It’s perhaps a testament to the good looks of the tested Ford Explorer that we were asked on more than one occasion if it were a Land Rover. That’s high praise indeed for Ford’s bread-and-butter SUV, the model credited with igniting America’s love affair with the segment.
The top-of-the-line Platinum trim level we’re covering here features smart cruise control, upgraded leather, aluminum and wood interior trim, a top-flight Sony audio system and a dual-panel sunroof. This is all stacked on top of self-parking (both parallel and perpendicular), blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning and massaging front seats.
In other words, in addition to looking like a luxury ride, the Explorer comes equipped like one too.
Thanks to the MyFord Touch interface system, voice activation and a high-res touch screen provide even more of a premium vibe to the Explorer Platinum.
Interior fit and finish are among the best we’ve ever seen in a Ford product. Soft-touch materials abound with a look that is one of quality — and all of the controls feel crisp when operated. The front seats are comfortable, even over long distances, and the interior is suitably quiet. Happily, the touch-sensitive controls of previous models have been jettisoned in favor of real buttons and dials for the audio and climate-control systems.
Opting for the second-row captain’s chairs will deliver adequate leg room for adults, even in the third row. However, you’ll only seat six, as opposed to seven as you would with the rear bench seat. On the other hand, the bench makes the third row suitable only for children, so you’ll have to consider the nature of your usage when choosing an interior configuration. Maximum cargo capacity measures 81.7 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded.
Power is served up courtesy of a 365-horsepower, 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6, good for 350 pound-feet of torque. Intelligent four-wheel drive with terrain management and a six-speed automatic transmission complete the powertrain. Towing capacity is 5,000 pounds. We saw a pretty consistent 19 mpg in mixed city and highway driving.
We weren’t tempted to go rock crawling in the Platinum Explorer, which is geared more toward pavement than dirt. However, our test model easily handled well-groomed trails.
On the other hand, this version of the Explorer rules on the highway, where it’s exceptionally quiet and smooth. Handling is also secure, though we wouldn’t call the Explorer particularly agile, because the Ford tends to drive larger than it actually is. This can be a bit compromising on narrow roads and in close-quartered city traffic.
On the safety front, NHTSA gives the Explorer five stars for its overall performance, while the IIHS rates the Explorer “Good” in nearly all tests except the small overlap frontal offset, in which it is rated “Marginal.” By and large, though, you can feel good about pressing an Explorer Platinum into service as family transportation. Pricing for standard models starts at $31,660; Explorer Platinum starts at $53,235.