- Published on: 11-02-2018
2016 Explorer Overview
The best part about the 2016 Ford Explorer Sport is its engine. Thing is, that's both a compliment and a condemnation. Ford's 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 is excellent, with plenty of thrust from its 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. The power delivery and torque curve are shockingly linear – there are no peaks or valleys in the engine's performance, just uninterrupted power. This engine feels potent at high rpms, where turbocharged mills sometimes fall flat, and there's a lovely exhaust sound – more robust than what you'd expect from an Explorer, but delicious and just loud enough. The accompanying six-speed automatic transmission is a worthy companion. In full auto mode, the gearbox is quick to upshift and knows exactly when to select a lower gear. Stab the throttle and there's a smooth, yet quick response, complementing the engine's able character. Things are even better in Sport mode, with snappier shifts and a willingness to hold gears for longer periods of time. Forget about the steering wheel-mounted paddles, though – they aren't pleasant to use. Not many competitors are as comfortable as the Ford. This twin-turbo V6 and six-speed auto partnership provides a good blend of power and efficiency. The Explorer Sport is rated at 16 miles per gallon city and 22 mpg highway, which might not sound great, but is better than a similarly powerful, Hemi V8-equipped Dodge Durango (14 city, 22 highway). The Sport trim uses firmer springs and dampers than normal Explorers, and rides on 20-inch wheels. While that'd normally be a recipe for roughness in this heavy CUV, not many competitors are as comfortable as the Ford. No, it doesn't have the smoothest ride in the class, but the Sport does a good job ironing out small bumps and it still feels stable over bigger imperfections. But you'll hear those impacts, especially from the rear suspension. On smooth roads, however, tire and road noise aren't an issue. But that's where much of the goodness ends. Ford's 2016 model year facelift can't hide a number of longstanding Explorer problems. First, this crossover suffers from a super touchy throttle that's difficult to manage at low speed and on initial tip-in. And even with the modest improvements to the suspension's springs and dampers, there's little hiding the Explorer's weight – it's boat-like, ponderous, and isolated, all adjectives that shouldn't be attached to a vehicle wearing a Sport badge. Ford engineers hastened the steering, going from a 17.1:1 to 15.7:1 ratio, and while turn-in feels quicker and lighter, the steering's sensations are just as isolated as the suspension's. It may be comfortable and compliant in a straight line, but if you really want a CUV that exudes sportiness at all times, wait for the 2017 Mazda CX-9. There's little hiding the Explorer's weight – it's boat-like, ponderous, and isolated. Moving inside, we'd like to know what sort of driver Ford envisioned behind the wheel of the Explorer when it came time to design the cockpit.