Behind The Wheel: Luxury the name of the game
Ford's long-running Explorer SUV goes upscale in a big way with the new-for-2016 Platinum model that rivals traditional luxury SUVs with its numerous high-tech features, quilted-stitched leather seats and exclusive sound system.
The Platinum model, which comes with standard front and rear cameras, automatic parking system for parallel and perpendicular parking maneuvers, 20-inch wheels and a Sony 500-watt audio system, is accompanied by a luxury-like starting retail price of $53,915, making it the most expensive Explorer. A base, front-wheel drive model is $31,995.
The 2016 Platinum model also has standard four-wheel drive and the most powerful engine offering for the 2016 Explorer — a twin-turbocharged, EcoBoost V-6 that generates 365 horsepower and 350 foot-pounds of torque. Until this model, that engine had been reserved for the Explorer Sport, which, as its name implies, is designed with a firm suspension and quick steering response. The Explorer Platinum offers a still-controlled but less firm ride and its steering feels more mainstream.
Like all 2016 Explorers, the Platinum model has fresh exterior styling, including a grille that reminds some people of a Range Rover.
But it's the interior styling, breadth of features and unique touches that sticks with a driver. In the test vehicle, the leather, multi-contour front seats, which are new and wide, had quilted stitching that is reminiscent of an Audi; there was even leather and stitching on the dashboard. The side pillars at the windshield are covered in fabric, too, and real aluminum and ash wood, not plastic, are used to accent the interior doors and dashboard. Details include a wood- and leather-wrapped heated steering wheel with stitching that matches that found elsewhere in this Explorer.
A large dual-pane moonroof provides natural light and airiness to the front two rows of seats. A good amount of seat movement fore and aft makes it easy to apportion comfortable legroom in these two rows.
The driver's seat comes with power-adjustable pedals that move up and down to help every driver get comfortable. Everyone in the vehicle sits up high and has good views out, though the thick pillars at the sides of the windshield obscure views when making turns. But the Explorer Platinum's 180-degree front camera — located below the grille and comes with a washer to keep it clean — can help when pulling out of a driveway or parking lot. The camera is in addition to ultrasonic sensors on the bumper that alert a driver when the vehicle is getting too close to an object in front.
The Explorer Platinum impresses with its hushed interior. But the sound system's Live Acoustics and Clear Phase technology bring concert-quality audio to life.
The 3.5-liter, double-overhead cam, turbocharged, Ecoboost V-6 gives this vehicle spirited power, even while delivering more than 18 miles per gallon in combined city/highway travel. The only transmission is a six speed automatic.
Reliability of the Ford Explorer is rated at just above average by Consumer Reports, and the federal government said the 2016 Explorer earned five out of five stars in frontal and side crash tests.
There have been three U.S. safety recalls of the 2016 Explorer. They involved a parking brake that may not fully engage, fuel tank straps that may not have been properly bolted on and engine block heaters that may overheat and increase the risk of a fire.
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