Engine: 3.5L V6 Ti-VCT
0-60: NA
Fuel Economy: 17 city/23 hwy
Price as Tested: $39,200
ford.com

The Explorer has been a pillar in Ford’s lineup for two decades now. But aside from the celebrated Eddie Bauer Edition, the full-size SUV has never really gone above and beyond to capture the attention of younger buyers. Those days, however, are decisively over. Back for a fifth generation, the all-new 2011 Ford Explorer is an exciting new twist in the Explorer tradition.

Stare down this sleek four-door and it may take you a minute to realize you’re going toe-to-toe with a Ford. Thanks largely to a striking front end, the new Explorer—though perfectly complimenting Ford’s new design language—is a drastic stylistic departure from its predecessor. Replacing the typical squared-off headlights and slatted grille, are sweeping headlamps and a futuristic, perforated mouthpiece you might expect to find on something a bit pricier. Coupled with a daringly low-slung A-pillar, the SUV looks fast even when it's parked. But this workhorse is about much more than pulling double takes. It’ll also tow 5,000 lbs. like nobody’s business.

But before you put the Explorer to work, you'll have to get acquainted with the inside. With second and third row seats that fold completely flat, this truck puts the u in SUV. However, once you're up front there’s little reason to think about anything behind the driver’s seat. Everyone knows that Ford and Microsoft’s SYNC system is one of the best in-car infotainment systems in the industry, but it's worth it to opt for the MyFord Touch as well. You’ll be rolling with a soft-touch central command console that will make you feel like your working at NORAD. A simple four-corner touch-screen layout makes connectivity, music, climate control, and navigation only a few taps away. Even additional vehicle controls such as the hazard lamps have received a minimalist no-button/no-knob treatment, making the dash extremely uncluttered in its appearance. And if you're the type that never wants to break grip, most of the system’s features can also be controlled through a voice-recognition program that is refreshingly unlikely to frustrate you.

By the time you’re done toying with everything the Explorer’s command center has to offer, there’s a chance you may be running late. Get on the throttle of its 3.5L V6 TIVCT engine, and you should feel at ease that you can make it wherever you're going on time. Granted, the truck’s 290hp and 255 lb.-ft. of torque are not mind-blowing on the highway, but keep in mind that this isn’t one of them pavement-only SUVs. With intelligent four-wheel drive, hill decent control, and a terrain management system, the Explorer is fully capable of delivering a robust and impressive driving experience both on and off road.

Already named the 2011 North American Truck of the Year, the Explorer’s another great example of why Ford’s stock is on the rise.