally, the Pilot seemed brighter.

6. Infotainment. This is a bit of a wash. The Ford does not have car play or android auto. But it does have a volume nob and an on/off button. I loved the fact that in the Ford, the radio does not shutoff with the ignition, but it does as soon as you open the door. That is a great feature. I do not find the layout of the Ford that much better. While it does seem to convey more information, I'm not sure that is a benefit while driving. The Honda seems to have a less cluttered screen.

I also found the steering wheel buttons on the Ford to be less usable. They are smaller and wrap around the steering wheel spokes, making it a little more difficult to access, though it's possible that is just due to lack of familiarity. I did prefer the instrument panel on the Ford.

This Explorer did not have a rear entertainment. Looking at the 2018's, you can get the dual headrest for about $2k more, so now you're above the Honda in price. I will also point out that, imo, dual headrest screens are inferior if you plan on having kids in the 3rd row, or anyone who might want to watch the entertainment

7. Miscellaneous. The Ford has an electronic brake hight adjuster. That was nice considering how stiff the brakes are. I also noticed that the 2nd row bench seat behind the driver's seat does not slide forward. This made putting in a car seat more challenging. The latches for the door seats in the 2nd row was adequate. Not quite as accessible as the Honda.

The back up camera picture was smokey. The car had been washed, so I don't think it was dirt. However, the driver assist lines were more accurate. The Pilot shows reverse lines that seem to be six inches or more off, and that's using the straight angle view.

8. Cargo space. I did not get a chance to make use of third row during this rental. However Based on my experience driving a Limited during vacation in Atlanta, I had an interesting takeaway. With the 3rd Row up, the Explorer definitely has more storage. BUT...you can only seat 7. So if you put down one of the rear seats in the Pilot, you get a lot more storage with seating for 7 than you do with the Explorer. Arguably, the Ford seats the 7 more comfortably than the Pilot does if the single 3rd row seat is down. Nevertheless, someone who simply looks at the Explorer vs Pilot with the 3rd row up is going to believe the Explorer is getting more space. And if you've got the Elite Honda, then you do have less storage than the Explorer when carrying 7.

Overall, I definitely find the Honda more enjoyable to drive. I drove a 2017 Durango on vacation last fall and I would say that on pure driving the Durango was equal to the Honda. As mentioned, I also drove a Ford Limited in Atlanta and I did not enjoy it that much. While this Explorer felt a little more composed, neither were compelling.
 

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Nice comparison. I can compare a '15 model of each since we have a Pilot and my cousin has an XLT and a Sport Explorer...

The XLT feels about the same as our Pilot, definitely more engine noise. The 6 speed doesn't make any difference in recorded mileage over our 5 speed. The Sport is obviously a hot rod.

The infotainment on that year Explorer SUCKS. Slow, unresponsive, the whole "touch" button thing, just very poor design. Our Pilot is very easy to use, even though the infotainment screen doesn't handle the same amount of information/features as the Explorer.

Both of the Explorers have inflatable rear seatbelts, which is not compatible with many car seats (including the one my cousin is using).

I do like that the Explorer can have captains chairs on cheaper models. We would rather have captains chairs than a bench.
 

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Very nice comparison.

Kind of confirms that a some of Ford's "engineering" is driven by test drive focus groups...not sound logic for long term driving. I'll bet even that seat you didn't like felt good when the car was brand new, and if you only sat in it for 10 minutes.

I hate the way these companies make the throttle so touchy at the top, just so you think it has more power. (and apparently Ford does that with the brakes too). I just used an airport courtesy car which was a new Nissan Quest minivan. Drove nice overall, but the throttle was super touchy. Not that I had a tape measure, but lets say the throttle has 3" of movement at the top of the pedal. ALL of the throttle was in the first inch... the next two inches did nothing, other then maybe increase the shift points. This is just a sucker move to give the test rider the impression of a powerful engine. It did have decent power (like the Pilot), but it is a PITA to have to press the accelerator less than about 1/4" for normal city driving.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
We would rather have captains chairs than a bench.
Why is that?

I know that when I first started looking at these types of vehicles, the idea of "captain's" chairs immediately seems preferable. However, the reason I have this vehicle is because I need to haul people around. Once I recognized the main purpose of this vehicle, 7 seaters were crossed off the list. If the Elite had been the only 8 seater, we probably would have paid the premium for it.

That having been said, not all 7 seaters are the same. If there were no 8 seater options, we would have gone with a 2 - 3 - 2 set up because of our need to use car seats. Even sans car seats, keeping three seats in the 2nd row and two in the 3rd, is vastly superior to having two in the 2nd row and three in the 3rd, this is doubly true for the Pilot. Think about situations where you have to carry seven adults. With crossovers, the 3rd row does not have the same space as the 2nd row. That means you're forcing three adults into a smaller and less comfortable 3rd row instead of the more spacious 2nd row. This is definitely true for the Pilot where the the 3rd row does not have the same hip-room. We can, and have, fit two car seats in the 2nd row along with a moderate sized adult. That is not possible in the third row unless someone has some super small car seats.

