2016 Ford Explorer Platinum First Drive

Ford’s Explorer Celebrates a Quarter Century

Sue Mead
Nov 13, 2015
Photographers: Courtesy of Ford, Sue Mead
Henry would have loved the newest iteration of Ford’s modern-day family carrier, the Explorer, and its 25th anniversary celebration! The American industrialist, who was the founder of the Ford Motor Company and patron of the assembly line technique of mass production, lived the high life. However, at the end of the day, Henry Ford’s most impressive goal was to create the first auto that middle-class Americans could afford, so the common man and his family could see the country. More than a century after Henry built the famed Model T, he undoubtedly would have liked the drive program designed to showcase one of Ford Motor Company’s most popular models today. This practical conveyance has made history, as well. It’s been the best-selling fullsize SUV in America for 25 years, plus it’s racked up more than 7 million sales around the globe.
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Not resting on its laurels, FoMoCo refreshed the Explorer model line for ’16 with new sheetmetal from the A-pillar forward, a remodeled back end, updated interior design, a new engine, upgraded safety and tech features, and an all-new trim that marries lux-level comfort and materials with more sports-minded performance. The all-new Explorer Platinum has the most upscale, high-quality interior that the Ford brand has ever offered on any vehicle in North America.
To celebrate its silver anniversary and introduce the newest member of the Explorer family to the automotive press, Ford designed a big drive: motoring 2,738 miles over 25 days with 187 drivers. We went along for the ride, and after driving a 400-mile-long section of the anniversary event over a course in British Columbia and Alberta (from Kamloops to Calgary), we’d say that the new Explorer befits the moniker of this precious metal and Henry would have loved the drive!
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The ’16 Ford Explorer Platinum blends the premium appointments of the Explorer Limited trim with the sports athleticism of the Explorer Sport. On sale now starting at $52,600, Ford says the Platinum edition elevates the three-row SUV with further upgrades outside and in. Direct competitors include the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, and VW Touareg, among others.
Walking around the outside, you’ll notice that the Explorer retains its familiar elongated shape, but is less crossover-ish than its immediate predecessor. Its wheelbase is 112.8 inches, its length 198.3 inches with 78.9 inches of girth, and it stands 71 inches tall.
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Outside cosmetics include a new fascia, updated head and taillights, with standard daytime running lights and LEDs, a new tailgate and exhaust ports. Platinum brings 20-inch machined-aluminum wheels with 255/50R20 rubber, three new colors, and premium silver-painted front and rear skid plates. Also novel is its hands-free liftgate, activated by waving a foot under the bumper, and a dual-folding moonroof that spans the front and rear seats.
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Inside the cabin that can seat up to seven, depending on second-row buckets or bench, is a refreshed control panel for all trims and a gauge cluster that is a combination of analog and digital, which is viewed through a 10-inch display behind the steering column—a first for a Ford vehicle. Standing out from the crowd, Platinum adds real ash wood and aluminum; luxury features such as a heated leather and wood steering wheel; and a leather-bedecked dashboard and trim accents. “Nirvana” leather seats come standard, as do 50/50 PowerFold third row seats. With second and third row seats folded, there is 81.7 cubic feet of cargo space, while there is 43.9 cubic feet of stowage behind the second row seat.
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The high-end trim adds extra USB ports for rear riders and also a Wi-Fi hotspot. Notable is a premium sound package from Sony that bundles a 12-speaker, 500-watts system with Clear Phase and Live Acoustics. Sony designers conducted over 100 hours of research in concert halls in Berlin, Amsterdam, and Vienna to bring its technologically astute, live-sound quality to the trim. Also onboard is SYNC with MyFord Touch, Ford’s hands-free infotainment system that makes calls, reads texts, navigates, and plays music with Bluetooth, aux and USB connection, plus SiriusXM satellite radio.
Standard safety and convenience technologies include Forward Sensing System and Ford’s Enhanced Active Park Assist with Parallel Parking, Park Out Assist, Reverse Perpendicular Parking. A 180-degree front-facing camera is an aid and is self-cleaning, as is a rear camera, to keep forward and rearward views obstruction-free. Other added features are adaptive cruise control with collision warning and brake support, blind spot information system with cross-traffic alert, along with new inflatable rear safety belts on second-row outboard seating positions.
Under the hood is a 3.5L V-6 EcoBoost engine mated with a six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission that produces 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. Its towing capacity is rated at 5,000 pounds when properly equipped, and the SUV is EPA-rated at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. Steering is electric power-assist rack-and-pinion, and stopping power comes from four-wheel discs with an anti-lock system and AdvanceTrac. Up front is a MacPherson strut suspension with an isolated subframe and a 32 mm stabilizer bar, while the rear is set up with an independent multilink and a 22 mm stabilizer bar.
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We drove the new model one leg of the celebratory journey. It was designed to showcase the 4,890-pound Explorer’s ride and drive prowess and to highlight its comfort and convenience features. Lightyears apart from the first Explorer we drove 25 years ago, we felt cosseted in the upscale cabin and appreciated the safety and security of the standard Intelligent 4WD, an all-wheel drive system that seamlessly adjusts to changing drive conditions twenty times faster than a blink of an eye, says Ford. It sends torque to the front or the rear depending on weather or topography, while a Terrain Management System let us dial in and select settings for different road surfaces or off-road driving. Settings include Normal, Mud/Ruts, Sand, or Grass/Gravel/Snow, with electronics that control throttle position, brakes, wheel speed, and gearing to enhance traction. Another add-on is hill descent control that maintains a set speed on steep and traction-compromised downhill grades. There is 7.8 inches of ground clearance.
Our favorite features on the new Platinum are the self-washing cameras, the Nirvana leather seats with a variety of seat settings to get comfortable as both a driver and a passenger, and the Sony sound system. The best part of the drive? The 25 adventure spots to visit that Ford picked out for us along our route. After all, it’s been 25 years!
2016 Ford Explorer Platinum
Vehicle type: Premium Sport Utility Vehicle
Base price: $52,970
Engine: 3.5L V-6 EcoBoost
Transmission: Six-speed SelectShift Automatic
Horsepower: 365 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 350 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
Overall length: 198.3 in
Turning diameter: 39.8 ft
Curb weight: 4,890 lbs
Fuel capacity: 18.6 gal
EPA mileage rating: 16/22

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