2016 Ford Explorer Platinum first drive review: Does Lincoln know about this?


2016 Ford Explorer Titanium

2016 Ford Explorer Platinum

Does Lincoln know about this? Do the folks at Ford’s Lincoln Division know what the kids at Ford have been up to, how the 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum takes the aboriginal sport-utility into luxury vehicle territory?

Luxury from Ford? Take this for proof: The Explorer Platinum has leather upholstery…but not just on the seats. It has leather on dash, shaped and stitched. And on the doors.

And the wood trim is really wood.

2016 Ford Explorer Titanium interior

The seats, dash and door panels on the 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum interior are leather, with accents of real wood. (click to enlarge)

It’s the first time for the Platinum level in the Explorer. Prior to 2016, the top trim level for Explorer was limited to Limited. The 2016 Explorer Platinum joins the Escape Titanium, Edge Titanium, and Fiesta Titanium. The Ford Expedition, however, is burnished with Platinum.

The 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum, though, is just the point of Explorer’s 2016 spear. The Explorer gains a new front and rear look with a new grille and new C-shaped fog lights at the front corners (blanked out on the base model). Scoops at the lower front edges of the fenders direct air around the front tires to form an “air curtain” for improved aerodynamics.

But even the Explorer Base gets LED low-beam headlights, aluminum wheels and a rear-view camera with washer. Next up, the Explorer XLT includes proximity keys access with pushbutton start, a 10-way power driver’s seat, and rear sensing system, with option packages including remote start, 10-way front passenger seat, and leather and heated front seats, and more.

2016 Ford Explorer Titanium cargo area

The second and third row of seats fold for an almost flat cargo load floor. (click to enlarge)

The Explorer Limited includes all of the XLT’s options, plus the front 180-degree camera with washer, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, 20-inch alloy wheels and a power-folding third row seat. Options include blind-spot information, lane-keeping alert and lane-keeping aid, parking assist (automatic parking) and park-out assist plus perpendicular back-in parking, rain-sensing wipers, heated steering wheel—and more that we can list without being too boring.

The 2016 Explorer Sport distinguishes itself with sport-tuned suspension, a class-III towing package, power-fold rear seat, the twin-turbo direct injection 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine with intelligent all-wheel drive and Ford’s Terrain Management System, and because it’s a Sport, black-out trim including the grille. An option package includes the hands-free foot-activated power liftgate, front 180-degree camera with washer, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, cooled front seat, navigation and again, more.

2016 Ford Explorer Titanium drive mode selection knob

The 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum drive mode selection knob allows the driver to optimize the SUV’s drivetrain and suspension for varying terrain. (click to enlarge)

Which brings us back to the 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum. Different colors are, of course, including three extra-cost paint colors, but there’s just one option on the Platinum, a choice between a pair of second-row captain’s chairs or a bench seat for seating for three across. It has everything the other Explorers have except the Sport’s black grille and sport suspension. As the premier model, of course, it has the fanciest trim, with a satin chrome exterior trim and grille (in a crosshatch pattern grille instead of the dots and lines of lesser Explorers). Its 20-inch wheels aluminum have the most intricate pattern, though still look easy to clean.

Other unique-to-Explorer Platinum features include a dual-panel moon roof and adaptive cruise control (switchable to standard cruise) with forward collision with brake support. Dual second-row smart charging USB ports are standard.

2016 Ford Explorer Titanium camera washer

The 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum camera system includes front (shown) and rear spray washers. (click to enlarge

But back to our first impressions of the Explorer Platinum. The first line in out notebook says “look and feel of luxury.” We had to keep from telling ourselves, yes, this is a Ford. We place it in the same category as the larger Lincoln Navigator we recently tested, if not above. Can we say this again? Look and feel of luxury.

We’re going to praise the seats, both front and middle.  The seats are premium “Nirvana” leather, with micro-perferation and quilting…and massage for the driver and front passenger. The second row seats are heated, however, so there’s that for the second tier.

The ExplorerPlatinum we drove had the middle row bench, which was all-day comfortable. Slimmer seatbacks for the first row give more legroom for the second. The third row, not so much. We haven’t found a three-row SUV that the rearmost seat is comfortable for adults, or easy to get into either. True confession. We didn’t try to get in the Explorer’s third row, much less sit there. But it’s wrapped in the same leather as the first two rows, so tell the kids to not make a mess.

The third row power folds into a well behind the rear axle. Push the button and the seat bottom and back fold up like a clamshell and then drop in the hole. It’s certainly a lot easier than having to crawl into the cargo compartment to raise and lower the seat. Folding the second row’s seatbacks along with the third creates an almost flat load floor.