Review: 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum parks itself in the luxury SUV segment

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The new Platinum trim level tops the lineup for 2016(Credit: Aaron Turpen / Gizmag)

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For the 2016 model year, Ford has given the Explorer a few updates in a mid-cycle refresh, including some changes to the exterior, some interior upgrades, added safety features, and the dropping of the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine in favor of a new 2.3-liter EcoBoost option. The refresh also sees the addition of a Platinum trim level at the top of the lineup, which spent a week behind the wheel of.

The Explorer is a three-row sport utility that seats up to seven and which comes in five trim levels. Highlights in the Platinum trim we drove include 20-inch alloy wheels, front- and side-facing cameras (to add to the rearview), navigation, 12-speaker premium sound, automatic headlights (including high beams) and wipers, and self-parking as standard. The dual-panel sunroof, adaptive cruise control, authentic aluminum and wood interior trim, and LED fog lamps are also included in the Platinum package.

Powering the vehicle is a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 (EcoBoost) engine that outputs 365 hp (272 kW) and 350 lb-ft (475 Nm) of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are also standard. This powertrain should be familiar to Ford F-150 fans as the most popular option in those trucks. Fuel economy is rated at 18 mpg (13 l/100km) combined, with 16 mpg (14.7 l/100km) in the city and 22 mpg (10.7 l/100km) on the highway. Towing is rated at 5,000 lb (2,268 kg).

Big 20-inch wheels dominate the Platinum trim(Credit: Aaron Turpen / Gizmag)

Most of the 2016 Ford Explorer's exterior changes are up front in the grille, which widens a bit and comes into line with the rest of the Ford SUV lineup. For the interior, the spacious, upscale design is kept with only minor upgrades to include more ports for gadgets and an easier-to-use infotainment system.

Under all of this, though, are some technical updates that really add to the Explorer's appeal on the road and around town. The sporty 3.5-liter, turbocharged six-cylinder EcoBoost engine and optional four-cylinder turbo engine are aided by a tighter suspension and more nimble road feel. This helps make up for the poor visibility the Explorer has in tight spaces due to its long, flat hood and huge rear pillars. One more thing helps make up for those downers as well: self-parking.

The rear hatch on the 2016 Explorer Platinum is wide and easy to open thanks to the power liftgate and "swipe under" bumper sensor(Credit: Aaron Turpen / Gizmag)

The 2016 Explorer now has an option that allows for self-parking in both parallel and perpendicular spaces. The Explorer can also back its way out of perpendicular parking to get you back on the road. Even if you don't take advantage of this virtual-valet upgrade, you will appreciate the host of sensors and cameras that come with these technologies, which greatly aid the manual parking and maneuvering process.

The self-parking systems are easy to operate once you get the hang of them, with the hardest part keeping your hands off the wheel to allow the SUV to maneuver itself. The driver need only be concerned with the pedals and keeping an eye on the screen and mirrors. The system is activated by pressing a button below and left of the infotainment screen. A single press activates the self-parking in parallel parking mode, and pressing it again switches to perpendicular parking.

Driving slowly through a lot or down a street will have the system hunting for a space to occupy, with a beep and a green highlight signalling that a space of suitable size has been located. The driver then just follows the prompts to stop, shift gears, and let off the brake as requested by the parking system.

The 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum is huge, luxurious, and very well-mannered on the road. It's quiet on the highway, drives well off the line, and always feels confident. Other than the visibility and parking issues noted above, it's nimble for its size.

The 2016 Ford Explorer in its Platinum trim is a true luxury vehicle in all but name. It drives well and has plenty of technology to help make up for its few faults. It has a price point of about US$55,000, but the Explorer lineup starts at $31,050.

Product page: Ford Explorer

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