Review of: 2016 Ford Explorer 4WD 4dr Platinum
2016 Ford Explorer Platinum: Out-Lincolning Lincoln
By Jil McIntosh
Dec. 28, 2015
One thing you should never underestimate is how much some people love luxury. The Explorer’s top-line trim used to be the Limited, but when Ford determined that customers wanted more, it introduced the higher-end Sport.
That did incredibly well, so why not go one better? Now there’s the Platinum, a new-for-2016 trim that tops them all. There’s so much stuffed into it that the only available options are second-row captain’s chairs instead of a bench, a console between them, all-weather floor mats, and a DVD system. Unlike other Explorer models, which can be outfitted with two other engine choices or with two-wheel drive, the Platinum comes only with a 3.5-litre turbo V6 and with AWD.
The least-expensive Explorer trims start at $33,499 in 4×2, or $36,499 in 4×4, while the Platinum starts at $59,099. Mine had every option except the second-row console, along with a $450 coat of Bronze Fire paint, which took it to $62,299 before freight and taxes.
Pros & Cons
- + Upscale options
- + Smooth, strong engine
- + Ride comfort
- - Tech could be a distraction
- - Price of options
- - 3rd row seat access
The Explorer is a ruggedly handsome vehicle, trucky enough to satisfy the harder-core crowd but with the softer edges of a family-style SUV. That said, I do find the front-end styling a bit heavy-handed with its huge lights and multi-bar nose. The headlamps and taillights are LED on all models, but the Platinum adds LED fog lamps as well.
A few exterior treatments also unique to the Platinum include the design of its 20-inch wheels, its grille, and the satin-chrome finish of its brightwork on the door handles, cladding, roof rails, and mirror caps.
The liftgate is power-operated, of course, and the height can be programmed. As long as you have the key with you, you can kick your foot under the bumper, where a sensor detects the movement and opens the gate automatically. A few automakers now offer these types of hands-free liftgates and they’re a great idea when your hands are full.
If you’ve been considering a Lincoln, have a look-see at this Explorer as well. Overall, it’s just as opulent as the automaker’s top brand. At the Explorer Limited level, you get heated and cooled seats, power-adjustable heated steering wheel, and power-folding third-row seats, but the Platinum bumps that up. Here, in addition to all that, you also get massaging seats, quilted leather seat and door trim, a completely digital instrument cluster, leather-wrapped dash, real wood and aluminum trim, and wood-and-leather steering wheel.
It’s all ridiculously comfortable, and while the third row is tight, there’s still more room than in many three-row vehicles. You won’t want to be back there on a long trip, but it’s viable for shorter ones, at least once you squeeze and contort around the second row to get there.
The fancy steering wheel contains a styling touch that you might not notice if it wasn’t pointed out to you: in honour of the Platinum nameplate, the famous logo is brushed aluminum, rather than blue. It doesn’t sound like much, but the oval has been blue since it was first used in 1928, and changing it required approval from a number of Ford upper-ups, including executive chairman William Clay Ford Jr., who is Henry Ford’s great-grandson. For all that it took, though, the badge just looks like a defective one that somebody forgot to paint.
I’ve never been found of MyFord Touch, the company’s touchscreen system, which requires you to tap at the corners of the screen to bring up the individual function screens. It can be tough to tap them accurately if the road isn’t glassy-smooth, and the screen can be slow to react when it’s cold. Once you do get each function up, though, everything is intuitive.
Unique to the Platinum level is a Sony audio system designed specifically for it, which marks the first time the company’s Clear Phase sound-focusing and Live Acoustics balance technologies have been used in a vehicle. It sounds fantastic. Best of all, the combination audio/climate control panel now has real buttons instead of the previous touch spots on the glass, which took too much attention and didn’t always work on the first tap when cold.
The Platinum is stuffed with several other technologies as well. On the electronic nanny side, you get adaptive cruise control, collision warning with emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane departure mitigation, and cross traffic alert. If you’re not good at parking, this Explorer will do it for you, both parallel and perpendicular, and even drive itself out of the spot if you’re not very good at that either. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the technology that will tear up your driver’s license if you depend on this stuff.)
The second-row seatbelts contain small airbags, which deploy in a crash to dissipate the force on an occupant’s chest. My tester also had the optional Blu-ray DVD system, with dual screens nicely integrated into the head restraints, but with a jaw-dropping price tag of $2,100.
The Platinum exclusively uses a turbocharged 3.5-litre V6 engine that makes 365 horsepower and 350 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and with all-wheel drive. Against published fuel figures of 14.9 L/100 km in the city and 10.7 on the highway, I averaged 13.8 in combined driving. That’s pretty good for a vehicle this size, but as with any turbocharged engine, it gets thirsty if you work it hard, such as taking it to its maximum towing capacity of 5,000 lbs (2,268 kg).
The default Explorer’s system is front-wheel drive, and so the Platinum’s all-wheel system is front-biased, sending toque to the rear whenever it’s needed. Despite that, it doesn’t feel like the front tires are doing most of the work; there’s a solid, cohesive feel to this driveline. Its quick acceleration and light steering helps to alleviate any bulky feeling, at least until you take a curve. There, its luxury-tuned suspension and its height combine for a touch of roll that reminds you of just how big it is.
The all-wheel includes Terrain Management, which lets you dial in settings for snow, mud or sand that adjust the torque split, transmission and throttle response to best get through the selected conditions. Push the button in the middle of the dial, and the hill descent control takes the Explorer down inclines with no need to tap the brakes.
I certainly see my fair share of Platinum-trim F-150 pickup trucks on the road, and I think Ford is going to do just as well with this SUV. You can get luxury-minded models like the Buick Enclave or Hyundai Santa Fe XL for less, but they’re not as well-equipped. Nor is the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which tops out near $67,000.
Where the Platinum might really shine is with those who are cross-shopping Lincoln. Outfitting the five-passenger MKX with many of the Explorer Platinum’s features will take you to $64,600, and for those who aren’t enamored with Lincoln’s wing-style grille, the Explorer is arguably the better-looking vehicle.
In addition to my tester, I also drove the Explorer Platinum on an event where I stayed at a posh desert golf resort. The driveway was stuffed with Range Rovers, Porsche Cayennes, BMW X5s and other premium vehicles, and yet many people came over to have a look at my ride. It’s as nice inside as many of those, and while it doesn’t have the cachet of their badges, it also doesn’t have their sticker price. Pricey for a Ford but reasonable for this level of luxury, it’s well-poised to fill any gap between them.