Review: 2016 Ford Explorer Limited

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Review: 2016 Ford Explorer Limited

February 19, 2016

We had the opportunity to drive the 2016 Ford Explorer for a week.  I usually put this at the bottom of the review, but I want to point out the price.  This exact model comes in at $57789.  At the high price of loaded mid and full size SUV’s, I think it is a great price point.  Obviously, a mini van, even fully loaded, would be cheaper, but as 7 or 8 seater SUV’s go – this is great bang for your buck!

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I really like the look of the Explorer.  Not a lot has changed over the last few years since the new body style came out, but they are a great looking vehicle.

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The front grill is really nice looking.  Ford has done a great job of making a lot of their vehicles look more aggressive through the grill and lights.

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As always, Ford is extremely competitive and forward thinking with their technology.  Their Sync system is awesome and very user friendly. (note: stay tuned for a review of their Sync 3 technology in the redesigned 2016 Edge) The screen is very easy to navigate and if you don’t like touch screen, they also have everything in the traditional button format.  Some of the technology in this car even includes a park assist feature, which is very handy in a larger vehicle and very easy to use.  If you are opting into the $2250 Park Assist package, several other items are also included such as rain sensing wipers, blind spot monitoring (I love this one!) lane keep assist, rear inflatable seats belts and more.

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I didn’t know about all of the Explorer features before I did the test week and one morning I was trying to feel around the side of the drivers seat for the seat adjustment buttons.  I pushed a button and the next thing I knew, the screen shown above popped up and the chair began massaging.  What a neat feature!  The passenger seat also massages and between seat heat and seat massage, this is one comfortable ride.  I love the massage feature for long drives (or just to the grocery store!)  What a nice surprise to come across and fun for your passenger too. 

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The centre console is well laid out and like some of the other Ford models, you have the option to change up the interior ambient lighting colours.  It’s a bit hard to tell from the photo above, but the cup holders are lit by a purple hue in the dark.  There are multiple colours to choose from.  Another interesting Ford feature!  The Edge has this option as well and even lights the doors in several different colour options.

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The steering wheel and dash cluster are well laid out and easy to read – no complaints with any of those!  I really like the double moonroof system ($1750 option).  The rear doesn’t open, but it provides lots of light and proved to be a nice distraction on several of our errands with all three kids.

This model also came with rear inflatable seat belts.  I actually attended a car seat safety event with Ford a few months ago and learned a bit about them.  The inflatable seat belts have two advantages: First, they spread the crash force over a wider area of the body, potentially reducing the risk of injury to the chest. Second, deployment of the bag tightens the belt, reducing forward movement and reducing the potential for head injury.  We tried to use the inflatable seat belt with a booster seat and it was more challenging to use as it is a much thicker belt, so it was trickier to look through the shoulder loop on the seat and also harder for our kids to buckle.  It is noted that when using an inflatable seat belt, you should check with your car seat manufacturer to ensure it is safe to use and if so, how to properly use it.  As with any new safety technology, there is usually a bit of a learning curve!

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The back seat is fairly roomy.  My favourite part of the captains chairs option (this is a $500 feature) is the fact that there is no centre console. As a family of 5, my daily driver is either going to be a full size SUV or a mini van.  We ended up going with the Toyota Sequoia because the second row captains chairs slide all the way forward, allowing a child to get behind the seat into the third row.  Most SUV’s have the option of the captains chairs to slide a little bit forward, but to also fold down, allowing more room for a passenger to get behind the seat.  Since we have full size 5-point harness car seats in both of our captains chairs, the only option is for the seat to roll forward and since it rolls all the way forward in the Sequoia, that was a big selling feature for us.  A year later, my 7 year old is even bigger and she is the one that is trying to get to her booster seat in the third row.  We are finding she is too squished (especially in winter with all the extra gear) to go behind the seat and is instead, climbing over our middle row console.  With dirty, snowy boots, she is making a mess of the interior and has now also broken the cup holders in the console.  It is very frustrating!  The fact that the Explorer doesn’t have the middle console is a huge perk for those families that have a child that needs to get to the third row (and not by accessing it through the trunk, which isn’t super convenient in the carpool lane!)  The centre console in my own vehicle has been bothering me so much since the Explorer test drive that I actually called Toyota to see if it could be removed.  Unfortunately the captains chairs both have seat heat (that neither of my car seat using children will ever feel!) which is wired through the console, so it is impossible to remove it.  I also looked at some vans (GASP!) to see what our options were and also found that in the top of the line, fully loaded vans that have captains chairs instead of a bench in the second row, all seem to have centre consoles.  Only the most basic vans (and SUV’s) have the pass through to the third row – except for the Explorer.  Other than sliding doors, this vehicle is very third row user friendly!
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This vehicle would be perfect for a family of 4 that frequently needs the third row for friends during carpooling etc.  Because I am used to a larger vehicle, I found that if you are a family of 5 that still needs a stroller, the stroller takes up most of the trunk and if you need to pick up groceries or do a Costco run, you will be short on space in the back.  It is nice that there is a lower storage compartment when the third row is up or in use, which gives you that much more room.  If you happen to have a stroller that fits into this compartment, upright, that will give you quite a bit more trunk space with a 60/40 seat split.
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All in all, this is a great vehicle at a great price point.  Definitely more than a van, but substantially less than the full size Tahoes/Sequoia’s/Yukons/Escalades/QX80’s.  It is much more fuel efficient, drives like a smaller vehicle and is much easier to park.  A ski trip or major road trip would probably require a roof storage system, but for day to day family of 4+ travel, this is a winner for those families that don’t want a van or if having a console-less vehicle is important to you!

Ford continues to deliver a great vehicle at a competitive price.

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