Having a hard time finding the perfect family-friendly SUV? The 2016 Ford Explorer might have what you're looking for. After significant updates this year it's once again at the top of the class thanks to high-tech features, a comfortable ride and plenty of passenger space.
If you have a large family, chances are you probably want a large and spacious vehicle to haul around your brood. Maybe you think a useful amount of towing capacity would be nice, too. But you also want the vehicle to have decent road manners and fuel economy. The 2016 Ford Explorer meets those requirements and is newly updated this year, taking what was already an upscale offering and making it even better.
The 2016 Ford Explorer doesn't look vastly different from the outgoing model (the new LED headlights and grille are the most notable aspects), but there are quite a few hidden changes. Inside, you'll find added USB charging ports to keep your family's techno gear running, as well as new tactile buttons for the optional MyFord Touch system that are easier to use than the previous touch-sensitive ones.
Some features have been improved as well, including the enhanced automated parking system that not only can park in a parallel space but can pull into and out of a perpendicular parking space as well. Then there's the enlarged optional turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes more power and returns better fuel economy, according to Ford's estimates. Importantly, the new engine can now be paired with all-wheel drive and, when properly equipped, tow up to 3,000 pounds.
This year's Explorer also has a new top-end Platinum trim level. It comes with just about every tech and safety feature from the Explorer's arsenal as standard, plus upgraded interior upholstery and trim that just adds to the Explorer's already high-quality cabin. Revised suspension tuning for greater comfort should also further the Explorer's credentials as an upscale and refined three-row crossover.
Despite its many updates, though, there are some drawbacks that went unaddressed. Even in a segment of relative automotive behemoths, the Explorer feels pretty big behind the steering wheel and can be harder to park and see out of. This is particularly noteworthy when you consider that many crossover rivals also have superior cargo space and more third-row legroom (along with the option for eight-passenger seating). In other words, it feels bigger despite actually being smaller.
The XLT adds upgraded brakes, body-color door handles, foglights, heated exterior mirrors, rear parking sensors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a keyless entry code pad and push-button ignition, an eight-way power driver seat, a six-way power front passenger seat and satellite radio.
For the XLT, the Equipment Group 201A package adds dual-zone automatic climate control, remote start, an eight-way power passenger seat, a nine-speaker sound system and the Driver Connect package that includes an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an 8-inch touchscreen display (MyFord Touch), configurable gauge cluster displays, an SD card reader and upgraded Sync functionality. The 202A package includes all of the 201A equipment plus leather upholstery, heated front seats and front parking sensors.
Standard safety equipment for the 2016 Ford Explorer includes stability and traction control, trailer sway control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, a front passenger knee airbag and MyKey, which allows parents to specify limits for vehicle speed and stereo volume. The Explorer's stability control system also includes Ford's Curve Control, which can monitor speed carried into a corner and decelerate if necessary.
A rearview camera is standard on the Explorer, while a 180-degree front camera is optional. Rear parking sensors are also standard on all but the base Explorer. Optional on the Limited and Sport but standard on the Platinum is a forward-collision warning system with brake priming (bundled with the adaptive cruise control), lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist (Limited only), a blind-spot warning system (with rear-cross traffic alert) and inflatable seatbelts for second-row outboard passengers.
In Edmunds testing, an AWD Explorer Limited with all-season tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 118 feet, a few feet shorter than average. An Explorer Sport with summer performance tires stopped in just 108 feet, a remarkable stopping distance for a vehicle of this size and weight.
In government crash tests, last year's Explorer earned a five-star rating (out of a possible five) for overall crash protection, with five stars for total front-impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave its top score of "Good" for the Explorer's performance in moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. It received the second-lowest rating of "Marginal" in the small-overlap frontal-offset test. Its seatbelts and head restraints earned a "Good" rating for whiplash protection in rear impacts.