Automotive

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

Review: 2016 Ford Explorer Pla...
The new Platinum trim level tops the lineup for 2016
The new Platinum trim level tops the lineup for 2016
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As big family-ready SUVs go, the Explorer has always been a popular choice
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As big family-ready SUVs go, the Explorer has always been a popular choice
For the 2016 model year, the Explorer receives a few updates in a mid-cycle refresh
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For the 2016 model year, the Explorer receives a few updates in a mid-cycle refresh
The 2016 Explorer now has an option that allows for self-parking in both parallel and perpendicular spaces
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The 2016 Explorer now has an option that allows for self-parking in both parallel and perpendicular spaces
The rear hatch on the 2016 Explorer Platinum is wide and easy to open thanks to the power liftgate and "swipe under" bumper sensor
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The rear hatch on the 2016 Explorer Platinum is wide and easy to open thanks to the power liftgate and "swipe under" bumper sensor
Signature Explorer design elements like the "wraparound" rear glass remain in this update
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Signature Explorer design elements like the "wraparound" rear glass remain in this update
Big 20-inch wheels dominate the Platinum trim
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Big 20-inch wheels dominate the Platinum trim
Cameras mounted under the side mirrors, below the Ford logo at front, and above the license plate at the rear give a full view around the SUV for parking
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Cameras mounted under the side mirrors, below the Ford logo at front, and above the license plate at the rear give a full view around the SUV for parking
All-wheel drive is standard in the Explorer's Platinum trim level
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All-wheel drive is standard in the Explorer's Platinum trim level
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
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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
Most of the exterior changes noted on the 2016 Ford Explorer are in the grille, which widens a bit and comes into line with the rest of the Ford SUV lineup
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Most of the exterior changes noted on the 2016 Ford Explorer are in the grille, which widens a bit and comes into line with the rest of the Ford SUV lineup
The Explorer is still intimidating when viewed head-on, but a bit less so as the fascia softens to give broader appeal to the SUV
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The Explorer is still intimidating when viewed head-on, but a bit less so as the fascia softens to give broader appeal to the SUV
The 2016 Explorer is upscale and inviting for the class
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The 2016 Explorer is upscale and inviting for the class
Powering the 2016 Explorer Platinum is a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 (EcoBoost) that outputs 365 horsepower (272 kW) and 350 pound-feet (44.5 Nm) of torque
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Powering the 2016 Explorer Platinum is a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 (EcoBoost) that outputs 365 horsepower (272 kW) and 350 pound-feet (44.5 Nm) of torque
The dual-panel sunroof, adaptive cruise control, authentic aluminum and wood interior trim, and LED fog lamps are included in the Platinum package
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The dual-panel sunroof, adaptive cruise control, authentic aluminum and wood interior trim, and LED fog lamps are included in the Platinum package
The interior of the Ford Explorer is upscale and inviting, though it does have some drawbacks compared to others on the market
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The interior of the Ford Explorer is upscale and inviting, though it does have some drawbacks compared to others on the market
The front seats are comfortable and well-positioned with plenty of adjustment options to fit anyone who enters
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The front seats are comfortable and well-positioned with plenty of adjustment options to fit anyone who enters
The 60/40 split-fold second row is standard, but these seats aren't quite as adult-friendly in their position and size compared to some of the competition
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The 60/40 split-fold second row is standard, but these seats aren't quite as adult-friendly in their position and size compared to some of the competition
The third row sits relatively high and offers good comfort for children and tweens, but will be cramped for most others
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The third row sits relatively high and offers good comfort for children and tweens, but will be cramped for most others
Driver controls in the 2016 Explorer are well-placed and easy to operate
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Driver controls in the 2016 Explorer are well-placed and easy to operate
The center stack looks busy on first glance, but buttons and the Sync infotainment are intuitive and easy to operate after just a few minutes of use
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The center stack looks busy on first glance, but buttons and the Sync infotainment are intuitive and easy to operate after just a few minutes of use
The self-parking activation button is located below the infotainment in the center of three buttons, marked by a P with a steering wheel next to it
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The self-parking activation button is located below the infotainment in the center of three buttons, marked by a P with a steering wheel next to it
Cargo in the 2016 Explorer is cramped when the third row is up, but aided by a deep well into which the seats fold when not in use
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Cargo in the 2016 Explorer is cramped when the third row is up, but aided by a deep well into which the seats fold when not in use
The new Platinum trim level tops the lineup for 2016
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The new Platinum trim level tops the lineup for 2016

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
Big 20-inch wheels dominate the Platinum trim

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
The rear hatch on the 2016 Explorer Platinum is wide and easy to open thanks to the power liftgate and "swipe under" bumper sensor

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.

Driver controls in the 2016 Explorer are well-placed and easy to operate
Driver controls in the 2016 Explorer are well-placed and easy to operate

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

1 comment
oldguy
I always loved my old Ford Explorer. I wonder if the electric problems have been overcome. Never knew which radio station I was on back in 1989! Very comfortable and a must in snow though!