The Ford Explorer may be responsible for starting the SUV craze, and arrives in showrooms for 2016 with updated sheet metal and some new turbocharged power.

Pricing and Equipment

If one vehicle can take the credit for igniting America's SUV passion, it's the Explorer. Offered with front- or four-wheel drive, the redesigned for 2016 Ford Explorer extends the long and healthy life of the brand’s midsize SUV with three-row seating for six or seven passengers.

There are no fewer than three available engines:

  • The base 3.5-liter V-6 produces 290 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque.
  • A new-for-the-model turbocharged 2.3-liter inline-four generates 280 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque.
  • A powerful twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 creates 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. All Explorers with this engine have standard four-wheel drive.

And buyers choose from five trim levels:

  • The $31,050 Base model includes Ford’s SYNC infotainment system and 18-inch painted aluminum wheels.
  • The XLT starts at $34,400 and features signature LED lighting, pushbutton start, and a rear sensing system.
  • The Limited adds a heated steering wheel, a hands-free lightgate, and a power-folding third-row seat. Prices start at $41,300.
  • The Sport features Ford’s powerful twin-turbo V6, 20-inch aluminum wheels, four-wheel drive and more. It's priced from $43,500.
  • The top-trim Platinum package retails for $52,970 and also gets power from the twin-turbo V6. It includes a dual-panel moonroof, a premium Sony audio system, unique 20-inch aluminum alloys and much more.

Performance Pros

Ford Explorer

Ford has re-energized the Explorer for the 2016 model year with a pair of the manufacturer's finest EcoBoost engines.

  • The old 2-liter has been replaced with the Mustang's 2.3-liter inline-four, which adds 40 horsepower to the formula. While not the most exciting combination of the line, it offers excellent gas mileage at 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined (slightly lower with four-wheel drive) and provides meaningful go-power once you're rolling.
  • The base 3.6-liter V6 is less efficient, but offers similar performance numbers and saves $995 on the sticker price.
  • The top-spec twin-turbo V6 is wonderfully powerful -- some outlets have recorded sub-6-second times to 60 mph -- and still uses regular unleaded gas.
  • Ford’s six-speed automatic transmission provides smooth, crisp shifts.

Performance Cons

  • The top EcoBoost V6 is only available with four-wheel-drive
  • The 2.3-liter EcoBoost offers great power but feels slower than it is off the line. You mash the throttle and wonder if you're really feeling 310 pound-feet of torque or not. Buyers may be just as happy with the excellent V6 that comes standard.

Interior Pros

Ford Explorer Interior
  • Seating for up to seven with notably comfortable front seats -- dropping to a six-passenger configuration brings equal comfort to second-row captain's chairs.
  • The Explorer’s wrap-around interior design is attractive, and the use of real aluminum and wood accents brings a level of richness to the Platinum trim that rivals some luxury brand offerings.
  • The modern tech features that Ford has loaded onto the Explorer, especially in the higher trim levels, are excellent.

Interior Cons

  • Passengers might complain that the standard second-row bench seat lacks the comfort of the front-row beauties. Padding seems a little thin, and the middle seat is more of a "plus one" than a true third passenger option.
  • The third row is even shorter on space -- it should probably be reserved for small children or unwelcome adult passengers whom you feel deserve to be taught a lesson.

The Most Pleasant Surprise

The power of the twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 combined with the grip of Ford’s four-wheel drive system turns the Explorer into a hot rod for grown ups with up to five kids.

The Least Pleasant Surprise

The pros of the small 2.3-liter EcoBoost are outweighed by the cons of additional cost when compared to the standard V6 and so-so performance when compared to the amazing performance of the EcoBoost V6.

The Bottom Line

Ford Explorer Side

For individuals looking for a time-tested and relatively affordable midsize SUV, the Explorer continues to be an excellent choice. For families who need comfortable seating and cargo space for four, the Explorer is a top pick -- but larger families may want to investigate the Explorer’s big brother Expedition or strike out and explore other segment competitors altogether.