Next to the F-150 and the Mustang, the Ford Explorer is among the company’s most recognized and hallowed nameplates of the modern era. That’s what Ford’s Vice President of the Americas Joe Hinrichs said at the Los Angeles Auto Show reveal of the new 2016 model, which commemorates 25 years of the groundbreaking SUV. In that quarter-century, Explorer has been one of the most successful SUVs ever introduced. Therefore, the company must take great care when overhauling such an icon, and at this point, Ford’s had some practice tinkering with such popular models; both the Mustang and F-150 have been redesigned recently, too.
Over the last two-and-a-half decades, the Explorer has seen itself transform from the boxy, truck-like utility vehicle into a sleek, smooth, suburban family hauler that prioritizes softer angles and lines and a more car-like presence. Apparently, though, Ford is hoping to bring back a bit more of its truck-inspired heritage, and it shows in the new 2016 model.
The front has been given a completely new look that’s more rugged looking and more solid; one that appears better suited to fighting the elements instead of the elementary school parking lots. The SUV retains a very similar shape to the outgoing model, but small nips and tucks all over the body (aside from the obvious redesign) add up to a rather significantly different looking vehicle.
There’s a slew of new features adorning the Explorer, too, so it’s more than just a pretty new face. It has both front- and rear-facing cameras and, in an industry first, they’re equipped with washers similar to what you’d find for your windshield or on some headlights. USB ports are found throughout the cabin, to charge whatever gadgets may need it, and active grille shutters in the upper and lower fascia openings which close at highway speeds to reduce drag, the company said in a statement. Shutters will open for better airflow to cool the powertrain in a process that will reduce overall vehicle drag.
There have been some seismic changes under the hood, too. Ford did away with the 2.0 liter EcoBoost four-cylinder that is found in the current models, and has replaced it with the 2.3 liter EcoBoost engine that debuted in the 2015 Mustang. Ford promises “at least” 270 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, and notes that it will be available on the base, XLT, and Limited series Explorers. The Sport will retain the 365 horsepower EcoBoost V6.
But perhaps the most noticeable change to the Explorer is the addition of the new Platinum package (seen above), which introduces a new range-topping option for buyers. Those already familiar with Ford’s offerings will recognize the name from the existing top trims for the 2015 F-150 and Expedition. This new trim will offer Ford buyers a whole new level of comfort that will allow the automaker to compete with the GMC Denali as well as the higher trims offered by Jeep.
On the business end of things, Ford gives itself an opportunity to rake in better profit margins by adding the high-end trim to its Explorer line. According to Matt Zuehlk, Explorer brand manager, the audience for Explorer Platinum is already in place.
“There’s a market for more upscale SUVs, as 90% of today’s Explorer Sport buyers purchase the most expensive package available,” Zuehlk said. “That’s a strong signal customers are ready for Platinum.”