The all-new 2016 Ford Explorer Sport 3.5l-V6 Ecoboost 4WD.
Go faster and explore new vistas!
This is a special moment for me as I am testing the all-new 2016 Ford Explorer Sport v2. Albeit for the fact that v2 is not the part of the official name, I will tell you why, later?
Explorer started life not long ago in early 90’s. Just like the grunge rock, whereupon it can be considered as modern as Generation Y! And just like the grunge-rock-wave, Explorer was all over the USA. Blue jeans open checkered shirt with a t-shirt underneath complete the rugged look of going-out-and-about family guy and who love to drive Ford Explorer.
Things were, however getting a bit challenging for FoMoCo here in UAE in early 2000. Low sales and lack of expected customer service led Ford to terminate the previous dealership contract. Ford bounced back in mid-2000 and got back on track with the new local dealership. However, the damage was already done and Ford lost quite a bit of ground. Getting the market traction wasn’t easy. despite the scattered sand, something happened a guy with his wife walked into the Sheikh Zayed showroom and ordered a newly launched ’07 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer! Yes, that was me!
Those were the times when was Ford was undergoing a massive restructuring process costing a huge sum. Just-in was the newly appointed CEO and President, Alan Mulally. Immediately the first thing Alan did was to sow the seed of ‘One Ford’ concept – combining all the global operation to produce modern cohesive and unified products. Today Ford is reaping the results happily.
Alan also took a strong decision on the part of the ‘way-forward’ program was to offload its pack of premium products like Aston Martin, JLR, and Volvo. Yet, Ford still retained the technology sharing aspect with these companies.
Mine, 2007 fourth generation Ford Explorer was the first one due to be changed to the newer platform. A hint was shown in the shape of 2008 Ford Explorer America Concept at 2008 NAIS. In contrast to my Ford Explorer with medieval 4.0 V6 mated to a 5 Speed gearbox which was built on the trucklike body-on-frame platform the all-new 2011 Ford Explorer was revealed on a modified Unibody platform based on Volvo D4 car-like front wheel drive platform. It was then the all-new 2011 fifth generation Ford Explorer v1. And until now since 2011 Ford has sold more than whooping 7 million Explorers!
This time to test drive the 2016 Ford Explorer Sport Ecoboost 4WD, I took the opportunity to take the car into the rugged wadis of Jebel Jais. It’s the highest peak in the UAE, standing as high as 1934 meters in the state of Ras al-Khaimah. A scenic route where I will be stomping the race pedal on the straight roads, steering into the challenging hairpins, often with steep gradients to check the brakes and gearshifts. With all seven seats taken and the rest of the cargo space is filled up to the brim with picnic kit. A perfect setting to put Ford explorer before our standard critical criteria and ratings mentioned below:
· Appearance & Design
· Performance and Handling
Fresh Look – 8/ 10
This all-new 2016 Ford Explorer totally freshen up from the front. Explorer was missing the ultra-modern glitzy elements, hence all are applied in the shape of surround LED DRLs while retaining the signature look of dark sporty appearance. The highly visible bold EXPLORER badge on the hood and then the newly redesigned front grille and with new large fog lamps form a part of the freshened-up bumper – that also incorporates air vent slits for better aerodynamics. The Explorer Sport also features unique 20-inch machined aluminum wheels, which really looks great. In the rear, again the blackened sporty tail lights feature LED element and darkened strip across the liftgate again with bold EXPLORER lettering.
Ford Explorer still identifiable among many vehicles in this segment, thanks to its character lines running on sides enhancing the bold looks and the same time floating roof that’s actually made it looks sleeker. The dual chrome tip angular exhaust tips complete the exterior appearance of the 2016 Ford Explorer Sport. However, as opposed to my 4th gen Explorer the new one lacks the sidestep, which is identified by my wife and kids while climbing up the Explorer.
Inside the cabin, the 2016 Explorer is again refreshed and this time Ford paid extra attention to improve the feel and quality. The steering is also new this time with d-pads on both sides to access various features you can think of. I liked the clean look of the dashboard, especially the metallic carbon fiber accent strip wrapped around cockpit section part of the Sport appearance package along with piano black trim inserts that keep the finger marks. Moreover, after listening the customer’s feedback Ford removed the digital ‘touch-activated’ functions to the conventional physical buttons to operate climate aircon, radio, and the external camera with more ease. Also, you will get an 8 inch MyFord touch screen comes with GPS Navigation. Although I will highly recommend asking for an upgraded version of the navigation maps as it never found Jabel Jais!
Overall the interior is a nice place to be as the large captain seats are comfortable yet they lack the snug feeling of true sports car seat and of course I am not an American size XXL driver either. To increase more in the middle seat area the front setbacks are now redesigned to accommodate longer legs or provide extra space in the knee area.
