That's true, the extra seating is useful! You can kind of get used to the "bus" feeling with the expy...
Like all cars that go through many generations, I believe the Explorers have had good and bad years.
I know we saw that in the MB E classes we drove (06-08 were "eh, this is a Benz??" the 2010s are much nicer, and the 2012s are just as nice but with a little more power).
Carmax is not a bad place to shop. They really do a good inspection and they price fairly.
Good luck in your search!