2019 Volvo XC90 vs. 2019 Ford Explorer

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

For enhanced safety, the front and middle seat shoulder belts of the Volvo XC90 have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The Ford Explorer doesn’t offer pretensioners for the middle seat belts.

The XC90’s pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The Explorer doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

For enhanced safety, the front and middle seat shoulder belts of the Volvo XC90 are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The Ford Explorer doesn’t offer height-adjustable middle seat belts.

Both the XC90 and Explorer have child safety locks to prevent children from opening the rear doors. The XC90 has power child safety locks, allowing the driver to activate and deactivate them from the driver's seat and to know when they're engaged. The Explorer’s child locks have to be individually engaged at each rear door with a manual switch. The driver can’t know the status of the locks without opening the doors and checking them.

The Volvo XC90 offers an optional built in child booster seat. It’s more crash worthy than an added child seat because of its direct attachment to the seat. Ford doesn’t offer the convenience and security of a built-in child booster seat in the Explorer. Their owners must carry a heavy booster seat in and out of the vehicle; XC90 owners can just fold their built-in child seat up or down.

Using vehicle speed sensors and seat sensors, smart airbags in the XC90 deploy with different levels of force or don’t deploy at all to help better protect passengers of all sizes in different collisions. The XC90’s side airbags will shut off if a child is leaning against the door. The Explorer’s airbags don’t have smart features and will always deploy full force.

The XC90 has a standard Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS), which use a specially designed seat to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the WHIPS allows the backrest to travel backwards to cushion the occupants and the headrests move forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. At the same time the pretensioning seatbelts fire, removing slack from the belts. The Explorer doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

The XC90 has standard City Safety and Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake, which use forward mounted sensors to warn the driver of a possible collision ahead. If the driver doesn’t react and the system determines a collision is imminent, it automatically applies the brakes at full-force in order to reduce the force of the crash or avoid it altogether. The Explorer offers an available collision warning system without the automated brake feature that would prevent or reduce the collision if the driver fails to react.

The XC90 has standard Automatic Braking After Collision, which automatically apply the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The Explorer doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

The XC90 offers an optional 360-Degree Surround View Camera to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Explorer only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.

The XC90’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Explorer doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the XC90 and the Explorer have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights and rearview cameras.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Volvo XC90 is safer than the Ford Explorer:

 

XC90

Explorer

 

Driver

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

A significantly tougher test than their original offset frontal crash test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does 40 MPH small overlap frontal offset crash tests. In this test, where only 25% of the total width of the vehicle is struck, results indicate that the Volvo XC90 is safer than the Explorer:

 

XC90

Explorer

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

MARGINAL

Restraints

GOOD

MARGINAL

Head Neck Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Head injury index

37

93

Peak Head Forces

0 G’s

0 G’s

Steering Column Movement Rearward

0 cm

13 cm

Chest Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Max Chest Compression

16 cm

23 cm

Hip & Thigh Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Femur Force R/L

.4/.7 kN

3.7/2.2 kN

Hip & Thigh Injury Risk R/L

0%/0%

1%/0%

Lower Leg Evaluation

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Tibia index R/L

.24/.41

.87/.61

Tibia forces R/L

1.1/.2 kN

2.2/.6 kN

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Volvo XC90 is safer than the Ford Explorer:

 

XC90

Explorer

 

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

51

73

Chest Movement

.7 inches

.9 inches

Abdominal Force

153 G’s

159 G’s

 

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

94

144

Hip Force

608 lbs.

713 lbs.

 

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

12 inches

17 inches

HIC

209

407

Spine Acceleration

29 G’s

56 G’s

Hip Force

383 lbs.

909 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

For its top level performance in all IIHS frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, and its standard front crash prevention system, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the XC90 the rating of “Top Pick” for 2017, a rating granted to only 154 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Explorer was not even a “Top Pick” for 2016.

Warranty

The XC90 comes with a full 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire truck and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Explorer’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.

The XC90’s corrosion warranty is 7 years longer than the Explorer’s (12 vs. 5 years).

Volvo pays for scheduled maintenance on the XC90 for 3 years and 36,000 miles. Volvo will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Ford doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Explorer.

