The 90’s were so good to us, weren’t they? We had AOL internet even though connecting online was such a chore, the original Pokémon where you played with your friends and not on an iPhone and then there were the SUV’s – named for what they actually were capable of. Back in that period, SUV’s where the all-American utilitarian vehicle that forged rivers and climbed mountains – they weren’t afraid to get down and dirty on the back roads. Unfortunately the Blazers, Pathfinders, and Explorers of that generation are long gone – now all that’s left is the tranquility people movers in the most absolute indulgent form of comfort and luxury.
Ford is a long ways away from where the original Explorer came from – the only exploring we’ve been doing is for a parking spot at the movie theatre. Not to say that isn’t a challenge – trying to find a space to fit all of its 198-inches is a challenge on its own. Actually, for 2016 the Explorer hasn’t really changed its size – just its presence. It was due for a mid-cycle refresh since its debut in 2013 and since Ford sold off some its excess companies not too long ago, they decided to incorporate some of those trademark design schemes into their latest product. *Cough, Range Rover*
Yaass, it’s like a baby Range Rover – which works – it’s sharper, handsomer, bruitier – is that even a word. All-in-all it looks good. However, the esthetics isn’t the only things that’s changed – new for 2016 is the ultimate Platinum trim that adds just about every single expensive feature you can think – besides its own Butler. The Platinum trim cleans up the exterior just a bit by removing some unwanted “Explorer” bling from the front grille, it adds in LED head-, tail-, and fog lights, and these body fitting 20-inch machine finished wheels – lovely aren’t they.
Three engines are available with this new kind of Explorer – a standard 3.5-liter V-6, an all-new 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder and a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. The 2.3-liter EcoBoost is new for 2016 having an output of 280-horsepower and 310lb-ft of torque, even for a four-cylinder it can now come with the available tow package. However we don’t have the four-cylinder – our Platinum is the ultimate crossover, remember – we have the big baddy 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. It’s capable of 365-horsepower and 350lb-ft of torque. Tie that to its smooth operator, 6-speed select shift transmission and its pulling a speedy six seconds at the school yard drag strip. Not bad for a soccer mom mobile – even if you decide to play with the steering mounted paddle shifters.
With weight pushing 4500lbs, the Explorer certainly knows how the scoot. Thanks to its intelligent four-wheel drive system it transfers power and torque to each wheel as it’s required. Choosing between Sand, Mud, or Snow, the Explorer is bound to pull you out of whatever curb you just ran over. There is a sense of chassis tweaking, it feels more solid and refine then before – this helps with handling and suspension responsiveness – while the steering is still vague and lacking driver involvement it’s more precise and responsive. The chassis is cohesive to providing the ultimate comfort to the driver, any bumps go unnoticed from inside the cabin and if you do find yourself off the beaten path… you wouldn’t even know it.
Inside the cabin is where all the magic happens – this where the Platinum really plays its card. The Nirvana white leather is the ultimate dream of floating on cloud nine – the seats are quilted and embossed. While sitting at the school pick-up zone, enjoy a nice body massage from the multi-contour massaging seats. Rear passengers too can enjoy the comforts of the front row occupants with heated 2nd row seats, climate control system and a huge panoramic glass view.
In the world of three-row crossovers, what good is having a comfortable seat if there isn’t enough room to move around? Our Explorer did feature the 2nd Row Bucket seats for $695 – but room was a tight fit even with a short driver. The seats can slide, but they were already as far back as they can go. Access to the third row is as easy as pushing a button – literally. A full-size adult can easily get access and sit there – but not recommended on a road trip.
Ford lists that they wanted the Platinum to be the most luxurious vehicle they have – they might have done it. Every fit and finish feels top notch. The dark wood trim – its real wood, the aluminum – that’s real too. Everything is quality. And if it wasn’t for a nasty rattle coming from under the windshield, we would have enjoy the peace and quiet.
Of course though, what’s a top-trim crossover without the latest technology featuring Adaptive Cruise Control, Enhanced Active Park Assist, Front 180-Degree Camera, Blind Spot Monitoring, and Lane Keep Assist with Departure Warning. With SYNC 3 being out in certain models – it’s definitely a breath of fresh air – however our sampler wasn’t equipped with SYNC 3 – so be sure to have your dealer upgrade it before driving off the lot.
Naturally over time, things must evolve – the Explorer is now discovering its luxury side. At least its fuel economy is still much like an SUV averaging 15 miles to the gallon on 89 octane fuel. But if you’re looking to explorer the top of mountain – best to take the helicopter tour and let the Explorer do what it does best and look pretty in the urban jungle of the parking lot.
|Price (As Tested):|
|2016 Ford Explorer Platinum 4WD EcoBoost:||$52,970|
|3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 – 365-horsepower/350lb-ft of torque – 0-60MPH: ±6.0 seconds|
|EPA MPG: 16/22/18 (city/highway/combined) – SSB Average: 15 MPG’s – Fuel Range: 280 Miles|
|2nd Row Console:||$150|
|White Platinum Tri-Coat Paint:||$595|
|2nd Row Bucket Seats:||$695|