Ford Explorer — 25 years of advancements

By David Finkelstein

I can't help but reflect on when I drove the Ford Explorer for the first time many years ago. I was hosting a radio show on CBS back then and trying to explain to my audience the highlighted details on precisely what an Explorer was all about! Based on feedback, I clearly felt that my listeners were captivated on what I had to say about this all new product.

That was some 25-years ago or so, as SUV's of that size and capabilities were still somewhat new to the general buying public. Explorer was sort of “ground breaking” at the time, but it didn't take long for it to get traction with consumers, not only here stateside but globally as well.

To “fast forward” the new 2016 Ford Explorer brings more smart technology, an available 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine and a high-end Platinum model to the table. The luxury Platinum addition combines the performance of the popular Explorer Sport version with new-higher levels of creature and driving comfort as well as craftsmanship through out.

Clearly, the Platinum edition offers motorists the most well-appointed Ford SUV to date. With my recent road test, I spent quality time with the 2016 Platinum of which had four-wheel-drive and Ford's 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine. It was matched both mechanically and electronically with a 6-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain is rated at16-mpg city/22-mpg highway and 18-mpg combined numbers.

The MSRP sticker pricing came out to be $54,760 after a couple of additional interior features. The pricing structure also included the $945 Ford requests for shipping and destination charges.

Regardless of the trim level or build combination, the factory blankets the new Explorer with its 3-year/36,000 mile base bumper to bumper warranty. Additionally, they also include 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain coverage governing repairs on the engine, tranny and related driveline componentry. Roadside assistance is also included with the purchase for the same 5-year/60,000 mile time frame.

“Explorer helped define how the world thinks about SUVs,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president and chief technical officer, Global Product Development. “Explorer is the centerpiece of Ford’s global utility vehicle lineup because it delivers an ideal combination of form and function." 

Ford's intelligent four-wheel drive with Terrain Management System helps provide precise handling and traction. It's seamless and quickly transfers torque between the front and rear wheels. Using a dial located on the center console, the customer can shift on the fly, selecting from four terrain management modes — normal, snow, sand or mud — to set how the engine, transmission, brakes and four-wheel-drive system will operate as one. A fifth setting is for navigating hills.

Explorer is now more mountainous looking with its updated exterior styling architecture. It begins at the vehicle's front with a more dynamic grille assembly and bright available LED distinctive headlamps and fog lamps. The newly developed closed-off lower roof rack (which tends to channel rainwater off the vehicle better than ever) and a new rear wind aero spoiler was designed to improve aerodynamics and fuel economy, making the Explorer more modern than ever.

With more smart technology onboard, customers can connect with Explorer as never before with an enhanced driving experience. Some of these new innovations available for 2016 include: front and rear cameras with a built in washer system, enhanced active park assist with perpendicular park and park-out assist and semi-automatic parallel parking feature, quick charging USB ports located in the front and rear of the vehicle, hands-free liftgate assembly, industry-exclusive audio system offered with 500-watts Live Acoustics and Clear Phase by Sony, Ford's automatic active grille shutters designed to close at highway speeds to reduce drag, and specialized exterior air curtains that help improve airflow to the vehicle body and minimizing drag.

The following additional features are also available for '16, some of which are carryover from last years model. They include radar based adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support; a lane-keeping system which automatically detects left and right-hand road lane markings using the front camera system; blind spot information system which issues a warning when another motorist is in the driver’s blind spot; cross-traffic alert providing the driver of oncoming traffic when backing out of a parking space; and automatic operating “camera based” high/low beam headlights and inflatable rear safety belts.

The interior design changes include a higher-mounted, wrapped and stitched door armrest, real buttons to replace touch-sense buttons on the infotainment system and more refined detailing throughout.

One nitpick — I found it fairly difficult to read the vehicles speedometer within the gauge cluster, due to the small fount used for the posted numbers.

A new 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine is offered, depending on the trim level. It delivers 280 horsepower and additional torque when compared to the four-cylinder it replaces. The standard 3.5-liter V6 engine for the base, XLT and Limited models generates 290 horsepower. The Platinum edition's standard 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 makes 365 horsepower and 350 lb.-ft. of torque.

The 2016 Explorer benefits from an improved suspension for better handling and a quiet cabin.

More than 7 million Explorers have been sold in the United States since 1990, making it America’s best-selling SUV for 25 straight years. Explorer is built at their Chicago Assembly Plant as well as in Venezuela and Russia. It is sold in markets across the globe.

Base pricing starts at $31,050. Its comes in five trim levels.