Reliability

The battery on the XC90 is in the trunk, which protects it from hot underhood temperatures that can degrade battery life. By keeping the XC90’s battery 20 to 30 degrees cooler, its life is increased by years. The Explorer’s battery is in the hot engine compartment.

Engine

The XC90 has more powerful engines than the Explorer:

 

Horsepower

Torque

XC90 T6 2.0 DOHC 4 cyl.

316 HP

295 lbs.-ft.

XC90 T8 2.0 DOHC 4 cyl. hybrid

400 HP

472 lbs.-ft.

Explorer 2.3 turbo 4 cyl.

280 HP

310 lbs.-ft.

Explorer 3.5 DOHC V6

290 HP

255 lbs.-ft.

Explorer Sport/Platinum 3.5 turbo V6

365 HP

350 lbs.-ft.

As tested in Car and Driver the XC90 T8 is faster than the Explorer Sport/Platinum 3.5 turbo V6:

 

XC90

Explorer

Zero to 60 MPH

5.3 sec

6 sec

Zero to 100 MPH

14.6 sec

15.8 sec

5 to 60 MPH Rolling Start

5.8 sec

6.3 sec

Quarter Mile

14 sec

14.6 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

98 MPH

96 MPH

Top Speed

132 MPH

123 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the XC90 T8 running on electricity gets better fuel mileage than the Explorer 2.3 EcoBoost (59 city/56 hwy MPGe vs. 18 city/25 hwy).

On the EPA test cycle the XC90 T8 running its gasoline engine gets better fuel mileage than the Explorer 2.3 EcoBoost (24 city/27 hwy vs. 18 city/25 hwy).

On the EPA test cycle the XC90 gets better fuel mileage than the Explorer:

 

 

 

MPG

XC90

 

FWD

T5 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

21 city/29 hwy

 

AWD

T5 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

20 city/27 hwy

 

 

T6 2.0 turbo/supercharged 4 cyl.

19 city/26 hwy

Explorer

 

FWD

2.3 DOHC 4 cyl.

19 city/27 hwy

 

 

3.5 DOHC V6

17 city/24 hwy

 

AWD

2.3 DOHC 4 cyl.

18 city/25 hwy

 

 

3.5 DOHC V6

16 city/22 hwy

 

 

3.5 turbo V6

16 city/22 hwy

The XC90 T8 can drive on battery power alone for up to 17 miles. The Explorer must run its internal combustion engine to move.

Regenerative brakes improve the XC90 T8’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The Explorer doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the XC90’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Explorer doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

Environmental Friendliness

In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Volvo XC90 higher (5 to 7 out of 10) than the Ford Explorer (3). This means the XC90 produces up to 24.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Explorer every 15,000 miles.

Transmission

An eight-speed automatic is standard on the Volvo XC90, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the Explorer.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the XC90 T8’s front brake rotors are larger than those on the Explorer:

 

XC90 T8

Explorer

Front Rotors

14.4 inches

13.85 inches

The XC90 stops much shorter than the Explorer:

 

XC90

Explorer

 

60 to 0 MPH

113 feet

123 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the XC90’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Explorer (275/45R20 vs. 255/50R20).

The XC90’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 35 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Explorer’s optional 50 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the XC90 offers optional 21-inch wheels. The Explorer’s largest wheels are only 20-inches.

Suspension and Handling

The XC90 offers an available driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads or off-road. The Explorer’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.

The XC90 has a standard automatic front and rear load leveling suspension to keep ride height level with a heavy load or when towing. The XC90’s height leveling suspension allows the driver to raise ride height for better off-road clearance and then lower it again for easier entering and exiting and better on-road handling. The Explorer doesn’t offer a load leveling suspension.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the XC90’s wheelbase is 4.7 inches longer than on the Explorer (117.5 inches vs. 112.8 inches).

The XC90’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (51.7% to 48.3%) than the Explorer’s (55.1% to 44.9%). This gives the XC90 more stable handling and braking.

