Tom Crosby: 2016 Ford Explorer adds upscale platinum trim

Tom Crosby

Tom Crosby

A Ford Explorer has always been a serviceable and popular SUV and for 2016 Ford has escalated the luxury component by introducing a new Platinum trim with a muscular EcoBoost engine.

With high-tech features like verbal text statements via Bluetooth, massaging front seats, sports-like acceleration off the line, cushioned quilted leather seats and cutting-edge safety aids, it seeks to justify a hefty price as the top of the five trim levels. It feels spacious inside and our test-drive added just two options: second row bucket seats for $695 and a second row console with armrest and cupholders for $150. The only missing option was a second row entertainment package.

Last year, Explorer topped 250,000 in sales for the most ever in a year. The Platinum edition was designed to satisfy upscale customers who want their Explorer completely loaded. Safety features abound: adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from the vehicle in front of you, lane keeping assistance to stay between the lines, blind spot detection, rear camera cross-traffic alert, automatic perpendicular and parallel parking, surround sensors when close to an object, inflatable second row seat belts and forward collision warning. Understanding and using the safety aids makes – and keeps – drivers safer.

Adding to the Explorer’s goal of melding comfort with safety, there is a single button to push and fold flat third row seats, an under bumper foot sweep to raise/lower the rear liftgate, roof rails for extra luggage (the cargo area is ample and incudes spare tire)) and two panoramic sunroofs. Map lights over all three rows, remote push button start – the numerous convenience and comfort features quickly become addictive, especially a heated steering wheel and heated front seat massages on a chilly winter day.

Ground clearance is a healthy 7.9 inches and the Platinum can tow 5,000 pounds with the robust 3.5-liter turbo-charged (EcoBoost) engine.

Beneath the graphically sharp 8-inch dashboard touch screen, buttons instead of the previous hard-to-use flat touch-screen, manipulated climate features easily. Ford’s MySnyc invites audio commands and surpasses many competitors in accurately interpreting navigation and other voice commands. Handling was average and the ride cushy comfortable on 20-inch wheels. Elevated rear headrests and thick pillars can hinder visibility. Parents can set speed and stereo volume limits for teen drivers. Outside the look remains similar with a box-like body, side chrome strip and a huge chrome front grill.

LIKES: Acceleration, comfort, safety and tech features, ride, towing

DISLIKES: Some visibility hindrance

BOTTOM LINE: If you can afford it, it feels well worth the price.

FACT FILE

FORD EXPLORER PLATINUM 4WD 2016

Base price: $53,915 ($54,760 as tested)

Vehicle weight: 4,890 lbs.

Wheelbase: 112.8 inches

Length: 198.3 inches

Width: 78.9 inches

Engine: 3.5 liter, EcoBoost V6, DOHC

Horsepower: 365 hp. at 5,500 rpm

Torque: 350 ft.-lbs. at 3,500 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic w/ manual paddles

EPA Rating: 16 mpg city/26 mpg hwy

Range: 18.6-gallons, regular

Performance: 0-60 in just over 6 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.

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