2016 Ford Explorer Platinum: Explore Luxury

By Sue Mead, October 2nd, 2015

Ford's iconic Explorer has been the best-selling sport utility vehicle in America for 25 years, but the company is not resting on its laurels.

After refreshing the Explorer model line for 2016 with new sheet metal from the A-pillar forward, remodeling the back end and refreshing the interior, adding a new engine, as well as new standard and optional features and upgraded safety technology, Ford has released an all-new trim that marries luxury-level comfort and materials with sporty performance. And it's Platinum.

The 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum blends the premium appointments of the Explorer Limited trim with the sports-athleticism of the Explorer Sport trim; it's the most upscale, high-quality interior that Ford has ever offered on any vehicle in North America.

Starting at $52,600, Ford says the very premium Platinum edition elevates the three-row, seven-seat SUV with further upgrades outside and in. Direct competitors are the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, and Volkswagen Touareg, among others.

Walking around the outside, you'll notice that the Explorer retains its familiar elongated shape, but is less boxy than previous versions. Outside cosmetics include a new fascia, updated head- and taillights with standard daytime running lights and LEDs, and a new tailgate and exhaust ports. Platinum brings 20-inch machined wheels, 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.

Behind the steering wheel is a refreshed control panel for all trims and a 10-inch gauge cluster that combines analog and digital views -- a first for a Ford vehicle. Standing out from the crowd, Platinum adds real ash wood and aluminum, and luxury features such as heated leather and wood steering wheel, and a leather-bedecked dashboard and trim accents. Nirvana leather seats come standard, as do the 50/50 PowerFold third-row seats. With second- and third-row seats folded, 81.7 cubic feet of cargo space accommodates your gear.

The high-end trim adds extra USB ports for rear passengers and the vehicle is also a WiFi hotspot. Notable is an "industry-first" premium sound package from Sony that bundles a 12-speaker, 500-watt system with Clear Phase and Live Acoustics. Also onboard is a new generation of SYNC 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.

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V-6 engine with EcoBoost mated with a six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission that produces 365 horsepower 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 miles per gallon city and 22 mpg highway.

We drove the 2016 Explorer Platinum close to 400 miles on a Canadian adventure. The trek was designed to showcase the Explorer's ride and drive prowess and to highlight its comfort and convenience features.

Light-years 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 20 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 downhills.

Among 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.

Specifications

Base price $52,970 (as tested: $53,865)
Curb weight 4890 lbs.
Displacement 3.5-liter
Engine type EcoBoost V-6 w/DI
Epa mileage rating 16 mpg city, 22 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 18.6 gal.
Horsepower (net) 365 at 5500 rpm
Overall length 198.3 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 350 at 3500 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 7-passenger 4WD SUV
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