2016 Ford Explorer Overview
Pros & Cons
- Powerful engine options
- Fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine
- Unwieldy infotainment system
- Limited view of the road
- Cramped second row
- Low predicted reliability score
Notable for 2016
- Refreshed exterior styling
- Updated climate and audio controls
- New turbocharged four-cylinder engine
- New top-tier Platinum trim
- Perpendicular park assist and hands-free power liftgate now available
Ford Explorer Rankings and Research
The 2016 Ford Explorer ranking is based on its score within the Midsize SUVs category. Currently the Ford Explorer has a score of 7.8 out of 10 which is based on our evaluation of 61 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.
2016 Ford Explorer Pictures
2016 Ford Explorer Review
The 2016 Ford Explorer is one of our lowest-ranking midsize SUVs. Our analysis of professional reviews and data reveals that critics like the available turbocharged four-cylinder engine for its fuel efficiency and the available turbocharged V6 for its power. However, the Explorer's seats aren't especially roomy or comfortable, and its infotainment system can be a chore to use.
The Explorer has a base price of about $31,000, which is comparable to competitors' starting prices. Be aware that you'll have to jump up to at least the limited trim – starting around $41,000 – to get many convenience and driver assistance features. And if you want the best version of the Explorer, you're looking at the fully loaded Platinum trim, which can cost well over $50,000 – more than pretty much every rival.
The Explorer has a below-average predicted reliability score compared to its class rivals, but Ford does back the Explorer with a three-year warranty.
Powerful Engine Lineup
The Explorer's base engine is a 3.5-liter V6 that has plenty of power for daily driving activities like heading to and from work or running errands. It also has the acceleration to get by slower cars on the highway without too much of a fuss. However, it only gets an estimated 17 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway. That's on the low end for a midsize SUV, as rivals like the Kia Sorento (21/29), Toyota Highlander (20/25), and Honda Pilot (19/27) are more fuel efficient.
If you want better gas mileage, you can go with the available turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It'll cost you an extra $1,000, but it's about as powerful as the base V6, and its fuel economy ratings are close to class leaders at 19 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway.
The truly power-hungry drivers will want to go for the Explorer's turbocharged V6 engine, which puts out 365 horsepower. It rivals the power output of the V8 engines offered by competitors like the Dodge Durango and will throw you back in your seat when you accelerate. It also gets only marginally worse fuel economy than the base engine, earning an estimated 16 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway. However, you can only get this engine on the Sport and Platinum trims, which carry a five-figure increase over the starting price of the lower trims.
Serene and Spry
You and your family will appreciate the Explorer's smooth ride. It remains composed and comfortable even over rough pavement, so you don't have to worry about anyone spilling their drinks when you hit a pothole.
The Explorer has pretty good agility for a large vehicle, and the Sport trim has a firmer suspension that will allow you to be a little more zealous on winding roads.
Front-wheel drive is standard on the Explorer, but it is available with all-wheel drive, which provides better traction during inclement weather. AWD models do get slightly worse fuel economy than their FWD counterparts.
Climb into the Explorer, and you'll immediately see why it got one of the lowest interior scores in the class. The unmemorable cabin design is exacerbated by the lackluster materials quality. The higher trims – especially the Platinum – do use nicer materials and have a better overall look and feel, but they still fall short of the standards set by some rivals' cabins like the Buick Enclave.
The seating situation isn't much better. The driver's seat offers little thigh support, so you may be uncomfortable on long drives, and forward visibility is obstructed by thick roof pillars and a high dashboard.
The second row provides less space than you'll find in competitors, and it's not great if you have small children either; there's barely enough room to install a rear-facing car seat. However, the second row does feature complete child seat attachment (LATCH) hardware in each seat, and one seat in the third row has partial LATCH hardware.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the LATCH connectors in the Explorer as acceptable overall (the second-highest score possible) for ease of use, however, the connecters in the third-row seat gets a marginal rating (the second-lowest). These ratings indicate that installing car seats with LATCH in the second row of the Explorer is something of a chore but putting one in the third row is onerous. The third row is also confining and is best-suited for children, but that's not uncommon in 3-row SUVs.
Cumbersome Infotainment System
No matter how great a vehicle's features are, they are worth considerably less if it drives you insane to try to use them. Welcome to the Ford Explorer, which is available with the MyFord Touch touch-screen infotainment system. The system is counterintuitive and less user-friendly than rival systems like the one in the Dodge Durango.
While the infotainment system is something of a letdown, there are some features that you'll enjoy. The available Sony audio systems deliver excellent sound quality, and parents will appreciate Ford's MyKey, which comes standard. MyKey allows parents to monitor their kids' seat belt usage and limit the vehicle's top speed and audio volume without even being in the car, so you don't have to worry about new drivers trying to show off for their friends.
Convenient Cargo Features
The Explorer doesn't really stand out for its cargo capacity. It has 21 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third-row seats, 43.9 cubic feet with the third row folded, and 81.7 cubic feet with both rear rows folded. Those numbers are typical for the class, but they still fall far short of some rivals like the Chevy Traverse.
The Ford Explorer's second and third rows fold completely flat, making it easier to carry long items, like boards or furniture. Power-folding second- and third-row seats are available. A hands-free power liftgate is also available, which can be helpful when your hands are full and you can't reach your keys.
Options, Trims, and Pricing
The base Explorer has a starting price around $31,000, which is right in line with competitors like the Dodge Durango and Honda Pilot. However, the highest Explorer trim will end up costing you somewhere in the mid-$50,000s, which is thousands of dollars more than you'd pay for the GMC Acadia or Mazda CX-9.
