Saturday, June 13, 2015

2016 Ford Explorer Duo Sinner or Saint - pick one for kicks or giggles

Ford heavily updated 2016 Ford Explorer is on sale now. You can get it in a variety of forms from entry at a nose hair over 31K  and nicely optioned out Limited starting at 41.7K or a Sport at 43.7K, the latter gets you the totally awesome 3.5L V6 with twin turbo EcoBoost.  Between Limited and Sport think of it as having an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other daring you to push the limits.

New for 2016 is the option of the 2.3L Ecoboost on all models but the Sport.  This engine is the model of refinement and power.  Perfect balance.  It gives up 10 horsepower to the standard V6 but picks up 55 foot pounds of torque that amply makes up the nominal horsepower difference. This is simply the best 4 cylinder Ford has ever put out, turbo or not. Smooth, steady power delivery, nice growl at the upper ranges without nary a rumble, shake or stumble throughout the rev range.  It easily kept up with traffic and ran with the best of them.  It climbed Signal Hill with no drama stress or worries.

Think of the Explorer Limited as the one you drive with an angel on your shoulder.  Its completely comfortable, able and drives like a charm.  Easy handling, remarkable given its overall size as it feels more like a competent luxury sedan not an SUV that bobbed and floated and sorta went where you aimed it that was common even a few years ago.  IT doesn't beg you to flog it, it rewards the driver with competency and coddles them in just about every creature comfort one could want.

The list on the Limited is extensive and really nice.  Heated standard steering wheel, tasteful matte wood trim with brushed aluminum accents. Heated/Cooled front seats. Power folding 50/50 split 3rd row seats are standard.  Leather seating.  Hands free power lift gate...a little wiggle waggle of the foot under the rear bumper and voila its open.  A full list of standard features can be found on  Suffice it to say its completely equipped as is, the options you can add are all technology related.

The angel on your shoulder will love the Limited.  Its truly about refined motoring, plush and comfort all the way all day.  Think cathedral on wheels. Its having your cake AND eating it too, as all that comfort, quality and zip doesn't come with a penalty at the pump.  The fuel economy on my 21 mile loop was a respectable 19.1MPG. Not bad at all for a big SUV with All Wheel Drive.

If the Limited is soothing the angel on the right, the devil on the left is drooling to get his hands on all the twin turbo goodness that is the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 found in the Explorer Sport.  This car is a beast in all the best terms of the word.  Where the Limited is plush and controlled, this is firm in the sport sedan sense and begs you to push the limits.  In corners, on ramps and straight aways.  The suspension is tuned perfectly for zipping about. The devil on the left is pushing you to be bold and enjoy what this SUV can do.

But the Sport does this without being coarse or giving up any of the build quality and luxury found in the Limited.  Yes, its a sport but that doesn't mean you give up the premium feel.  In fact there are little touches all over to let you know this is still a top tier auto.

The devil is in the details.  Brushed aluminum and carbon fiber trim on the dash.  Red stitching on the black leather seats.  Sport specific bright wheels.  Its a complete package, its luxury meant to be pushed to the limit and the execution is there.

Yet with all that performance and giving into the urges this EcoBoost still doesn't kill you at the pumps.  In spite of spirited driving and on ramp charges it turned in a respectable 17.3  MPG over the 21 mile loop of mixed freeway and urban driving.  And a curvy hill to climb.  Pretty slick...V8 performance when needed and V6 economy when you don't in a large SUV is quite a trick.

Common to both is the latest updates to Sync/MyFord.  It's faster to the touch, better voice recognition in a word simpler and more intuitive than the version that launched 3 years ago.  The improvements are welcomed.

Now there's a 3rd version coming later this summer that promises to completely upstage these two.  Explorer Platinum.  All the go fast capability of the 3.5L V6 EcoBoost in a version so luxurious its options will be few and luxury will be nothing like we've ever seen Ford put into an SUV before.  This promises to have unique LED head lamps and fog lamps just to get the exclusivity cranked up a notch and make it possible to tell it apart at a glance, not by reading the rear tailgate.

So who you gonna listen to?  The angel on the right looking for a heavenly motoring experience or the devil on the left begging you to be bad and push it?

More from the Ford Open House I attended in a flickr album.