Much like Chad has written about previously, I was invited by Ford to participate in the 2016 Explorer Platinum Adventure Tour. I was on the very first leg of the trip; our route was from Vancouver to Kamloops in beautiful British Columbia. While I’m pretty pumped to give any new vehicle a try, I didn’t expect the Explorer to live up to it’s iconic namesake. I expected basically a minivan without sliding doors. I got more than I expected.
(Editor’s Note: I’d like to take a moment to welcome Will Jenkins to our writing staff. Will runs his own outdoor site called The Will to Hunt. He also contributes at other places. Check out his bio on his site, and take a moment to welcome him aboard!)
(Full Disclosure: Like our other Ford Explorer Platinum review, Ford covered the airfare, travel, food, and lodging to drive the vehicle across Canada.)
A little background on me; I started writing about hunting and the outdoors 5 years ago so generally when I get invited to drive vehicles, they’re trucks. The Explorer was quite the change of pace. Nonetheless, I was excited and because it bore the name of what was once a highly regarded ‘do-all’ SUV I was determined to find a way to see if it could live up to the legacy.
Press events for me are always awkward, I’m the odd outdoor blogger in a sea of car writers/bloggers. So when it came time to pack it in and hit the road I struck gold in that I randomly got paired with the Budd Taylor, the managing editor of 4Wheel Drive Magazine Canada. He had also previously lived in the area and knew all the Forest Service Roads and odd little places along the way. Our goal was simple; test it’s limits without destroying it, and get it as dirty as possible. We achieved our goals.
While the 2016 Explorer isn’t the one we grew up with, it’s definitely a capable family hauler. Times change and so do needs of families and consumers. The Explorer has managed to meet the needs of the changing market while maintaining just enough off-road prowess.
We spent 13 hours between the time we hopped in the Explorer and when we pulled into the hotel that night. In between there we spent only about 3 hours on pavement. We took forest service roads that connected to unnamed trails, we took it through muddy potholes at close to 30 miles per hour, we bottomed it out, we smushed the front air dam up on a small wash out and we tackled some the mushiest clay mud roads ever. At every turn Budd and I looked at each other with shock at how well it performed.
The Terrain Management System did amazing in the muddy terrain and was immensely easy to use. When we needed it the 365 horsepower was there to get us out of the mud or down the road in a hurry. Cameras in the front and rear made turning around on trails that turned into dense forest a snap; no need for a spotter.
We were handed the keys to the Platinum top-trim, and while it was insanely nice and had seriously the best Sony OEM stereo I’ve ever heard, I don’t think I’d rush out to spend $53,000 on it. I think the value is there for people that want that level of luxury, but I’m not one of those people. I’d be more likely to go with the Sport trim. It’s $10,000 less and has all the performance, plus I prefer the dark trim and less flashy look.
In the end I left completely impressed with the performance of the vehicle and the beauty of British Columbia. Is the 2016 Explorer the same boxy vehicle we came to love in the 90’s? Of course not, that Explorer didn’t have a 365 horse power turbocharged V6 . The front seating was phenomenal, as well as the second row. The third row of seating was quite roomy but is best utilized by kids. We tested every inch of the available 7.9″ of ground clearance, which was enough to conquer most obstacles, or at least get around them. The traction control made it impossible to lose control as long as you’re applying some throttle. The only time it was a little sloppy was coasting around a really muddy turn at a decent clip. Even then a quick correction and a little gas got it back in line. The only thing that I was surprised about was the lack of DVD player in the Platinum trim. Having 3 kids and having the DVD player in our Flex has completely spoiled me.
If you’re in the market for a family hauler that you can really put through the ringer, but still travel in comfort, the 2016 Explorer deserves a test drive.
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