Tested: 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum AWD

All grown up, the Explorer continues to push boundaries. But is it enough?

Inside the chiseled exterior of the 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum, you can expect to find a host of features that signify the highest-end model: climate control for front and rear passengers, huge sunroof, a host of preventative safety measures, and (good for 2016’s gadgets) copious amounts of power outlets. It’s all these features—plus the standard ones across the Explorer lineup—that make one of the most popular SUVs in the world appealing. But does it continue to inspire?

Technically, this is the sixth generation of the Explorer, and while this 2016 face-lifted version benefits from bolder looks, a more powerful and efficient engine borrowed from the Mustang, it still sits on a five-year-old chassis that could use an update.

However, this isn’t to say the Explorer is dated. If you’re looking for large SUVs with third-row options, the Explorer fits into the fold with all the correct boxes ticked. Some journalists have commented that the seats are a bit uncomfortable, but I found them to be supportive and soft, if not a bit over-bolstered in the lumbar department. Second and third rows were a bit cramped according to family members who I shoved back there, but they did comment that the added bonus of climate control was welcome. 

Ford’s Sync continues to improve with every iteration; however, we still found version 3 to be lacking the refinement of other systems that incorporate Apple CarPlay...or just the ability to use Siri. It’s a bit overcomplicated, and if Ford could simplify a few things concerning the navigation and menu controls, they could capitalize on the very responsive and easy-to-setup system.

Because the Explorer rides on the same frame as the Taurus and Flex, it rides extremely smooth and is well mannered over the most horrific winter potholes. Ford is expected to switch platforms for the seventh generation to an RWD-based architecture, and we’re curious how it will affect the ride quality.

For non-performance cars and SUVs, turbocharging the engine makes perfect sense. With 365 horsepower and 350 lb.-ft of torque, there is instant progress made with the Explorer when forward momentum is needed. With a wide torque band and a 6-speed automatic transmission, you’re never stuck in a “dead zone;” instead there’s passing power when needed. Getting from 0-60 in the Explorer is damn quick, reaching it in 6.0 seconds.

Overall, the Explorer is a satisfying vehicle to drive. You won’t be wowed by anything distinct or class leading, but every day you'll get into a vehicle that will exceed your expectations. Ford started the SUV craze with the first Explorer, and if they can continue to upgrade and finesse moving forward, they can become the epitome of sport utility vehicles once again.