TRAVERSE CITY, MI – The ’17 Ford Explorer Platinum all-wheel-drive SUV is loaded with technology and luxury touches that bear little in common with its rather pedestrian predecessors.
Let’s begin with our 245-mile (394-km) road test from Detroit to the Center for Automotive Research’s annual Management Briefing Seminars here.
Approximately 80% of the trip was freeway driving at around 75 mph (121 km/h). Ford rates fuel economy from its 3.5L EcoBoost V-6 with 6-speed automatic transmission at 18/22 mpg (13-10.7 L/100 km) city/highway. During my trek, the trip computer reports a respectable 19.7 mpg (11.9 L/100 km) over mostly flat roads, although hilly during the final 70 miles (113 km).
Ford offers a cacophony of advanced features and luxury niceties, which are reflected in the Explorer Platinum’s sticker price of $54,080. The only options are the second-row bucket seats and console (costing $845), putting it in luxury territory.
So what do you get for the money? A well-appointed interior including quilted leather on seats and door panels; woodgrain accents on the instrument panel, doors and steering wheel; both analog and digital gauges; remote start; voice-activated navigation; moon roof; and an easy-to-use infotainment system featuring a high-resolution touchscreen for access to audio, climate controls and other vehicle information.
Front buckets provide both heating and cooling, and the rear seats also are heated.
Most appreciated are simple power-folding third-row seats controlled with buttons mounted on a panel near the liftgate. With the third row down, the cargo hold swallows several sets of golf clubs.
To take advantage of the Explorer’s many technical features, I recommend a dealership tutorial and at least a minimal acquaintance with the owner’s manual.
I learned on the fly, so to speak, experimenting with several of the Explorer’s advanced features, such as adaptive cruise control.
ACC is great on the highway, allowing us to choose a cruising speed and set the distance to the vehicle ahead. Set it and forget it. All I have to do is steer.
Similarly, lane-keeping systems are becoming more common in today’s vehicles. I hadn’t tried this technology previously and was somewhat startled when I crept too close to the lane marker and the steering wheel vibrated sharply, then pulled the vehicle into the proper lane. Perhaps it’s a partial solution to distracted driving.
I also liked the numerous perimeter alarms identifying obstacles in front, behind and “next door” when parking.
Exterior touches include side-view mirrors that fold inward when the engine is turned off; rain-sensing windshield wipers; LED signature lighting; and a body-color rear spoiler.
Observations during the trip: Pleasant ride on both smooth and patchy roads; extremely low wind noise; fast-acting climate control; height of seats excellent for forward viewing and overall comfort; and easy-to-use voice controls.