LOS ANGELES, CA – It may not hit the streets for several months, but the 2016 Ford Explorer hits the stage today at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. Ford took advantage of the fact so many members of the global media were gathered here, to give us a sneak peak before the official reveal.
The Explorer is a hugely significant vehicle for Ford because it is sold in more than 100 countries around the world.
"It is difficult to explain how important the utility segment if for us, and the Explorer in particular,” James D. Farley Jr. told us. The executive vice-president and new president of Ford Europe, Middle East and Africa said utilities are the fastest growing segment of the industry with an additional growth of 90% expected by 2020 globally.
Demand for SUVs has risen more than 88% since 2008. In Europe, the utility segment of the market has grown 72% with big ones up 21%. Utility vehicles accounted for 23% of the company’s global sales last year, up from 17% a year earlier.
And, Farley said, Ford will sell more than one-million vehicles in China this year where the utility segment is growing at an astonishing rate.
Introduced in 1990 as a 1991 model, the Explorer has been the best-selling vehicle in its segment for most of the intervening years. Ford builds one every two minutes at its Chicago plant.
Against this backdrop it is not difficult to see why so much attention has been lavished on the next generation Explorer.
Plenty of new in 2016 model
The refreshed 2016 Explorer gets a new look, a new engine, a new trim level and a raft of new technologies.
It will continue to be available in base, XLT, Limited and Sports trim lines. But a new range-topping Platinum series will be added, a luxury-laden model with all the bells and whistles standard and no options.
Ford says it will hold prices for the new Explorer at $1,000 above the current model despite the additional equipment and features. The full-zoot Platinum version has been tagged at $59,650 including freight.
Three engine choices
The standard engine on base, XLT and Limited models will be a normally-aspirated 3.5-litre V-6 producing an estimated 290 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque. Also available on those trim levels will be Ford's 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder, introduced with the 2015 Mustang.
Benefitting from a higher compression ratio, an active wastegate and reduced friction, it will replace the current 2.0-litre EcoBoost four, bringing 12.5% more horsepower and 11% more torque with the same level of fuel consumption.
Ford says the new engine will reduce 90-to-120 km/h passing times by 10% and allow an Explorer with that engine to have a Class II hitch and 3,000-lb tow rating, even with AWD.
The standard engine on the 2015 Sport and Platinum models will be an EcoBoost version of the 3.5-litre V-6 putting out an estimated 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque.
All models will come with a six-speed automatic transmission and a new AWD system will have a “Terrain Management System capable of assessing conditions 20 times faster than you can blink your eye in assessing the optimal amount of front and rear torque."
New technical features
The 2016 Explorer will have a number of new technical features including wide-angle cameras at both ends capable of providing a 180-degree view and, in a most welcome development, both will have washers so you won’t have to wipe the lens off with your finger in order to see in nasty weather.
Aew Explorer equipped with Park Assist will not only help the driver slide into tight parking spots, it will help get them out too – automatically.
There will also be a pair of smart-charging USB ports, one for the front seats and one for the rear capable of charging devices more quickly. If you have a 110-volt devi, no problem, since the new Explorer will also have a 110-volt inverter.
It will also have a hands-free liftgate and an exclusive 500-watt Sony audio system with two new Sony developments - “Live Acoustics” and “Clear Phase” technology.
Platinum series a big deal
The addition of the Platinum series may not be life-altering to those pinching pennies, but it is a big deal at Ford. How big? For the first time in the company’s lengthy and storied history the Blue oval will no longer be blue! At least the one in the center of the steering wheel won’t be. It will be brushed aluminum to harmonize with the real aluminum and real wood used for trim.
A massive 25-cm digital display dominates the instrument panel, augmented by an analog one. The special contoured seats and instrument panel are wrapped in supple Nirvana leather, the wood and leather trimmed steering wheel is heated and the door bolsters quilted.
Farley said 90% of Explorer buyers want more. They tend to go to the higher trim levels and load them with options. The Platinum series will give them another rung on the trim level ladder to climb.