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The long-running SUV is bigger than ever and available with three engine choices and all-wheel-drive.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The the family-oriended 2022 Ford Explorer is the biggest yet but is still classified as a midsize SUV. The first thing you'll notice about the 2022 Ford Explorer is that it's big. It's big enough that I had to look it up to verify that it's still considered a midsize SUV instead of a full-size. The sixth generation, which debuted in 2020, is bigger than ever.

The Explorer is one of Ford's bread-and-butter vehicles, designed for family use. It's available in eight trim levels, ranging from a base model priced about $35,100 up to the luxurious Platinum trim, priced at $52,375. Selecting the hybrid driveline option adds about $4,000 to the base trim price, and the Intelligent AWD adds $2,000.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The interior of the 2022 Explorer is room and can be outfitted with a wide range of technologies, including Ford's Co-Pilot 360 Assist+ navigation and safety system.

From the outside, the Explorer looks very much like every other SUV on the market. There's nothing really distinguishing about it, and it will blend into the background of all the other big SUVs out there. On the inside, Ford gives the Explorer a spacious and comfortable driver's compartment and good passenger space in the second row. The third-row seats, as usual, are less spacious and suitable for children or occasional use.

Behind the third-row seat, there's enough space for a couple of carry-on size suitcases, or a good trip to the grocery store, but you'll want to fold down the third row to carry anything more than that. With the second and third rows folded down, you'll get up to 87.8 cubic feet, which is plenty for a trip to the home supply store or big box retailer.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The 2022 Ford Explorer is built for comfort and can easily handle long trips.

When it comes to safety tech, the Explorer has a good list of features. Blind spot monitoring is standard, which should be the case on every new vehicle. That's on top of the usual suite of collision avoidance and mitigation features. Ford's Co-Pilot 360 Assist+ is optional on lower trims, but included on the LTD trim. This gives you voice-activated navigation, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go and lane centering, and more. The test Explorer also had a 360-degree camera system and rear parking sensors. Both of those are important on larger SUVs.

The 3.3-liter V6 with hybrid is a solid drivetrain, yielding 318 combined system horsepower and 322 lb-ft of torque. On paper, that's only a little more than the 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of the standard 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder, but the hybrid engine and electric motor combination feels strong on such a large and heavy SUV. Note that there is also a 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 with up to 400 horsepower available, if you want a real hot rod.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - Optional second row captains seats allow easy access to the third row in the 2022 Ford Explorer.

One of the main benefits of the Explorer's hybrid driveline is better-than-usual fuel economy of 23 MPG in the city and 26 on the highway. That may not sound impressive, but remember that this SUV is over 5,000 pounds and carries seven passengers, so fuel economy in the 20s is very good.

On the road, the Explorer drives like the heavy vehicle it is. Patience and space on the road are required. The hybrid driveline offers plenty of power, but the power delivery sometimes feels clumsy, especially when starting out from a stop. However, most of the time, the Explorer is every bit as smooth as you would expect from a well-refined SUV with over 30 years of development.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - Behind the third-row seat, there's enough space for a couple of carry-on size suitcases — but there is a lot more room with the second and third rows folded down.

If you're considering a large midsize SUV, we recommend you book a test drive in the Ford Explorer. With the prospect of future fuel price fluctuations, getting a hybrid may prove to be the smartest move you could make.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The optional 3.3-liter V6 hybrid engine prduces a combined 318 horsepower and 322 foot pounds of torque, and good mileage for such a large vehicle.

2022 Ford Explorer LTD Hybrid 4WD

Base price: $53,810

Price as tested: $55,595

Type: Midsize SUV

Engine: 3.3-liter V6 hybrid (318 hp, 322 lbs-ft)

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

EPA estimated mileage: 23/26

Overall length: 198.8 inches

Curb weight: 5,076 pounds

Final assembly: Chicago, Illinois

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