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The middle row seatbelts optional on the Explorer inflate when a collision is detected, helping to spread crash forces over a much larger area of the body and limiting head and neck movement. This can help prevent spinal and internal injuries. The GLS doesn’t offer inflatable seatbelts.
To help make backing safer, the Explorer (except Base)’s optional cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The GLS doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.
Both the Explorer and the GLS have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height-adjustable front shoulder belts, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available all-wheel drive, collision warning systems, lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems and front and rear parking sensors.
Ford’s powertrain warranty covers the Explorer 1 year and 10,000 miles longer than Mercedes covers the GLS. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 5 years or 60,000 miles. Coverage on the GLS ends after only 4 years or 50,000 miles.
There are almost 8 times as many Ford dealers as there are Mercedes dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Explorer’s warranty.
The Explorer has a standard “limp home system” to keep drivers from being stranded if most or all of the engine’s coolant is lost. The engine will run on only half of its cylinders at a time, reduce its power and light a warning lamp on the dashboard so the driver can get to a service station for repairs. The GLS doesn’t offer a lost coolant limp home mode, so a coolant leak could strand you or seriously damage the truck’s engine.
J.D. Power and Associates rated the Explorer third among midsize suvs in their 2018 Initial Quality Study. The GLS isn’t in the top three in its category.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Ford vehicles are better in initial quality than Mercedes vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Ford fifth in initial quality, above the industry average. With 11 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mercedes is ranked 14th.
To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Ford Explorer uses regular unleaded gasoline (premium recommended on Explorer Sport/Platinum for maximum performance). The GLS requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.
The Explorer has a standard cap-less fueling system. The fuel filler is automatically opened when the fuel nozzle is inserted and automatically closed when it’s removed. This eliminates the need to unscrew and replace the cap and it reduces fuel evaporation, which causes pollution. The GLS doesn’t offer a cap-less fueling system.
The Explorer stops much shorter than the GLS:
70 to 0 MPH
Car and Driver
60 to 0 MPH
For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Explorer is 1.7 inches wider in the front and .9 inches wider in the rear than the average track on the GLS.
The Explorer Sport 4WD handles at .83 G’s, while the GLS 450 pulls only .74 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.
The Explorer Limited 4WD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the GLS 450 (27.7 seconds @ .63 average G’s vs. 28.1 seconds @ .62 average G’s).
For better maneuverability, the Explorer Base/XLT/Limited’s turning circle is 1.8 feet tighter than the GLS’ (38.9 feet vs. 40.7 feet). The Explorer Sport’s turning circle is .7 feet tighter than the GLS’ (40 feet vs. 40.7 feet).
The Ford Explorer may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 850 to 950 pounds less than the Mercedes GLS.
The Explorer is 3.3 inches shorter than the GLS, making the Explorer easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.
The front grille of the Explorer uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The GLS doesn’t offer active grille shutters.
The Explorer has 7.9 cubic feet more passenger volume than the GLS (151.5 vs. 143.6).
The Explorer has .2 inches more front headroom, 2.6 inches more front legroom, 3 inches more front shoulder room, .6 inches more rear headroom, 1 inch more rear legroom, 2.7 inches more rear shoulder room and .3 inches more third row shoulder room than the GLS.
The Explorer’s cargo area provides more volume than the GLS.
Behind Third Seat
21 cubic feet
16 cubic feet
To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the Explorer’s liftgate can be opened and closed just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The GLS doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its liftgate, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.
In case you lock your keys in your vehicle, or don’t have them with you, you can let yourself in using the Explorer XLT/Limited/Sport/Platinum’s exterior keypad. The GLS doesn’t offer an exterior keypad entry system, and its Mercedes-Benz Emergency Call can’t unlock the doors if the vehicle doesn’t have cell phone reception or the driver can’t contact the service.
To improve rear visibility by keeping the rear window clear, the Explorer has a standard rear variable intermittent wiper with a full on position. The rear wiper standard on the GLS only has an intermittent setting, so in a hard rain visibility isn’t as good.
The Explorer is available in both front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive configurations. The GLS doesn’t offer a two-wheel drive configuration.
Insurance will cost less for the Explorer owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the Explorer will cost $2530 to $8640 less than the GLS over a five-year period.
The Explorer will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the Explorer will retain 49.2% to 53.91% of its original price after five years, while the GLS only retains 43.11% to 44.05%.
According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Explorer is less expensive to operate than the GLS because it costs $153 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Explorer than the GLS, including $319 less for a water pump, $142 less for front brake pads, $461 less for a starter, $358 less for fuel injection, $92 less for a fuel pump, $342 less for front struts and $199 less for a power steering pump.
IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Ford Explorer will be $33435 to $67856 less than for the Mercedes GLS.
The Ford Explorer outsold the Mercedes GLS by almost twelve to one during 2018.
© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.
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