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Explorer adds have-it-all Platinum trim and a frugal new four

 

This review originally appeared in The Spokesman-Review.

 

Explorer interior

The new range-topping Platinum trim bundles a cascading set of features, technologies and powertrains from lesser trims into a neat have-it-all package.

With seven million units sold since its 1990 debut, Ford’s Explorer is the planet’s best-selling SUV-cum-crossover.

Which suggests Ford knows how to give buyers what they want. Even so, it appears there are some who want more. More power. More luxury. More more.

Happily, Ford has the answer: The new range-topping Platinum trim. The Platinum ($53,915, including destination) bundles a cascading set of features, technologies and powertrains from lesser trims into a neat have-it-all package.

Ford Explorer interior

Platinum upgrades include premier leather, quilted seat stitching, aluminum and wood cabin trim, a 500-watt Sony sound system, adaptive cruise, rain-sensing wipers, a dual-panel sunroof and LED foglights.

So fully equipped is the Platinum that the only significant options are a rear-seat entertainment system and second-row captain’s chairs, with power-fold assist.

But its engine is the true must-have item in the Platinum’s horn of plenty. It’s a turbocharged V-6 that makes 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque and can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Last year, it was available only on the Sport ($44,445), which then was the pinnacle of the Explorer family. The Sport is strong and quick but its sport-tuned suspension and aggressive stye cues curb its appeal.

So this year, the Sport is joined by the buttoned-down Platinum, whose car-like ride and luxurious accommodations and standard AWD makes it a good bet for the trailering set.

Platinum upgrades include premier leather, quilted seat stitching, aluminum and wood cabin trim, a 500-watt Sony sound system, adaptive cruise, rain-sensing wipers, a dual-panel sunroof and LED foglights. Standard active park assist can dock the Explorer in perpendicular <em>and</em> parallel parking spots, and can exit the space as well.

This year, Explorer also adds a frugal four-cylinder engine as an option on lower trims. The 2.4-liter turbocharged four makes 280 hp and 310 lb-ft and delivers a class-leading 28 highway mpg (2WD). Unlike the 2.0-liter engine it replaces, the 2.4L can be paired with AWD and a towing package.

The standard engine is a 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 290 hp and 255 pound-feet of torque.

Both sixes can tow up to 5,000 pounds, the four is good for 3,000 pounds.

Explorer’s AWD system drives the front wheels by default, transferring torque rearward as needed. A driver-selectable four-mode Terrain Management System (normal, snow, sand and mud) optimizes engine, transmission, braking and AWD responses for the conditions.

At nearly 5,000 pounds, Explorer is a big rig and feels it; in parking lots, especially, maneuverability is limited. Thick pillars and a tall hood and dashboard hamper outward visibility and the dead pedal is uncomfortably small and poorly positioned.

Cabin materials are of generally high quality, especially in the higher trims. New door seals and, on most trims, acoustic windshield and front-window glass cuts cabin noise.

Front-seat occupants ride high in broad comfortable seats. Second-row seating is adult-friendly. Third-row legroom varies on whether second-row seating is a bench or captain’s chairs.

The Sync with MyFord Touch infotainment system remains awkward, but grows more user-friendly with each iteration. This year, physical buttons replace last year’s touch-sensitive audio and A/C controls.
Maybe you want it all. Or maybe what you want is a reliable, comfortable and utilitarian crossover. Either way, Explorer fits the bill.

2016 Ford Explorer Platinum
Vehicle base price: $29,421
Trim level base price: $49,659
Towing capacity: 5,000 lbs
Options: second-row captain’s chairs with power-fold assist; second-row console
EPA ratings: 18 combined/16 city/22 highway
Unleaded regular fuel specified

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