The XC90 T6 AWD handles at .84 G’s, while the Explorer Sport 4WD pulls only .83 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The XC90 T6 AWD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the Explorer Limited 4WD (26.8 seconds @ .65 average G’s vs. 27.7 seconds @ .63 average G’s).

For greater off-road capability the XC90 has a 1.6 inches greater minimum ground clearance than the Explorer (9.4 vs. 7.8 inches), allowing the XC90 to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged. The XC90 w/Air Suspension’s minimum ground clearance is 2.7 inches higher than on the Explorer (10.5 vs. 7.8 inches).

Chassis

The XC90 is 3.8 inches shorter than the Explorer, making the XC90 easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

As tested by Car and Driver while under full throttle, the interior of the XC90 T6 AWD is quieter than the Explorer Sport 4WD (71 vs. 73 dB).

Cargo Capacity

The XC90’s cargo area provides more volume than the Explorer.

 

XC90

Explorer

Second Seat Folded

85.7 cubic feet

81.7 cubic feet

The XC90’s cargo area is larger than the Explorer’s in almost every dimension:

 

XC90

Explorer

Length to seat (3rd/2nd/1st)

21.8”/49.6”/80.3”

19.7”/49”/79.8”

Max Width

54.7”

48”

Min Width

44.5”

40”

Height

35”

45.5”

Towing

The XC90’s minimum standard towing capacity is much higher than the Explorer’s (4000 vs. 2000 pounds).

Servicing Ease

The XC90 uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Explorer uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

Ergonomics

Unlike the driver-only memory system optional at extra cost in the Explorer (except Base/XLT), the XC90 R-Design/Inscription/Excellence has a passenger memory, so that when drivers switch, the memory setting adjusts the driver’s seat and outside mirror angle and the front passenger seat also adjusts to the new passenger’s preset preferences.

The XC90’s standard Easy Ingress and Egress Seat glides the driver’s seat back, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. An easy entry system costs extra on the Explorer, and is not available on all models.

The XC90 offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Explorer doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

If the windows are left open on the XC90 the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows at the outside door handle or from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Explorer can only close the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

The XC90’s rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The Explorer’s standard intermittent wipers change speed with vehicle speed, but can’t turn on and off or change speed based on changing rainfall.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are standard on the XC90 to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The Explorer doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

In poor weather, headlights can lose their effectiveness as grime builds up on their lenses. This can reduce visibility without the driver realizing. The XC90 offers available headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The Explorer doesn’t offer headlight washers.

To help drivers avoid possible obstacles, the XC90 has standard cornering lights to illuminate around corners when the turn signals are activated. The Explorer doesn’t offer cornering lights. The XC90 also offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle.

A manual rear sunshade is optional in the XC90 to help block heat and glare for the rear passengers. The Explorer doesn’t offer a rear sunshade.

When the XC90 is put in reverse, both rearview mirrors tilt from their original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirrors into their original positions. The Explorer’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

The XC90 Inscription/Excellence has standard front air conditioned seats and the XC90 Excellence also has them in the second row. This keeps the passengers comfortable and takes the sting out of hot seats in summer. The Explorer doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats for the second row.

The XC90 has a standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. Dual zone air conditioning costs extra on the Explorer and isn’t available on the Explorer Base.

The XC90’s standard automatic temperature control maintains the temperature you set, automatically controlling fan speed, vents and temperature to maintain a consistent, comfortable environment. The Explorer Base doesn’t offer automatic air conditioning.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the XC90 is less expensive to operate than the Explorer because typical repairs cost much less on the XC90 than the Explorer, including $250 less for a muffler and $306 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

The Car Book by Jack Gillis recommends the Volvo XC90, based on economy, maintenance, safety and complaint levels.

Motor Trend performed a comparison test in its January 2016 issue and they ranked the Volvo XC90 T6 AWD first. They ranked the Ford Explorer Limited 4WD third.

Motor Trend selected the XC90 as their 2016 Sport Utility of the Year. The Explorer has never been chosen.

The XC90 was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” in 2016. The Explorer has never been an “All Star.”

A group of representative automotive journalists from North America selected the XC90 as the 2016 North American Truck of the Year. The Explorer has never been chosen.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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