2016 Ford Explorer Platinum = Great Luxury SUV

By Bob Long

Recently I had the opportunity to sample the reworked Explorer for 2016 and in particular had extra drive time in the all new Flagship model the Platinum edition.

I love Range Rover’s think of this as an American Blue Oval alternative  with a much lower price tag. With a base price starting at $53,000, the Explorer Platinum aims for customers who simply “want everything” in a simple  prepackaged model.  The folks at Ford say there are quite a few of those buyers out there in the marketplace.

Platinum is also meant to lure customers away from imports that may not have as much interior room or capability for the money, and also encourage folks who might be looking at a Yukon Denali despite not needing the traditional truck like body on frame construction with all negatives that comes from that setup including rough ride and poor handling.

If love loaded SUV’s the Explorer Platinum gets pretty much every option from a 3.5-liter Ecoboost twin-turbo V6 under the hood to quilted-leather door panels, massaging front seats and heated second-row seats.

Ford has also joined the growing number of automakers offering birds-eye camera systems on their large size machines. The Explorer goes a step further with a front side-view camera that “peeks” around corners at blind intersections and the like, plus washer-fluid sprayers for the front and rear cameras. Those of you in southern states may find that silly, but if you contend with snow and salt six months of the year, the camera washers are a face-palm innovation you’ll be thrilled to have.

Otherwise, the story here is coddling accoutrements and loads of tech: Aluminum and ash trim on the instrument panel and doors, a wood-and-leather-covered heated steering wheel, Smart USB ports for faster charging, park assist (parallel and perpendicular), lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, LED headlights and a panoramic moon roof. Ford also made noise about its new 500-watt Sony audio system.  Although megawatt multi speaker stereos are nothing new. After spending time with a wide variety of music on the Sony system as the resident audiophile at North America Driver, I can attest to its consistently stunning soundstage.

The 3.5-liter Ecoboost engine doesn’t make this hefty beast fast; rather, it delivers on Ford’s marketing refrain about delivering V8 power in a V6 package. A healthy 365-hp output and 350 lb feet of torque, and it simply moves the Explorer along with ease in any situation. There is no turbo lag its seamless across the power band.Ford claims 5,000 pounds of towing capability for the EcoBoost V6; its use for years now in the F-150 should allay any durability concerns.

I love the a terrain-management AWD system that adjusts parameters based on conditions, chosen using a console-mounted knob with normal, snow, sand and mud settings. None offer this much sheer bang, though: There’s little doubt the Explorer Platinum gives buyers just about everything they could dream up in terms of equipment; the fact it still slots in tens of thousands of dollars below an equivalent Mercedes-Benz (or GMC Yukon Denali, for that matter.

The 2016 Explorer brings new looks, new technology, and new thinking to Ford’s ubiquitous midsize SUV. The refreshed exterior borrows from Land Rover’s styling, and the new interior brings more refinements and ease of use, especially for shorter buyers, or those put off by Ford’s touch-sensitive control interfaces and earlier versions of MyFord Touch.  I love that Ford has replaced or some of the touch screens with real buttons and knobs.  In other cases there are redundant buttons to compliment the touch screen

The Ford Explorer seats up to seven in its three rows, and thanks to its overall size even the third row offers room for adults. The second row comes as either a 3-person bench, or it can be had with two bucket seats. Fold both seating rows and you have generous cargo space.

The exterior styling updates to the new Ford Explorer don’t alter the basic silhouette of the SUV, but the details are quite nice. The new standard LED low-beam headlights, grille, and bumper in front give this mainstream SUV a first-glance resemblance to a Land Rover Range Rover. Changes to the rear are more subtle, and mostly consist of new tail lights.

The new Platinum model comes with premium  high-end leather, leather-covered dash, and other luxury items. It is a great place to spend time. The Platinum model comes loaded at base price of $53,000 its Eco-Boost V-6 delivers 16 mpg city and 22 highway This is least expensive luxury SUV on the market. The Explorer Platinum gives buyers just about everything they could dream up in terms of equipment; the fact it still slots in tens of thousands of dollars below an equivalent Mercedes-Benz or GMC Yukon Denali.

Its time to take a second look at the Explorer as the 2016 model is much improved and if you are thinking luxury SUV put the Platinum model on your shopping list.  You may just save yourself thousands of dollars over other comparative models.

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-AWD

Highlights

Styling

Comfort

Engine

Interior design and materials

Terrain Management System

Sony Sound System

Buttons and Knobs insread of 100% touchscreen

Lowlights

Not as off road capable as Jeep Cherokee

Scale 1 low-10 High

Exterior Styling 7

Interior styling and quality 9

Handling 6

Braking 7

Fuel Economy 6

Audio System 9

Performance 6

Trunk-Cargo Capacity 10

 

 

Zoom Zoom 2016 Maxda CX-9 Signature AWD Shines On Road.

 

By Bob Long

Over the 25 plus years that I been lucky to have a weekly press test vehicle to evaluate there are certain brands that have special place in my heart.  The Mazda brand has taken one of those spots as not only does the brand have a great lineup of vehicles all with sporting edge, but the folks at top of corporate ladder are true car people.

