Durango, CO. Ford’s no fool. They’ve been at this game for a very long time, so when they’re not busy innovating and launching new products and technologies, they allow themselves to be inspired by what others are doing.
Looking out their window, the gang at Ford noticed that other makes were dressing up their large utility vehicles to the nines and beyond, charging equally large bucks for them and delivering many. Coupled with the fact that the Lincoln MKT just ain’t moving, the Blue Oval decided to load up their supremely popular Explorer (the best-selling SUV in North America with over 7 million units sold) with everything save for the kitchen sink and call it macaroni… er, I mean Platinum.
To be fair, Ford introduced the Explorer Sport in 2013 and it turned out to be an unprecedented success. Ford peeps admitted that they did not think it would do anywhere as well given the high asking price, but lo and behold, consumers gobbled them up like $5 cupcakes.
P L A T I N U M
The P-word might sound familiar and that’s because you’ve likely seen it strewn across an F-150’s flanks. Platinum is the equivalent of GMC’s Denali or, in other words, la crème de la crème.
For starters, know that the current Explorer arrived in 2011 completely revamped, sharing only its namesake with the previous “truck”. A few tweaks and trims were added over the years but now, for 2016, the big ‘ute comes in with a fresh face and loads of new technology.
A few of the notable changes and improvements begin with the addition of a 2.3L EcoBoost 4-pot (replacing the 2.0L) available with AWD, active grille shutters, a hands-free liftgate, cameras everywhere, and all kinds of active assistance systems.
The star of the show, however, is the Explorer Platinum. The Top Dog. The King of the Mountain. The idea here is to give the buyer of an Explorer the ability to get everything a Lincoln buyer can purchase without the badge. I love that.
Badges are nice, but subtle yet distinct elements are important in order to separate the regular XLT from the Platinum. For example, 20” wheels with bright machined faces and tarnished dark painted pockets and signature LED headlamps are a good place to start. The revised front end looks sharp and a little more rugged than previously. For certain, it’s handsome.
The cabin has not evolved in the same respect. However, it has gained loads of gadgets and technical wizardry. That’s nice and all, but the real good stuff that comes with the Platinum begins where we park our bums. The new multi-contour Nirvana leather front seats with heating, cooling and massaging functions are very, very nice. That same grunge-band type of hide is found all over the place including the dashboard. In fact, the materials used throughout the cabin are top-notch, from brushed aluminum to real ash wood. It’s all quite unexpected. Heck, even the signature Blue Oval logo in the centre of the steering wheel is made from the brushed stuff, and it’s not blue. Woah.
A new 500W Sony audio system and a heated rear bench ensure that everyone on board the 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum is cozy and entertained. The trunk is as cavernous as ever or can be used to accommodate two more humans.
The call of EcoBoost
In order to politely parade in a primed Platinum, a person needs the proper kind of power. Ford thought of that. Standard with the Explorer Sport and Platinum is the 3.5L EcoBoost V6. Here, the twin-turbo mill produces 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. Mated to a 6-speed SelectShift automatic transmission, the Explorer Platinum doesn’t really explode as much as it rapidly ascends to speed.
I expected the big CUV to launch into outer space with that kind of power, but the fact is that the Explorer is large and heavy. It’s quick enough with the 3.5L engine, but I wonder about the 2.3L and what its real-world fuel economy numbers will turn out to be.
Nice and easy
The operative feeling with the Platinum is luxury. It requires smoothness and quietness, and the Ford provides plenty of both. Ride comfort is good on fair-to-slick surfaces. A quick stint off the beaten path demonstrated that, despite featuring intelligent AWD and a Terrain Management System, the Explorer prefers the urban jungle. The heavy 20” wheels and the suspension were at odds with each other in the rough stuff.
Anyway, the 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum will cajole its occupants in plenty of safety and high-end amenities. Steering and braking are on par with the demands expected from such a vehicle.
Our drive through Southern Colorado into New Mexico provided various road types including some fun and tight switchbacks. They weren’t the Explorer’s favourite playground, but to say that I did not enjoy my time at the wheel would be a lie. Honestly, for a family of four, it makes an excellent road trip vehicle with tons of room for gear and souvenirs.
It’ll do well
The 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum has sales success written all over it. It’s more than just a badge – the moment you step inside, a sense of unanticipated opulence takes over. It’s odd at first, but you’ll never wonder why you paid $50k for a Ford. Not convinced? Check out the cameras with integrated washers, the enhanced park assist system that will take you in and out of the spot, and the 10.1” display screen (a first in a Ford product).
Ford has gone all out for this one, but there are numerous alternatives, very few of which pack the same kind of power. Consider the Honda Pilot Touring, GMC Acadia Denali, and Dodge Durango Citadel HEMI. Actually, the latter is the one that best competes with the Ford. Either way, you’ll never lack for room, features, and muscle.