I love buying new toys and mods for my cars. I don't think I'll be satisfied in life until I've tried them all at least once. Most don't make it to the next car, but a few do.
Since the Explorer has so few mods and accessories on the market, the itch for something bigger started. A few months ago I did a trial run to see if all our camping gear would fit into the Explorer. It didn't...not even close. So the clock started on a rack. Weeks of research and Craig's List monitoring led me to want this one model. I'd hoped to wait for the next REI 20% off sale, but Thule stopped making it this year and I don't like the replacement model (has a front end like the beak on an Acura). A few clicks on Amazon.com and a "you bought what?!" from Home CFO and the rack arrived in my driveway.
She's a Thule 611 Boxter. The box is 13" tall, but there are notches in the bottom that help it mount down almost inside the roof rack. There is no more than 2" of clearance between the bottom of the rack and roof of the car (with the OEM cross-bars). I really like this look, sometimes racks seem to be floating 6" above the roof of a car. The car is now 7'1" with the rack on, which sucks because my garage is an even 7'.
At 54lbs, the box is more awkward than heavy. The locking mechanisms from Thule are awesome. No tools are required and the locking wheel "clicks" when tight. It will probably take me no more than 5 minutes to haul the system out and mount it to the roof now that I've got the Explorer cross-bars configured.
As for a road report, I kept the rack on the past week to see how it handled on the Explorer. It was perfect. There is zero vibration or other "harsh" noises cruising at any speed. I guess some of the cheaper racks will make noise when unloaded, but this thing is rock solid. I hear it moan a bit when going over speed bumps at an angle. That's to be expected, the car is shifting too. There is some wind noise that picks up around 35mph, but I can only hear it on newly paved roads. It is never overbearing, just sounds like you hit some strong cross-winds. My kids didn't even pick up on the noise. Your average street will drowned out the sound, even at freeway speeds.
I've got the rack pushed back just about as far as I can go and have maybe 2" at the most between the end of the rack and my antenna. It's as if the rack was designed for the Explorer, because it fits perfectly. The (empty) rack hasn't interfered with radio (AM/FM/Satellite) whatsoever.
I tracked my MPG and I really didn't see any difference. It is down 5% at most, but I can get that variability just due to traffic conditions (traffic was actually pretty good this week). Most reviews I've found online support a zero to minimal MPG impact. I've tracked every fuel purchase on my Explorer since I bought it last August. Twenty-one fill-ups has averaged me 17.8 mpg. My fill up today (one full tank and an average week) with the Thule on netted me ...17.8 mpg (no joke).
The rack looks great, but at 54lbs, how much stuff can you put into it? I heard the cross rails on the roof rack are only rated to support 100lbs max. I would like the extra storage, but I'm not sure it is worth it. Hmmmm