My, this is a big rig. Despite being on sale for roughly five years now, somehow I haven’t previously climbed behind the wheel of a fifth-generation Ford Explorer—and when I do, the considerable boost in size over the gen-four model is something of a shock. This may officially still be a “midsize” crossover, but the latest Explorer feels huge. With the optional second-row bucket seats and standard third row, this 2.5-ton brute can transport six adults—and everyone flies first-class.
That’s especially true of the 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum, a new trim level for the model. Essentially, it’s an uber-lux Explorer that offers everything—and a little more. All-wheel drive is standard, as is a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. That’s a big deal, as the previous generation Explorer offered the gusty turbo V-6 in Sport trim only; luxury-seeking Limited buyers were left out of the power play. But the new Platinum fixes that, combining all the cushy goodness of the Limited with the satisfying performance of the Sport.
Mind you, you’ll pay for the privilege: The base price for the Platinum is nearly $54,000. And while the EcoBoost delivers a stout 365 horsepower, during my drive I watched with some sadness as the fuel gauge steadily (and rather quickly) wound down to the left. If you’re lucky and you’re on a smooth interstate, you’ll match the EPA’s highway rating of 22 mpg. During my week of mostly urban motoring, I managed only 17 mpg. Given that I’d just come from a couple weeks testing electric and hybrid cars, the engine’s thirst was especially dramatic. “Wait! You mean I’m not getting 49 miles per gallon! What’s going on here?!”
In fairness, though, the Explorer Platinum returns big on the running costs. The EcoBoost moves the rig’s considerable mass with ease, the standard six-speed auto shifting seamlessly through the gush of turbo torque. The steering is languid, boosted to effortlessness. The chassis is soft for the most part, though on occasion a road wart would come crashing through the plushness. As noted, the cabin is spacious, welcoming, and luxurious as hell. If you can imagine a bell or whistle, you’ll likely find it here.
Standard features on my test vehicle included dual-zone climate control, heated second-row seats, heated and cooled front seats, power-folding second- and third-row seats, adaptive cruise control, navigation with SiriusXM Traffic, a massive twin-panel moonroof, a superb 500-watt Sony audio system, leather everything, and more. The only options on the tester: the aforementioned second-row buckets ($695) and a center storage console in the second row ($150). The dash is generally well laid-out, aided by an intuitive center touchscreen with Ford’s latest Sync voice-activation system, but the plastics are shiny, smooth, and not particularly rich-looking. The overall effect—made more pronounced by the abundance of different colors on the switches and displays—is more brassy than refined.
If the Platinum’s luxury features are extensive, its standard driver-assistance systems are off the charts. Included are Terrain Management (a console knob that tailors the vehicle’s driving dynamics to suit various conditions—like Land Rover’s Terrain Response), a rearview camera with backup sensors, a forward 180-degree camera, hill-descent control, lane-keeping assistance, rain-sensing wipers, remote start, and trailer-sway control. Also on board is enhanced active park assist, which can automatically scan for parking spaces and then help maneuver the vehicle into a perpendicular space. The system works going forward or backward; I tried it several times and only had to dab the gas or brakes as the system otherwise did all the driving.
So, yes, having it all in the top-of-the-line Explorer comes at a price, both in initial outlay and regular feeding of the thirsty “Eco”Boost six. The pluses are room aplenty and the sense of having your every driving need taken care of—whether comfort features or advanced technologies to make getting down the road as simple and safe as possible. In the past quarter-century, Ford has sold some 7 million Explorers, so clearly the market likes what it sees. It’s a no-brainer, then, that many of these devotees will happily pay to go Platinum—and have it all.
2016 Ford Explorer Platinum Specifications
3.5L turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/365 hp @ 5,500 rpm,
350 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
|Layout:||4-door, 6-7-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA Mileage:||16/22 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H:||198.3 x 78.9 x 70.0 in|
|0-60 MPH:||6.0 sec (est)|
|Top Speed:||125 mph (est)|