The 2016 Ford Explorer gets refreshed styling, a more-powerful 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, a new range-topping Platinum model and a host of tech and safety updates. The 2016 model’s grille, headlamps, fog lamps, hood, fenders, lift gate and taillights are new, the combined effect being a more robust, more-trucklike appearance. The Explorer can carry up to seven passengers in three rows, tote up to 80.7 cu ft. of cargo with the rear seats folded down and tow up to 5,000 pounds with the standard 3.5-liter V6.
Newly available features for 2016 include a hands-free power lift gate, a 180-degree forward-looking camera, enhanced active parking assist with added perpendicular parking and park-out assist features, and a new SYNC system that adds real knobs and buttons to the touchscreen interface for audio and climate control functions. The Land Rover-inspired Terrain Management System continues for 4-wheel-drive versions, as well as inflatable rear seat belts, adaptive cruise control with forward-collision alert, parallel-parking assist, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Ford Explorer remains a top-selling 7-passenger crossover SUV, offering a popular mix of practicality and style. See the 2016 Ford Explorer models for sale near you
What We Like
Revised SYNC voice-activated infotainment controls; EcoBoost 4-cylinder fuel economy; optional inflatable rear seat belts; good crash scores; 4-wheel drive Terrain Management System; standard trailer-sway control; blazing performance on Sport models
What We Don’t
High step-in height; body roll in turns; cramped second-row seat; thick windshield pillars; EcoBoost engines prefer premium fuel; challenging third-row access
Fuel Economy & Engine Specs
A 3.5-liter V6 is the base engine in the Base, XLT and Limited trims. The 3.5-liter V6 generates 290 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque on regular unleaded fuel. It’s teamed solely with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Equipped with front-wheel drive, the 3.5-liter V6 has an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rating of 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, while 4-wheel-drive versions are rated at 16 mpg city/23 mpg hwy. Flex-fuel versions can run clean-burning E85 ethanol, but fuel economy suffers.
A new 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder turbo is optional for the Base, XLT and Limited trims. Unlike the previous 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder, the 2.3-liter is available with front- or 4-wheel drive. The turbocharged 16-valve 2.3-liter 4-cylinder delivers 280 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Front-drive versions are EPA-rated at 190 mpg city/27 mpg hwy; 4WD models get 18 mpg city/26 mpg hwy. Regular fuel is acceptable, but premium is recommended for best performance.
Explorer Sport and the new Platinum model come with a 365-hp twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 that develops 350 lb-ft of torque. Available only with 4-wheel drive and a 6-speed automatic transmission, the lively EcoBoost V6 is EPA-rated at 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy. Premium fuel is recommended for best performance and efficiency.
Standard Features & Options
The 2016 Ford Explorer is available in Base, XLT, Limited, Sport and Platinum trims.
Base standard equipment includes a backup camera, automatic headlamps, hill-start assist, front and rear air conditioning, cruise control, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel with remote audio controls, remote keyless entry, a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with an MP3 decoder, SYNC voice recognition and infotainment system with a 4.2-inch screen, 18-in alloy wheels, stability and traction control, trailer sway control, 3-row seating for seven passengers, cloth upholstery, a power driver’s seat, split fold-down second- and third-row bench seats, privacy glass, roof rails, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, dual front- and side-impact airbags, overhead airbags and power locks, windows and mirrors. 4WD models get hill descent control and terrain management. A towing package is optional.
XLT models have heavy-duty brakes, a leather-wrapped shifter and steering wheel, a power front passenger’s seat, push-button start, a keyless-entry keypad, backup parking sensors, a sequential sport shifter, SiriusXM radio, a security system, an outside-temperature display, fog lamps, heated door mirrors and turn-signal mirrors. XLT options include a power hands-free lift gate, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, MyFord Touch with an 8-in center touchscreen, navigation, 9-speaker premium audio, middle-row captain’s chairs, a dual-panel power moonroof, leather seats, heated front seats and steering wheel, inflatable rear seat belts, forward sensing, a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert and 20-in alloy wheels.