What if you have five adults? Now you've got to put up at least one side of the 3rd row. With a bench seat, you don't. On more than one occasion having 8 seats was exactly what we needed...and in some cases I could have used a 9th.

I know people like having easier access to the 3rd row through the gap. That I can understand, especially if you do have two car seats in the Honda, because you can't access the 3rd row. When we do need the 3rd row, it takes me about 5 minutes to switch the passenger's side car seat to the 3rd row. That allows two adults to sit in the 2nd row along with the car seat.
 

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A few weeks ago we rented an Expedition XLT to move around Orlando, FL. While the Ecoboost V6 was fun, I found that the vehicle was cheaply made, uncomfortable, and had a ton of blind spots. I guess my Pilot spoils me. I havent driven a new Explorer, but from I can deduce from the Expo, I wouldn't care for its handling or infotainment system either. It is a tad more responsive than the Pilots, but I found it a bit confusing. Steering wheel controls.... My wife had to yell at me to calm down. The volume rocker was pathetic. Same button feel as a older '02 Explorer a girlfriend used to drive.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
A few weeks ago we rented an Expedition XLT to move around Orlando, FL. While the Ecoboost V6 was fun, I found that the vehicle was cheaply made, uncomfortable, and had a ton of blind spots. I guess my Pilot spoils me. I havent driven a new Explorer, but from I can deduce from the Expo, I wouldn't care for its handling or infotainment system either. It is a tad more responsive that the Pilots, but I found it a bit confusing. Steering wheel controls.... What can I say. My wife had to yell at me to calm down. The volume rocker was pathetic. Same button feel as a older '02 Explorer a girlfriend used to drive.
Well, that is really funny because I drove the same vehicle in Orlando, FL when the family went to Disney. Yes, the Ecoboost V6 does move the vehicle well in a straight line. We used all three rows and were able to put a double-stroller along with back packs and other gear. The Pilot would have been a challenge, but we could have done it since we only had six. I think we did 90% freeway driving and averaged about 22-23 mpg.

We never considered something like an Expedition when we bought our Pilot because the vehicle was just too big. 90% of our driving we only use 2 rows. On the occasion where we've made rode trips with the 3rd row up, we have a Yakima Carbonite 21 and that gives us all the extra space we need.
 

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Well, that is really funny because I drove the same vehicle in Orlando, FL when the family went to Disney. Yes, the Ecoboost V6 does move the vehicle well in a straight line. We used all three rows and were able to put a double-stroller along with back packs and other gear. The Pilot would have been a challenge, but we could have done it since we only had six. I think we did 90% freeway driving and averaged about 22-23 mpg.

We never considered something like an Expedition when we bought our Pilot because the vehicle was just too big. 90% of our driving we only use 2 rows. On the occasion where we've made rode trips with the 3rd row up, we have a Yakima Carbonite 21 and that gives us all the extra space we need.
We did Magic Kingdom, Universal, Epcot and SeaWorld the week that the hurricane was lurking and ended up going north. Bullet dodged but it was really hot down there.
 

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Thanks. I tried the Explorer last year and it left me totally cold. It was very cramped for my 6ft 2 frame (my kids aren't much smaller either).
It also had a black headliner that probably helped convey the cramped feeling..
 

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Discussion Starter #9
We did Magic Kingdom, Universal, Epcot and SeaWorld the week that the hurricane was lurking and ended up going north. Bullet dodged but it was really hot down there.
HA. We left on the Friday before Irma hit Florida. On Thursday, Legoland was like a ghost town.

We did Animal Kingdom, Universal, Aquatic Disney, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, and Legoland.
 

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Very nice comparison.

Kind of confirms that a some of Ford's "engineering" is driven by test drive focus groups...not sound logic for long term driving. I'll bet even that seat you didn't like felt good when the car was brand new, and if you only sat in it for 10 minutes.

I hate the way these companies make the throttle so touchy at the top, just so you think it has more power. (and apparently Ford does that with the brakes too). I just used an airport courtesy car which was a new Nissan Quest minivan. Drove nice overall, but the throttle was super touchy. Not that I had a tape measure, but lets say the throttle has 3" of movement at the top of the pedal. ALL of the throttle was in the first inch... the next two inches did nothing, other then maybe increase the shift points. This is just a sucker move to give the test rider the impression of a powerful engine. It did have decent power (like the Pilot), but it is a PITA to have to press the accelerator less than about 1/4" for normal city driving.
We test drove most new 3 rows before getting our used Pilot. Honestly my preference was the Pathfinder as it was the only one I felt had a linear pedal modulation. Every other vehicle (especially the GM's) would shift at 3k RPMs with a feather throttle, then the last bit of the tach takes 90% of pedal travel. Everyone wants these vehicles to feel peppy, I'd rather have a linear throttle. I miss the manual transmission days, no BS in those.

Why is that?