The XLT trim costs about $33,000 and adds standard features like rear parking sensors, a power-adjustable driver's seat, and satellite radio. The XLT is available with two equipment groups that offer additional features. The lower equipment group costs about $1,600 and includes Ford’s SYNC voice control interface with MyFord Touch, a 9-speaker audio system, and a power-adjustable passenger seat. The higher equipment group costs about $4,000 and includes all of the lower group's features plus leather-trimmed and heated front seats.
The Limited goes for around $41,000 and comes standard with a 12-speaker Sony audio system, heated and cooled front seats, a hands-free liftgate, and SYNC with MyFord Touch. Like the XLT, the Limited offers a couple of equipment groups that provide extra features. The lower group costs around $3,000 and includes many driver assistance features like blind spot monitoring, enhanced active park assist, and lane departure warning with lane keep assist. The higher group includes all of these features and some styling upgrades for an extra $1,000.
The highest trim is the Platinum which starts around $53,000 and comes standard with almost every feature the Explorer offers, including a turbocharged V6 engine, a dual-panel moonroof and a 500-watt premium Sony audio system.
The Explorer also offers a sport trim for about $43,500. As the name implies, it's a bit more performance-oriented than the others and comes standard with Ford's Intelligent four-wheel drive with a Terrain Management system. Leather upholstery and a 12-speaker Sony audio system are also standard. The Sport only offers one equipment group. It costs about $4,300 and includes blind spot monitoring, voice-activated navigation, heated and cooled front seats, and a hands-free liftgate.
The base, XLT, and Limited trims all come standard with a 3.5-liter V6 engine, but they're available with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine (for an extra $1,000) that gets better fuel economy. The same three trims also come standard with front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is available for an extra $2,000.
Another notable feature that's available on all but the base trim is the dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system, which plays DVDs and has the screens built into the front headrests. It'll cost you an extra $2,000, but after a long drive with kids in the back, that may seem like a bargain.
Explorer Safety and Reliability
The 2016 Explorer was given a five-star overall safety rating by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It also earned a rating of Good (the highest rating) in three out of four crash tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. However, it did register a below-average score on the fourth test.
The only standard driver assistance feature in the Explorer is a rearview camera, but several more are available.
Options like front and rear parking sensors and a wide-view front camera can help you when you're parallel parking, or you can get parallel and perpendicular park assist, which steers for you while you work the pedals.
Other features are geared more toward highway driving, such as blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control, which all help you with the tedious parts of driving, like following distance and staying in your lane, so you can focus on what's important.
The Explorer does have a below-average predicted reliability rating, but Ford covers the Explorer with a three-year/36,000-mile warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Other SUVs to Consider
Families concerned with cargo and passenger space should consider the Chevrolet Traverse. It has one of the highest cargo capacities among all SUVs and offers nearly 35 more cubic feet of space than the Explorer. Its first two rows of seats have plenty of head- and legroom, and the second-row seats slide forward and backward to increase legroom in the second or third row as needed. The Traverse's base price is similar to the Explorer's, but a fully loaded Traverse will cost you several thousand dollars less than a fully loaded Explorer. The Traverse is such a good value that it won our Best Large SUV for the Money award.
The Honda Pilot is one of the best all-around 3-row SUVs on the market, winning our Best 3-Row SUV for the Money and our Best 3-Row SUV for Families awards. The Pilot has a roomier interior than the Explorer. The front seats are among the most comfortable in its class, and all three rows have enough room for adults. The Pilot has better crash test ratings than the Explorer, and it offers more active safety features like lane departure warning and automatic pre-collision braking. The Pilot's starting price is about the same as the Explorer's, but the Pilot costs significantly less on the high end.
Details: 2016 Ford Explorer
The 2016 Ford Explorer seats up to seven and comes in base, XLT, Limited, Sport, and Platinum trims. A V6 engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive are standard. All-wheel drive is available, as is a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The Sport and Platinum trims come with a turbocharged V6.
The Ford Explorer receives a fairly extensive refresh for 2016, but it hasn't been fully redesigned since 2011. As a result, this overview uses applicable research and reviews from the 2011 through 2016 model years.
Standard features in the 2016 Explorer include a six-speaker audio system, Ford's SYNC voice control interface, a rearview camera, a USB port, and Ford's MyKey.
Available features include leather upholstery; front seats that are heated, cooled, and power-adjustable; a heated steering wheel; heated second-row seats; a power-folding third-row seat; a hands-free power liftgate; front and rear parking sensors; a front wide-view camera; a 12-speaker Sony audio system; satellite radio; dual-zone automatic climate control; proximity key; navigation; push-button start; parallel and perpendicular park assist; forward collision warning; blind spot monitoring; lane keep assist; a moonroof; adaptive cruise control; and the MyFord Touch infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen.
- "Ford didn't reinvent the wheel with this version of the Explorer, but it has focused on fixing some things that needed it - like the climate controls - and improving in areas where it could do better, like replacing the old 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Overall, it's a promising revision." -- Cars.com
- "The good news is that they didn't make any obvious mistakes with the new model. Put another way, if you liked the 2015, you should like the 2016 at least a bit more." -- AutoWeek
- "The 2015 Ford Explorer isn't as versatile or roomy as some other large, three-row crossover SUVs, but it is still a respectable pick in this class thanks to its high-end cabin, improved safety and driver aids and comfortable highway ride." -- Edmunds (2015)
Research Prices: 2016 Ford Explorer
Over 75,000 car shoppers have purchased a car through the U.S. News Best Price Program. Our pricing beats the national average 86% of the time with shoppers receiving average savings of $3,279 off MSRP across vehicles. See what others paid for the Ford Explorer and get upfront pricing to make sure you don't overpay. Learn More »
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