I have had the pleasure of interviewing folks like Mazda president Jim O”Sullivan dozens of times or VP Robert Davis also dozens of times. These are true car guys that live, sleep and eat Mazda.

I got extra drive time in the CX-9 Signature as the week I had the vehicle was the week Hurricane Mathew was moving into FL  With horrible forecasts predicting that this would be the ” Hurricane Andrew” for central Florida my wife and 6-year-old daughter fled to Pensacola FL to escape the storm and visit with fellow syndicated automotive  radio host Bobby Likis.

Our escape vehicle was the 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD that comes standard with just about everything you need and more.  Heated mirrors, a power liftgate with adjustable height stops, keyless ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, universal garage door opener, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alerts, and heated front seats are all standard. We were also were with treated with Nappa leather upholstery and an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support (front passenger’s seat is four-way power). There is an 8-inch infotainment display and two USB ports in the second-row center armrest.

The CX-9 Signature trim also includes 20-inch wheels, adaptive headlights, LED foglights, automatic wipers, roof rails, a sunroof, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, rear parking sensors, frontal collision mitigation warnings, a heads-up display, driver seat memory functions, retractable sunshades for the middle row seats, aluminum interior trim, additional interior lighting, a navigation system, a 12-speaker Bose premium audio system, and satellite radio. If that’s not enough, LED accent lighting and rosewood interior trim finish out the range-topping Signature CX-9.

Stepping inside the CX-9 Signature reveals a cabin that is befitting of an entry-level luxury model. . The second-row seats are comfortable and offer lots of legroom for taller passengers. Passengers appreciated the pull down shades and the climate control vents for extra comfort.

The third row can seat two, but adults will feel tight, especially on longer trips. It’s well suited for the younger kids in the family, however. There’s 14.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row. With the rear seats folded, capacity expands to 38.2 cubic feet. With both seats stowed, it opens up to 71.2 cubic feet.

The 2016 Mazda CX-9 puts the “zoom” into practical vehicles . If you want a mainstream 3-row SUV that is an adept family vehicle for school drop-offs and a rewarding personal vehicle for a spirited trip to the office or couples weekend getaway, this is it.
Like most Mazda vehicles, the CX-9 has long been the most athletic, fun-to-drive SUV in its class. That remains the case with the all-new version. The biggest difference is how Mazda’s 3-row SUV gets its motivation. Where the former version used a strong V6, this new model is powered by a small,hearty turbocharged 4-cylinder. Horsepower is down some, but torque is up translating into great off-the-line acceleration. Moreover, it’s more fuel efficient. The all-new Mazda CX-9 feels lighter, nimbler and even more athletic than its predecessor, while also boasting a quieter ride.

Thankfully, the new CX-9’s dynamic ways don’t come at the cost of a stiff suspension. T. Credit should also be given to the CX-9’s automatic transmission, a 6-speed that’s well-matched to this engine. Like other Mazda’s, this one has a Sport mode that optimizes the engine and transmission for zippier performance.

The front seats are roomy, and the area feels commanding thanks to a wide console. Nestled in that console is a rotary dial and auxiliary buttons controlling the CX-9’s standard dash-mounted infotainment display. I addition to receiving the SkyActiv treatment like the rest of Mazda’s lineup, the CX-9 now also gets Mazda’s “Soul of Motion” design philosophy emphasizing sweeping forms, organic shapes, and the idea of movement even at rest. The new CX-9 is striking from an exterior deign perspective.

That big grille up front adds to the premium cred, yet doesn’t seem overboard. The tapering roof and forward stance make this SUV appear smaller than it is, and even its rear is pretty thanks to a horizontal treatment of the taillights and rear lip beneath the window. A pair of integrated exhaust outlets further emphasize this SUV’s sporty nature.

The engine is impressive using a new SkyActiv 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that replaces the former 3.7-liter V6. This new engine has fewer horsepower than the outgoing one, but greater torque. Horsepower, you’ll see two figures: 250 HP running on premium 93 octane. Most drivers will opt for regular unleaded, on which the engine makes 227 horsepower.  Torque is the big story here the little powerplant churning out an amazing 310 lb-ft of torque.   EPA fuel economy is rated at 21 city and 27 for my AWD  test vehicle.  Price for the top line model comes in at  $44,915

The CX-9 was easy to drive, I especially liked the heads-up display that you can see even with your sun glasses on, unlike some more expensive European models. The infotainment system was very intuitive  with its rotary dial on the console.

The all-new 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature is a greatfamily transporter with a luxury feel and a little Mazda Zoom Zoom for the driver as well.

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-AWD

Highlights

Styling

Comfort

Engine

On Road performance

Nappa Leather

Bose Sound System

Lowlights

Heated but not cooled seats

No CD player for CD fans

 

Scale 1 low-10 High

Exterior Styling 8

Interior styling and quality 8

Handling 8

Braking 7

Fuel Economy 9

Audio System 9

Performance 6

Trunk-Cargo Capacity 10

Navigation 9