2016 Ford Explorer 4WD PlatinumPosted on July 21st, 2016
Iconic SUV gains power and versatility
By Nina Russin
This year Ford’s full-size sport-utility vehicle turns 25 years old: a landmark the OEM has celebrated by introducing a brand new model.
While the newest Explorer maintains some of the original formula as a full-size sport-utility vehicle with true off-road capability, it has changed significantly since the vehicle debuted for the ’91 model year. A more car-like ride, new V-6 engine and advanced active safety features appeal to the core audience of active families.
The test car is the upscale Platinum model priced from $52,970 excluding destination. Power comes from an EcoBoost twin turbocharged V-6 engine producing 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of maximum torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. While its 18 mile-per-gallon average fuel economy might not seem impressive by today’s standards, the fact that the engine produced three times the horsepower and a third more torque than the V-6 in the 1991 Explorer should raise some eyebrows.
The current vehicle is also significantly bigger, about 14 inches longer than the original model, adding important cargo and passenger space inside. With three rows of seating, the Explorer is an ideal choice for buyers who need room for the kid’s soccer and softball teams, or endurance athletes wanting a big enough vehicle to stash bicycles inside and take on weekend camping trips.
Options on the test car include special metal-coat exterior paint and second-row bucket seats, bringing the final MSRP to $55,355.
Test drive in southern Arizona
Over the past week I had the opportunity to drive the adventure-friendly Explorer through Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale Arizona as well as the foothills of the San Tan mountains to the southeast.
Intelligent four-wheel drive automatically sends engine power to the wheels with the best traction for seamless transitions between wet, dry and icy roads. A terrain selection feature on the car enables the drive to modify braking, throttle and suspension according to the driving surface, making it easy to transition from paved roads to the trails.
A downhill descent control button next to rotary terrain control knob on the center console maintains preset speeds on steep grades to help the driver maintain directional control. Both active safety features allow drivers without extensive off-road experience to navigate challenging terrain with more confidence.
On paved roads, features such as the standard wide angle front and rear view cameras along with blind spot monitoring help drivers spot otherwise invisible obstacles, weave through rush hour traffic or safely navigate crowded parking lots. Lane keeping assist utilizes the brakes to gently move the car back towards the center of the lane if the driver starts to veer off to the side. A graphic on the gauge cluster gives a visual warning as well.
Standard trailer sway control keeps the truck and trailer stable on hilly terrain.
The new V-6 engine delivers an abundance of power, whether the driver is accelerating hard off the line or trying to make his way to the front of the line on a freeway entrance ramp. Thanks to turbocharging, the new generation of V-6 engines have taken over for V-8 blocks of former years as true workhorses, capable of towing and hauling heavy loads. The Explorer can tow up to 5,000 pounds, exceeding our ALV minimum standard.
The six-speed automatic transmission is nicely matched to the block, progressing smoothly through the gears. There is no obvious shift shock under normal driving conditions.
Electric power steering is tuned for low speed maneuverability with a pleasantly heavy feel at speed. The Explorer’s 39-foot turning circle is pretty good for a vehicle of its size: capable of U-turns on wider suburban surface streets.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and multi-link setup in the back with stabilizer bars on both axles to keep the chassis flat while cornering.
Four-wheel ventilated disc brakes deliver linear stopping power with no danger of fading.
With the optional second-row bucket seats the Explorer can hold up to seven passengers. A hands-free liftgate opens when the driver makes a kicking motion under the rear bumper. A power folding third-row seat extends the cargo area for longer items. This being the monsoon season in Phoenix, I am always grateful to be able to get my gear safely inside a vehicle with a minimum of fuss.
On a similar note, keyless start enables the driver to fire the ignition without fumbling for the key fob. A chicklet on the door handle relocks the car.
I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust for a clear forward view. A massaging lower lumbar feature felt really good after a hard workout.
The Sony premium sound system appeals to audiophiles with surround sound technology that replicates concert halls.
Designers did a good job of making all infotainment controls easy to access. Both the gauge cluster and center stack screen are easy to read in bright sunlight and after dark. USB ports charge smartphones and other electronic devices on the go.
The Ford Explorer comes with front, side, side curtain and front passenger knee airbags. Inflatable second-row seatbelts protect the chest area of children who might get injured by traditional seatbelts during a collision. The side curtain airbag is tethered to anchor points along the sides of the car so occupants can’t slide between it and the side windows.
Other standard safety features include daytime running lamps, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring and a SOS post crash alert system that automatically notifies police and emergency medical personnel in the event of a serious collision.
Ford builds the Explorer at its Chicago, Illinois assembly plant.
Like: A versatile full-size sport-utility vehicle with true off-road capability, towing and a passenger car-like ride.
Model: Explorer Platinum 4WD
Base price: $52,970
As tested: $55,355
Horsepower: 365 Hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 350 lbs.-ft. @ 3500 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 16/22 mpg city/highway2016, Luxury 2016, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, explorer, Ford, Four-wheel drive, performance, Platiunum, pricing, standard safety