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

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