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2016 Ford Explorer, Mustang: Rich and Powerful

By Frank A. Aukofer, November 29th, 2014

Remember when buying any new vehicle was all about getting a good deal? That's still true in many cases, but now a whole bunch of customers actually desire to spend more money on some vehicles, which is the reason for the 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum.

Ford has unveiled the new midsize crossover utility vehicle, claiming it has the most premium, highest quality interior ever offered on a Ford vehicle. And why not? According to Matt Zuehlk, the Ford Explorer brand manager, 90 percent of buyers of the existing Explorer Sport model order the most expensive options packages available.

"It's a strong signal customers are ready for Platinum," he said.

Moreover, buyers in China, which now is the biggest new vehicle market in the world, are gravitating big time toward car-based crossover utility vehicles, according to Jim Farley, Ford's executive vice president. He said buyers there wanted the best and had the money to afford it. Also, crossover vehicle sales in Europe are up 72 percent since 2008, he said.

The Platinum Explorer now tops the lineup above the Base, XLT, Limited and Sport models. Though it has not usually been regarded in the same company with expensive premium makes, Ford says its research shows that 20 percent of its Explorer customers previously owned a luxury vehicle.

In essence, the plush new 2016 Explorer Platinum is a tall people mover with seven-passenger seating, a sophisticated all-wheel drive system, high driving position and virtually every amenity a buyer would find on a high line luxury car.

On the Platinum and Sport models, a 365-horsepower V-6 EcoBoost engine delivers 350 lb-ft of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode. EcoBoost is Ford's moniker for turbocharging, which delivers high torque and improved fuel economy.

The standard engine in base, XLT and Limited models is a 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter standard V-6. For 2016, the optional engine is Ford's new 270-horsepower, 2.3-liter EcoBoost, which already is being installed in the Mustang sports car. On the Explorer, it replaces the previous 2.0-liter EcoBoost.

Ford is also showing off its new 500-plus horsepower version of the famed Shelby Mustang GT350, a car that originally was intended for the race track, but found its way into the hearts and garages of legions of enthusiasts and collectors.

The new GT350, a spinoff of the well received 2015 Mustang, is scheduled for introduction in late 2015, though Ford has not yet decided whether it will be a 2015 or a 2016 model.

The GT350 looks like a meaner version of the 2015 Mustang, with a 35 millimeter wider track, a completely re-engineered suspension system and Michelin Super Sport tires for optimum handling. All of the body parts forward of the windshield A pillars are unique, with the fenders and hood made of aluminum.

The rear-wheel-drive GT350 is powered by an all-new 5.2-liter, naturally aspirated V-8 engine with a Tremec six-speed manual gearbox and a Torsen limited slip differential. Brakes come from Brembo, the Italian performance brake specialist. The front rotors measure 395 millimeters, with six piston calipers; the rears are 380 millimeters with four piston calipers.

Ford has not released exact figures, but said the engine delivers in excess of 500 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. It is the first production V-8 from Ford with a so-called "flat plane crankshaft," an engine architecture found in European race cars.

The layout allows individual cylinders to alternate firing between the two cylinder banks to enhance engine breathing and performance.

Jim Farley, the Ford executive in charge of the GT350 project, describes it as the "most powerful naturally aspirated production engine in Ford's history. . . . It brings world class performance to a larger audience."

Inside, the new GT350 is no bare bones race car. It features a flat-bottom steering wheel, powered leather Recaro performance seats, dual climate control and all the amenities that buyers expect these days. Applications to enhance weekend track racing also will be available. No prices have been announced.

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