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2016 Ford Explorer Review By Larry Nutson

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2016 Ford Explorer
Taking you further

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

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Time flies when you’re having fun! The last new Explorer I drove was a 2011 model. That was the first year of the current generation Explorer. Now here I am five or so years later driving the newest iteration of this wildly popular SUV.

I’ve also owned a few Explorers myself in years past. The last was a 2004 Limited model with all-wheel drive, a 4.6-L V8 and a 5-speed automatic. That was a 3rd – Gen model and before that I had a 2nd – Gen model. My Explorer personal use was just what you might expect. That is, household transportation for my wife and two daughters, and two Labrador retrievers, and towing a 19ft boat on a double axle trailer, and hauling whatever I needed in maintaining a house.

My reacquainting with the Explorer was in the form of a 2016 Platinum model with four-wheel drive, a 3.5-L EcoBoost V6 coupled to a 6-speed automatic and with a $52,600 MSRP.

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The Platinum model is new for 2016 in addition to the base, XLT, Limited and Sport models. Explorer prices start at $30,700, plus $945 destination and delivery.

The standard engine is a 290HP, 3.5-liter V6 engine on base, XLT and Limited models. Optional on these models is a new-for-2016 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine rated at 280 HP that develops much more torque than the V6. It also has the best EPA-test fuel economy ratings at 19 city/28 highway/22 combined mpg with front-wheel drive and 18 city/26 highway/21 combined mpg with four-wheel drive. Both of these engines use a six-speed automatic and these models are offered in front-wheel or four-wheel drive.

The Explorer Sport and Platinum are powered by a 365HP 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 mated to a six-speed automatic and offered only in 4-w-d.

The 4-w-d has a Terrain Management System that provides variations in traction for different driving conditions. A console mounted knob lets the driver selects between normal, mud/ruts, sand and grass/gravel/snow.

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If towing is important, with the 3.5-liter Ti-VCT and 3.5-liter EcoBoost max tow rating is up to 5,000 lbs. The 2.3-liter EcoBoost max tow rating is up to 3,000 lbs. (with optional towing package).

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Seating in the Explorer is for six or seven. I prefer the six-seat configuration with its two second-row individual seats. As I recall, this works well with young ones giving each their own space. The third row holds two. I climbed back there just to check it out. Although best left for the young ones, the Explorer does a fairly decent job with good seat bottom height so your knees are not in your chin.

Cargo volume can grow from 21cuft behind the third row all the way up to 81.7cuft. with both rows folded. I liked the deep well in the cargo area behind the third row allowing groceries to be secure from falling out when you open the rear liftgate.


By the way, the lifgate is hands free, opening with a kick of the leg below the rear bumper and the third row seats fold with the push of a button for their power feature.

Ford has some great driver assistance features that are really worth looking into and equipping on an Explorer. Here’s a quick overview.

Front and rear cameras have wide-angle lenses and come equipped with a washer. They are a great help in tight parking maneuvers.

Enhanced active park assist with perpendicular park assist, park-out assist and semi-automatic parallel parking uses ultrasonic sensors and electric power-assisted steering to help drivers with parallel parking and perpendicular parking maneuvers. The system controls the steering wheel, while the driver operates the accelerator and brake pedals, and shifts the vehicle into gear.

Adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support uses radar to detect moving vehicles directly ahead and changes the cruising speed if necessary.

Lane-keeping system automatically detects left- and right-hand road lane markings using the front camera system. The steering wheel vibrates to alert you that you are drifting out of the lane. The system can also provide steering torque input to help guide the vehicle back into the lane if needed.

Blind Spot Information System uses radar to trigger a warning when another motorist is in the driver’s blind spot.

Cross-traffic alert uses radar to help alert drivers to oncoming traffic when backing out of a parking space.

Auto high-beams uses windshield-mounted cameras that automatically switches between high-beam and low-beam settings when oncoming traffic is detected.

Thinking back to my past days of towing and backing up a trailer, there’s one feature that’s not yet on the Explorer, although it is now on Ford’s F-150 pickup. It’s Ford’s Pro Trailer Backup Assist that lets you steer using a knob on the dash when backing. I’ve tried it and it’s a godsend. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Again, these driver-assistance smart technologies are really the future. We have features on vehicles that you can buy right now today that will help prevent accidents, save you and your family from injury and in the long run might just save you money.

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For 2017 Ford is adding a new Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package expanding the model offerings to six. The new XLT Sport Appearance Package features a dark-accented exterior, including 20-inch Magnetic Gray wheels, grille, mirror caps and rear appliqué, and Ebony Black body side molding. Interior enhancements include Dark Earth Gray front seats with leather bolsters by Salerno and Miko suede for inserts and door panels. It’ll be available this summer.

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A very interesting and new development from Ford is their partnership with BraunAbility to create the world's first wheelchair-accessible SUV. BraunAbility MXV is a wheelchair-accessible SUV that gives wheelchair users the quality and dependability of a BraunAbility mobility vehicle combined with the capabilities of an Explorer. BraunAbility MXV – available with Explorer base, XLT and Limited models – features patented sliding-door technology, removable driver and passenger seats, and a powered, lighted in-floor ramp. A sliding shifter and front seat base design provide for increased space, while an integrated key fob operates both door and ramp. There’s also an available tow package.

All-in-all the 2016 Explorer does what it’s supposed to do quite well. After 25 years Ford has got it right. The interior overall of the Platinum model that I drove is high quality and has a premium feel. And as for cabin noise, Ford has done a good job there too in keeping it quiet. In my jaunts around Chicago the suspension does a good job of keeping things under control with predictable handling. The ride is not harsh and I didn’t experience and jolts.

You can learn more about the 2016 Ford Explorer at To compare the Explore to other standard SUVs have a look right here at

© 2016 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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