Choosing the Limited trim adds leather upholstery, a heated power tilt-telescopic steering wheel, heated front- and second-row seats, driver’s-seat memory, a garage-door opener, a rear cargo net, adjustable pedals, 20-in alloy wheels, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, SYNC voice-activated infotainment with Wi-Fi and text-to-voice capability, HD Radio, navigation, a power-folding third-row seat, electronic gauges, remote starting, a 12-speaker Sony premium audio system, forward sensing, a front 180-degree camera, hands-free lift gate and a 110-volt outlet. Available options include adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, middle-row captain’s chairs, active park assist, auto high beams and a lane-keeping system.
The aptly named Sport trim features the 365-hp twin-turbo EcoBoost V6, 4-wheel drive, heated leather seats, a 12-speaker Sony audio system, sport suspension, Terrain management, a class-III trailer hitch, a black grille and 20-in wheels. Options include a rear center console and 2-tone leather seats.
The new range-topping Platinum brings the EcoBoost V6, perforated and quilted leather seats, leather-and-wood steering wheel, a leather-wrapped door and console trim, Enhanced Active Park Assist, a dual-panel sunroof, 20-in alloys, adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing wipers and collision-warning and lane-keeping systems.
Ford’s car-based 2016 Explorer continues to be a hit with families looking for a large, roomy 3-row crossover with carlike ride and handling. Expect to pay more for 4WD models, especially in snowy areas.
To get a good idea of the 2016 Explorer’s price range, check out KBB.com. You can also search the Autotrader Classifieds to see which models are for sale in your area.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued the following recalls for the 2016 Explorer:
Loose front power seat adjuster bolts may allow the front seat cushions to detach in a crash, creating an increased injury risk.
Incorrect wheel hub bearing assemblies may allow a wheel to detach, increasing the risk of a crash.
The frame welds on the manually reclining driver’s seat may be too weak to restrain the occupant in a crash.
The heating element on 2.3-liter models with an engine block heater may overheat, creating a fire risk.
On models built on 7/24/2015, the fuel tank strap bolts may be loose, allowing the tank to separate, leak fuel and create a fire risk.
The parking brake may not engage fully when applied, and if the transmission shift lever is not placed in Park, the vehicle may roll away, increasing the risk of a crash.
Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed, and if not, they’ll fix the car at no charge to you.
Safety Ratings & Warranties
The 2016 Explorer a 5-star overall NHTSA rating, with five stars in both frontal and side impacts and four stars for rollover performance.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2016 Explorer Good ratings for side and rear impacts, roof strength and moderate-overlap front impacts, but only a Marginal rating for small-overlap front impacts.
Ford sold the 2016 Explorer with a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, a 5-year/unlimited-distance corrosion-perforation warranty and 5 years/60,000 miles of roadside assistance.
Ford certified pre-owned vehicles can’t be more than 5 years old or have more than 80,000 miles. Every certified pre-owned Explorer undergoes a 172-point inspection. Each receives a 12-month/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and has powertrain coverage for 7 years or 100,000 miles — whichever occurs first. Also included are a vehicle-history report and roadside assistance.
Other Cars to Consider
2016 Chevrolet Traverse — Like the Explorer, Chevy’s Traverse can seat seven. Its second-row seat slides fore and aft, and the third-row seats can accommodate adults. Cargo space tops the Explorer’s. Safety gear includes optional lane-departure alert and forward-collision warning. OnStar with 4G LTE brings an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot. The 288-hp 3.6-liter V6 is rated to tow up to 5,200 pounds.
2016 Toyota Highlander — Toyota’s largest crossover offers room for up to eight passengers, but much less cargo space than the Explorer. It’s available with front- or all-wheel drive with a fuel-saving 185-hp 2.7-liter 4-cylinder or peppy 3.5-liter V6 that packs 270 hp. An all-wheel-drive-only gas-electric hybrid version offers 231 hp and 27 mpg city/28 mpg hwy.
If you’re into performance, check out the 365-hp twin-turbo Explorer Sport or luxurious Platinum. Otherwise, we’d advise choosing a reasonably well-equipped XLT or Limited equipped with either the naturally aspirated V6, or the new, upsized 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder. Just keep in mind that the EcoBoost delivers the best mileage if running premium fuel and driven gently. The 4,500-lb Explorer is a lot of vehicle to be pulled around by a 4-cylinder engine. Look for lower-mileage vehicles when possible. Also, going with a Ford certified pre-owned vehicle is always a wise choice. Check with the dealer to make sure all relevant safety recalls have been performed.