Exploring Excellence: Ford Explorer vs. Bronco Twins - SUV VEHICLE

Exploring Excellence: Ford Explorer vs. Bronco Twins

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Summary

  • The Ford Explorer outsells the Bronco and Bronco Sport combined, showcasing simplicity and capability over fanciness.
  • The Explorer is the second best-selling Ford vehicle overall, offering a range of trims from basic to off-road ready options.
  • With a refresh coming in 2025 including trim cuts and new features, the Explorer is poised to maintain its lead in the Ford SUV lineup.



The Ford Bronco is one of the most truly American SUVs on the market and has been around for what feels like forever. It’s also been killing in terms of reviews, with just about every publication ranking it as one of the best SUVs of the year. However, another Ford SUV is outselling it, and by a lot.

The Ford Explorer has also been around the block since it first hit the streets in 1990. It isn’t as polished and the current generation is becoming slightly outdated, yet it still manages to outsell both the Bronco and the Bronco Sport. While the F-Series is still the best-selling Ford, the recipe for the Explorer is one that’s simple and one that the public seems to love.

We dissect the 2024 Ford Explorer and find out just why and how more people are attracted to it than the Bronco. We take a look at Ford’s sales figures and break down the pricing, features, and future of the Explorer to find out just why it has become such a favorite child in the Ford SUV lineup.


In order to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from Ford, and other authoritative sources, including Ford Authority.

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The Ford Explorer Outsells The Bronco And Bronco Sport Combined

Many brands have proven time and time again that it isn’t the fanciest or the most innovative cars that have become top sellers. People love simplicity and capability and those two factors speak for themselves. The Ford Explorer has clearly proven itself to the public in a way that the Bronco hasn’t.


Ford Sales Figures

Model

Q1 2024 / Q1 2023

Q1 2024

Q1 2023

BRONCO

-25.79%

24,066

32,430

BRONCO SPORT

+5.67%

31,565

29,871

EXPLORER

+0.70%

58,465

58,061

(Source: Ford Authority)

Most automakers have made their compact SUVs their bread and butter, with the likes of Honda, Kia, and even Toyota selling way more of their compact offerings than their mid-size and full-size SUVs. However, Ford seems to be living in a bit of a backward space where their Bronco is actually struggling to gain traction while the Explorer steadily treks onwards.

The Bronco and the Bronco Sport are compact SUVs, with the Sport being the smaller sibling. The Explorer on the other hand is a three-row mid-size SUV. Usually, smaller SUVs sell better because they can offer more for the price tag than the bigger SUVs can. Despite the Bronco’s best efforts, though, the Explorer sells as much as the Bronco and Bronco sport combined.


The Second Best Selling Ford

The Explorer isn’t just the best-selling Ford SUV though, it’s the second-best-selling Ford overall. The only car in the Ford lineup that outsells the Explorer is the F-Series, which makes sense given how popular pickup trucks are. The 145,200 F-Series were sold in Q1 of 2024, which is actually a decrease from the 2023 figure.

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Eight Trim Levels Means The Explorer Caters To Everyone

2024 Ford Explorer
Ford

In our opinion, part of the Explorer’s success is its ability to cater to everyone looking for a family-oriented SUV. It has a decent price tag and offers a lot of space and capability for the money you pay. The Bronco and the Bronco Sport cater to a more specific crowd of people and, as such, don’t have the mass appeal of the Explorer.


2024 Explorer Trims

Trim

Starting MSRP

Base

$36,860

XLT

$38,670

ST-Line

$46,445

Limited

$47,520

Timberline

$49,430

ST

$50,105

King Ranch

$54,625

Platinum

$54,770

(Source: Ford)

The 2024 Explorer comes in eight different trim levels and ranges and there is nearly $18,000 between the cheapest and the most expensive trim. There is an Explorer for those looking for the most basic three-row SUV and there is an Explorer if you’re wanting to hit off-road trails in style.


