The 2016 Ford Explorer is all-new this year so Ford went all-out to introduce the latest version of their popular SUV. We had a full day to drive from Bozeman, Montana to Jackson Hole, Wyoming in the top of the line Platinum trim. It was a unique opportunity to take a road trip of our own design in an exceptional vehicle.
The Platinum is one fancy beast. It is the most fully-loaded Ford Explorer you can buy with only a few options. You can swap the second-row bench seat for bucket seats and choose either a pass through or a console for the space in the middle. There are also two optional paints, White Platinum Metallic Tri-Coat or Ruby Red Metallic Tinted Clearcoat. That’s it. Everything else on the features list is standard in this SUV and it’s a very long list.
The list includes a dual-panel moonroof, 500-watt Sony audio system, enhanced park assist with park out assist, perpendicular park, side park sensors, adaptive cruise control with brake support, and lane departure warning with lane keep assist. There is leather wrapped everything, power-adjustable pedals with memory, rain-sensing wipers, hands-free liftgate, hill descent control, hill start assist, and Ford’s Terrain Management System with options of Normal, Mud/Ruts, Sand, and Grass/Gravel/Snow for more adventurous driving.
It looks every bit the luxury SUV that it is and it feels like one, too. We spent 12 hours driving through Yellowstone National Park, so road weariness had the potential to kill the fun early. This is the kind of trip that makes you either love your car or hate it with a fiery passion as you discover all of its faults. The Explorer Platinum did not disappoint and lived up to its first impression as a luxury ride.
A large part of its success comes from its beautiful interior. There is leather everywhere and much of it is quilted to reinforce the luxury car vibe. Aluminum and wood trims look and feel beautiful. Everything fits and is well thought out. It’s also nice to see that they didn’t forget the passengers sitting behind the driver. It’s just as nice in the second and third rows rather than looking like these areas were forgotten during the design process. It is one of the nicest interiors we’ve seen from Ford.
The seating is also comfortable and supportive in all three rows, although you do have the typical space constraints in the way back. It still offers plenty of room for kids or more flexible adults. The driver’s seat was easily adjustable to find the right driving position and high enough to see over the Explorer’s large hood. An SUV this size can be difficult in tight quarters, say pulling over to take pictures in a national park, but the Explorer gives great visibility to the driver at every angle. It felt big, but never cumbersome or awkward.
The infotainment system includes Sync with MyFord Touch and a premium sound system from Sony with Clear Phase and Live Acoustics. All that fancy marketing gibberish boils down to an incredible sound system that will have you turning up the volume too loud and enjoying every minute. The one sour note is that the Explorer won’t have Sync3 until 2017. MyFord Touch is a very capable system, but it’s not the latest and greatest, which is disappointing.
The Platinum is powered by a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 with turbocharging and direct injection that produces 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. It has EPA fuel economy ratings of 16 mpg city, 22 mph highway, or 18 mpg combined. Those are good numbers, but not great numbers and leave some room for improvement.
The engine was plenty powerful enough to propel the Explorer up mountain roads without feeling strained. It reacted quickly, even passing on steep inclines at highway speeds. The 6-speed SelectShift automatic transmission was smooth and found the right gear without being fussy or uncertain. It was like a good butler, doing its job in the background without drawing any unnecessary attention. The Explorer can also tow up to 5,000 pounds with a nifty tow hitch design that hides it from view with a cover when not in use.
Pricing on the 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum starts at $52,970 which can go up by about $1,300 if you choose to add on options. That’s certainly not a cheap vehicle, but it’s not outrageous, especially when you consider the huge number of standard features and quality interior of this SUV. Those looking for a full-size SUV that provides a luxury car experience without going into hock should have the 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum on their list.