I know that when I first started looking at these types of vehicles, the idea of "captain's" chairs immediately seems preferable. However, the reason I have this vehicle is because I need to haul people around. Once I recognized the main purpose of this vehicle, 7 seaters were crossed off the list. If the Elite had been the only 8 seater, we probably would have paid the premium for it.

That having been said, not all 7 seaters are the same. If there were no 8 seater options, we would have gone with a 2 - 3 - 2 set up because of our need to use car seats. Even sans car seats, keeping three seats in the 2nd row and two in the 3rd, is vastly superior to having two in the 2nd row and three in the 3rd, this is doubly true for the Pilot. Think about situations where you have to carry seven adults. With crossovers, the 3rd row does not have the same space as the 2nd row. That means you're forcing three adults into a smaller and less comfortable 3rd row instead of the more spacious 2nd row. This is definitely true for the Pilot where the the 3rd row does not have the same hip-room. We can, and have, fit two car seats in the 2nd row along with a moderate sized adult. That is not possible in the third row unless someone has some super small car seats.

What if you have five adults? Now you've got to put up at least one side of the 3rd row. With a bench seat, you don't. On more than one occasion having 8 seats was exactly what we needed...and in some cases I could have used a 9th.

I know people like having easier access to the 3rd row through the gap. That I can understand, especially if you do have two car seats in the Honda, because you can't access the 3rd row. When we do need the 3rd row, it takes me about 5 minutes to switch the passenger's side car seat to the 3rd row. That allows two adults to sit in the 2nd row along with the car seat.
I cannot disagree with you on pretty much any of your sentiments. And with the newer seats that fold and tumble with car seats installed access to the third row is much easier. I preferred them when I didn't have a kid because I thought they were more luxurious. I prefer them with 2 kids now because I can have two car seats in and my oldest can be in the third row with a booster and can get in and belt herself without having to move the seats. at all (even with how easy it is now). I'm sure there will be a scenario where we would need the extra seat but for our everyday livability we would rather have captain's chairs.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
We test drove most new 3 rows before getting our used Pilot. Honestly my preference was the Pathfinder as it was the only one I felt had a linear pedal modulation. Every other vehicle (especially the GM's) would shift at 3k RPMs with a feather throttle, then the last bit of the tach takes 90% of pedal travel. Everyone wants these vehicles to feel peppy, I'd rather have a linear throttle. I miss the manual transmission days, no BS in those.
Do you think the Nissan felt more linear because of the CVT? From what I've read, many drivers have found that "long gear" feeling disconcerting to such an extent that Nissan has modified the CVT to feel more like a traditional transmission feeling, simulating shifting despite the CVT not actually shifting gears.



I cannot disagree with you on pretty much any of your sentiments. And with the newer seats that fold and tumble with car seats installed access to the third row is much easier. I preferred them when I didn't have a kid because I thought they were more luxurious. I prefer them with 2 kids now because I can have two car seats in and my oldest can be in the third row with a booster and can get in and belt herself without having to move the seats. at all (even with how easy it is now). I'm sure there will be a scenario where we would need the extra seat but for our everyday livability we would rather have captain's chairs.
Yes, I can see that if you have to use the 3rd row because of two car seats in the 2nd row as part of your everyday routine, then having the chairs is easier. I would probably want to get smaller seats and fit three across the bench, but I will admit that I wouldn't feel as safe with a child in a booster next to a child in a car seat if we got T-boned. I wouldn't even want an adult in between two car seats.

There really is no perfect vehicle. Like everything else in life, there are trade-offs.
 

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Do you think the Nissan felt more linear because of the CVT? From what I've read, many drivers have found that "long gear" feeling disconcerting to such an extent that Nissan has modified the CVT to feel more like a traditional transmission feeling, simulating shifting despite the CVT not actually shifting gears.
We had a 2011 Rogue we were trading for the vehicle, so we were well used to the CVT. I can tell you the CVT in the new Pathfinder felt much more like a transmission than the Rogue's. I think the real difference is the same amount of throttle would have the other vehicles we drove lunging off the line and shifting at 3k RPM, the Pathfinder would ease off and sit around 2k RPM. The VQ35 for '17 has direct injection with a lot of torque, so it was perfectly happy to build momentum at low RPMs, it was about the best pairing with a CVT transmission to prevent droning. And when you stomp the gas it felt just as quick as the others, I really liked the tuning of that CVT.

Yes, I can see that if you have to use the 3rd row because of two car seats in the 2nd row as part of your everyday routine, then having the chairs is easier. I would probably want to get smaller seats and fit three across the bench, but I will admit that I wouldn't feel as safe with a child in a booster next to a child in a car seat if we got T-boned. I wouldn't even want an adult in between two car seats.

There really is no perfect vehicle. Like everything else in life, there are trade-offs.
Perfectly accurate statement. Our particular reason for wanting our oldest in the third row is because whenever her seat is moved next to our youngest she can't stop touching her and it's a ride full of crying and trying to get an opinionated 4 year old to listen. In the third row she has her own special row, she can put toys next to her and have her own window, etc. It's enough to keep her happy.
 
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