While you can get access to tons of features like heated seats and a Bang & Olufsen audio system, the Explorer remains fairly simple and robust on the inside. Everything is easy to use and there isn’t much nuance. People enjoy simplicity and while the Explorer may not feature fine leather upholstery, its identity lies in its ability to get up and go without any complaints.

The Best Trim For You

Seeing eight different options when building your Explorer can be a daunting sight. If you’re looking for a mid-size SUV with a reliable engine that will get you from A to B then you’ll be quite happy with the standard equipment on the Base and the XLT trims. However, the Limited is the Explorer of choice if you want more modern comforts like leather upholstery and upgraded driver assists such as adaptive cruise control.


If you’re someone looking to hit trails less traveled, then opting for the slightly more expensive Timberline is definitely the way to go. Its improved ground clearance, underbody skid plates, and all-terrain tires will help you go anywhere.

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An Optional Twin-Turbo V-6 Means The Explorer Is A Beastly Bargain

2023 Ford Explorer shown at a pier in front three quarter angle
Ford

When it comes to SUV capability, it’s all in the powertrain. One of the first things that people look at when deciding which SUV to buy is just how powerful it is. The Explorer has two different powertrain options and both get the job done in just about any scenario.


Performance

Engine

2.3-Liter Turbocharged Inline-Four

3.0-Liter Twin-Turbocharged V-6

Transmission

10-Speed Automatic

10-Speed Automatic

Horsepower

300 hp

400 hp

Torque

310 lb-ft

415 lb-ft

Driveline

RWD or AWD

RWD or AWD

Towing Capacity

5,300 lbs

5,600 lbs

(Source: Ford)

The 2024 Ford Explorer has two powertrain options to choose from, a 2.3-liter four-cylinder and a 3.0-liter V-6. The V-6 is only available on the King Ranch, Platinum, or ST models, while the rest are relegated to the inline-four.

While a twin-turbocharged 400 horsepower engine definitely sounds attractive, it’s actually the four-cylinder which is the unsung hero. For a lot less money, the turbocharged four-banger produces 300 horsepower, tows almost as much as the V-6, and has much better fuel economy.


Explorer Versus The Bronco Twins

If we’re looking at capability alone, the Explorer actually seems like the much better all-rounder. While the Bronco and Bronco Sport are definitely lighter, even the base powertrain on the Explorer gives it a run for its money.

The Bronco is definitely a purpose-built machine. It’s meant to be an off-roader. Even the smaller, less powerful Bronco Sport wears this identity proudly. While that’s awesome for people who see entry and departure angles as the be-all and end-all, the average Joe is going to find much more use and value in the four-pot and V-6 in the Explorer.

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Its Refresh For The 2025 Model Year Could Cannibalize Even More Sales

Blue 2025 Ford Explorer ST
Ford


While the Explorer is definitely aging, we saw above that this hasn’t really affected sales all that much. While Ford hasn’t sold more Explorers year-on-year, its steady flow is something to be proud of. On the horizon, the Explorer is set to get a refresh for the 2025 model year and this could bolster its lead over the rest of the Ford SUV stable even further.

A More Focused Explorer

Ford seems to think that the Explorer’s trim options are more of a hindrance than a benefit, considering they’re cutting them in half for the 2025 model year. This does, however, allow the Explorer to be more focused on its identity rather than trying to cover so many bases at once, and we could see some price cuts across the board.

Across all trim levels, though, the Explorer is getting a new front fascia, with a reworked grille, headlamps, and lower air inlets. The rear of the mid-size SUV features new tail lamps. BlueCruise, Ford’s hand-free driving feature, also gets added. On the inside, soft-touch materials upgrade comfort and the Explorer gets access to the Ford Digital Experience.


All-in-all, the Explorer is set to be brought a little more into the modern age. With its already exceptional sales figures, we can see these changes being enough to solidify its spot at the top of the Ford SUV lineup. This affordable family-focused mid-size SUV is a showcase of what’s to come in Ford’s future and will most definitely be at the center of their growth.

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