Now the nitpicking! I feel the driver door trim does not perfectly align with the dashboard. Not that this can be easily noticed, but once you notice it keeps bugging the mind. Also, compared to Nissan and Honda – both having the better and easier middle seat folding mechanism. And because of the old style folding system in Explorer those large plastic cover to hide the hinges looks pretty awkward. In my opinion, the plastic claddings between the seats should be covered with at least faux leather to improve the look and feel.
Little wonder, my 8 year and 13-year-old daughters felt the cabin feels a bit cramped as oppose to my 4th Gen Explorer. Even though there’s enough space for two to ride comfortably in the 3rd-row seats. Annoyingly the 3rd-row seats are fitted with the elephant’s ear sized headrest that almost blocks the rear vision. Now I will not comment on the leg space or headroom which is decent and by-the-way third-row is generally utilized by the kids rather than full-size adults.
Power-pack Performance – 8.5/ 10
The best part of the Explorer Sport is its beefy 3.5l V6 twin-turbo engine or Ecoboost in Ford parlance. Ford made sure that the ‘Sport’ badge isn’t just a mere marketing gimmick hence the engine compartment is augmented with the tower to tower brace to stiffen up the chassis. To enhance the dynamic experience of Explorer Sport, it is also benefited unique steering gear, front and rear springs, struts and rear dampers.
The first thing is the 3.5l V6 Ecoboost delivers the V8 matching power. With 370 horsepower on tap and 350 lb-ft of torque, enough to provide aplomb to climb up the hill. The moment you drive Explorer Sport the feel of the heft is unavoidable. Surprisingly, it covers 0-60 in 6 assuring seconds. That was good enough to know as I confidently over-taken a freight train long line of cars that you can only think if you’re in a powerful GT sports car. The Six-speed SelectShift with Sport mode and paddle shifter behind the steering wheel makes you certain that the Sport badge did the job! The Explorer Sport comes with standard 255/55R20s all around, there’s plenty of grip around the bends and body roll is fairly checked with MacPherson suspension and an isolated subframe attached to 32-millimeter stabilizer bar at the front, while an independent multilink rear setup uses a 22-millimeter stabilizer bar.
All Explorers (trims with 4WD) come equipped with the intelligent Terrain Management system. Similar to Ranger Rover. Ford says it reassesses conditions about 20 times faster than the blink of an eye, all it requires is to dial a road condition input from the driver and the 4WD system reacts accordingly. I find it quite handy while driving on the loose gravel, rocks, and ruts in the Jebel Jais wadis.
It’s hard to find any complaints about the performance and handling as the ride is quite smooth in the city. The NVH is hard to notice thanks to new door seals, and an enhanced sound package includes engine subframe mounts specially tuned to reduce vibration. Acoustic glass is used on the windshield and front doors to cancel the noise. However, I am not satisfied with driving position compared to my old Explorer. You sit low in 2016 Explorer and there is not enough to see past the hood unless you’re 6ft tall, which err I’m not. Also, your elbow rest way down under the window. It’s more like a driving a sedan rather than sitting high – a classic SUV position.
Safety – 8.5/ 10
The 2016 Ford Explorer Sport 3.5l Ecoboost 4WD, has already achieved the NHTSA 5 Star safety rating to ensure peace of mind for the customers and the passengers. Explorer Sport comes equipped with a host of intelligent safety features like BLIS (Blind Spot indicator) front and rear 180 degree-view cameras with enhanced Active Park Assist, Lane-keeping system to avoid any unintentional wavering on the road. From AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control (RSC) and Curve Control helps keep you in control on the straight and narrow and also in the turns and then Trailer Sway Control to maintain straight motion while towing a boat or any attached trailer. And above all industry first the second-row seat belt with airbags inside.
Buyer’s Guide to the Galaxy – 8.5/ 10
Here in the United Arab Emirates, there seem to be more SUVs than cars. In a sea of SUVs and CUVs, making a decision is quite challenging. The first thing that attracts customers after the appearance is the quality and availability of options. This 2016 Ford Explorer is not having any shortages. Dual Moonroof, dual video monitors and then cooled seats for the dreadful summer with remote pre-starter. Cracking sound system. Adaptive cruise control and power-folding 3rd row. The industry first, kick-to-open the rear hatch door while you are hands full with shopping bags and USB media jacks are all proper convenient feature.
From price point to the availability of auctions. Once you agree on those points, then look into the reliability factor and after sales and services. Sometimes and usually these are all different puzzles that need to combine and then you’ll get an eye opener of the actual price before the bank finance. However, from my standpoint, Ford had covered almost all those pieces. As a Ford dealership do provide 3 years and 60000 KMs service package that comes really handy!
I am already an owner of a 2007 Ford Explorer, many a time I thought about changing my car, according to my needs that include excursions and picnic trips with family hauling and listening to grunge rock. With 3.5 l V6 Ecoboost, honestly speaking, Explorer Sport is the car that fits my requirement. The price starts from AED 210,000 is a bit steep at least for me, however, it does check all the boxes to keep that ear-to-ear smile on the face for long.