2016 Ford Explorer is a car.
Originally introduced for the 1991 model year as a midsize SUV to replace the Bronco II, the Ford Explorer quickly became one of the most popular utility vehicles in America. Sporting a traditional body-on-frame design and powered by a 4.0-liter V-6, the first-gen Explorer was replaced in 1994. New redesigns followed in 2000, 2005 and 2010, when the fifth-generation model was launched with a modern unibody platform. Designed by former Land Rover designer Jim Holland, the fifth-gen Explorer was also the first iteration to ditch the boxy styling of its predecessor and received a host of new convenience features. The Sport trim level joined the lineup for 2013, but other than that the Explorer remained relatively unchanged in its first five years on the market. As we move onto a new model year, the current fifth-gen Explorer is getting ready to retire and make way for a facelifted version.
Launched at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show and scheduled to go on sale in mid-2015, the revised Explorer boasts revised front and rear fascias and a somewhat new design language that adds more ruggedness to its sporty appearance. The new Explorer also received an updated interior, and, more importantly, a brand-new trim level with added luxury and premium features. A brand-new engine is also on the table, as Ford decided to offer the 2.3-liter EcoBoost that debuted on the Lincoln MKC for the Explorer hoping to attract more fuel conscious buyers. Read all about it after the jump.
The Explorer was comprehensively revised for the 2016 model year, boasting brand-new front and rear fascias. Gone is the three-bar front grille seen on its predecessor, replaced by a more conventional piece with a honeycomb-like layout. The redesigned, rectangular headlamps are larger and positioned higher, with the turn signals moved to the outer side of the cluster. The fog lamps are also brand-new, with Ford Ford ditching the small round units for massive, C-shaped lamps. They’re also positioned higher, no longer sitting in the lower apron. All told, the Explorer is bolder and looks more rugged up front.
Changes are more subtle around back, where the Explorer retains its familiar taillights, bumper shape and rear glass. While similar in shape, the taillights are a tad smaller and carve into the tailgate. The latter has also been redesigned, carrying a more stylish appearance. When viewed from the side, the SUV showcases only a few nips and tucks, with most of the changes visible above the waistline. The new Explorer rides on standard 18-inch or available 20-inch rollers.
The brand-new Platinum trim, on the other hand, comes with a few exclusive features of its own, including unique lighting surrounds for the headlamps, a dual-panel moonroof, silver-painted front and rear skid plates and bespoke, machined 20-inch wheels with dark pockets. Around back, the integrated exhaust system includes a special shield that catches the soot so it doesn’t collect around the tips. Talk about keeping things clean.
Inside, Ford focused on making the cabin more driver-oriented, but without changing its basic layout. Changes include a revised infotainment system with buttons in place of the touch-sensitive buttons from last year. A refined instrument cluster replaces the previous unit. The door armrests sit higher for improved comfort. Speaking of which, the new interior also benefits from enhanced quietness due to new door seals, engine subframe mounts designed to reduce vibration and acoustic glass on XLT and higher trim models.
Upgrades are more noticeable on the luxurious Platinum trim. The front seats are wrapped in Nirvana leather with special quilted stitching and micro-perforation. The same hide is used for the instrument panel, console armrests, door bolsters and upper door trim. Brushed aluminum and satin-finished Ash Wood inserts are spread throughout the cabin, while the leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel features a brushed-aluminum Ford oval badge, a first for production Ford vehicle. The 10-inch digital instrument cluster display marks yet another benchmark for a Ford automobile.
Also, the Explorer Platinum is the first Ford to receive a 500-watt Sony Audio System with Live Acoustics and Clear Phase, the latter a technology that eliminates sound dispersion throughout the cabin. Other standard features include enhanced active park assist, lane-keeping system, and rain-sensing wipers.
The 2016 Explorer gets a brand-new engine in the form of a 2.3-liter, EcoBoost, inline-four. Shared with the Ford Mustang Ford Mustang and the Lincoln Lincoln MKC, the turbocharged four-banger replaces the 2.0-liter EcoBoost as the available engine for the base, XLT and Limited trims. Ford has yet to reveal output figures, but says the new powerplant will generate 12.5 percent more horsepower and 11 percent more torque over the previous EcoBoost four-pot. With the 2.0-liter rated at 240 ponies and 270 pound-feet, the 2.3-liter unit should crank out around 270 horses and 300 pound-feet of twist. According to Ford, "no sacrifice in overall fuel efficiency is anticipated" with the extra oomph.
The other mills are carried over from the current Explorer, meaning customers will get the same 3.5-liter V-6 as standard for the base, XLT and Limited models, and the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 for the Explorer Sport and the new Platinum series. Both the naturally aspirated and the EcoBoost six-bangers carry over unchanged, churning 290 horsepower and 255 pound-feet and 365 ponies and 350 pound-feet, respectively. Likewise, both mate to Ford’s already familiar six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission.
Ford also offers a revised four-wheel-drive gauge display that shows power being distributed to front and rear wheels. The Terrain Management system offers four terrain modes, including normal, snow, sand or mud. The system automatically defaults to normal mode when the vehicle is started.
24 years since its introduction, the Ford Explorer remains America’s best-selling SUVs and the company’s second best-selling crossover after the Escape. Explorer sales have increased by nearly 10 percent in 2014 and it seems the revised version comes right on time to help Ford build on the momentum. Although it has lost some of its sporty appeal with the redesigned front fascia, the new Explorer is likely to attract new customers looking for a more rugged design, reminiscent of the previous-generation SUV. The new Platinum trim is a welcomed addition that bridges the gap between the Explorer and the more luxurious Lincoln MKT.