My dad owned a Ford Explorer when I was just learning to drive. It must’ve been a late 90’s model. Maybe older than that. The exact year hardly matters. What does matter is how I felt about it, which wasn’t anything good. I remember it breaking down a number of times. The passenger side window leaked when it rained. The airbag light was always on, convincing me that it was going to explode out of the steering wheel at any moment. The design was lackluster and it wasn’t especially comfortable to ride around in.
It’s been years since I’ve really paid attention to what’s become of the Ford Explorer. There are so many different vehicles flooding the market these days that it would be impossible to closely follow the evolution of each one. Perhaps it’s for this reason that the all-encompassing nature of the Explorers transformation completely knocked me off my feet.
As I climbed aboard the brand new 2016 Platinum Ford Explorer, I didn’t recognize a single parallel between what it had become and my distant memories of it. For starters, from the outside, It’s never looked better, largely because it has many facial features similar to the new Range Rover. Add to that plenty of satin and shiny chrome accents, large 20” wheels, a commanding front grill flanked by LED headlights and large fog lamps, it’s clear that this Ford Explorer means business.
This serious play to make a luxury statement is especially evident the moment you climb aboard. When did the Explorer go from a little frumpy to really fancy? Rugged and economical has been utterly replaced with nearly every luxury trick in the book. When you park you’ll have the aide of back-up cameras and proximity sensors. As you drive you’ll be assisted with adaptive cruise control, a sophisticated lane-keeping system and elaborate terrain management settings to help you adapt to a variety of driving conditions.
For the most striking impression of luxury the Platinum Explorer has to offer, you only have to put it in park and take a look around. Beautifully finished metal trim and wood grain accents organically curve around the interior space. Seats are set wide, highly adjustable, cooled up front and heated two rows back. Multiple moon roofs open up the atmosphere above your head. The leather that wraps around the seats, pads the doors and softens the heated steering wheel is buttery to the touch and quilted like the bedspread in your grandmothers’ guest room. The pedals will electronically adjust even. The cabin is quite, the ride is smooth and the audio is premium courtesy of Sony.
Propelling the 2016 Platinum Ford Explorer is the powerful and always impressive 3.5L V6 EcoBoost engine. This engine, the most powerful to appear in the Explorer yet, handles its work load without missing a beat. Paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission, there’s always plenty of power on hand.
Ground up, the Platinum Ford Explorer is a completely transformed SUV that I barely recognize. It’s a confident, refined, spacious vehicle, chalk full of luxury, that’s an absolute pleasure to clock miles in. Unfortunately, the category most elevated of all is its cost. With a base price of nearly $53,000, and my model ending several thousand above that even, Ford has positioned the new Explorer amongst the likes of the Acura MDX, BMW X5 and Audi Q5.
Will people be willing to pay true luxury brand money for a painted up Ford? From what I’ve seen, the new Explorer can go toe-to-toe in terms of power and polish, especially with its top notch interior. From the outside though, the European luxury brands are super models on couture runways in Paris while the Explorer, improved though it may be, is still competing in beauty pageants stateside. Ignoring that for a moment, and considering that the explorer has seating for seven, will it be enough to overcome the unmistakable draw having a luxury SUV with a prestigious nameplate in your garage? For all these reasons and more this is an especially hard segment to be competitive in, but Ford has a loyal customer base, and from what I’ve seen, they’ve brought a surprisingly worthy player to the game.
By: Brandon Randall