Photo by Vince Taroc.
The majority of fleet Ford Explorers in recent years have gone into service with law enforcement agencies as the Police Interceptor Utility, a model with significant modifications for the demands of police driving.
The Explorer also sees use in commercial fleets, which added one of four fleet Explorers in 2013.
Ford gave its top-selling SUV a heavy refresh for the 2016 model year that included a more efficient inline-4, rugged exterior styling, optional 20-inch wheels, and available Terrain Management System adjusts torque depending on the driving conditions.
Fleets typically purchase the base model or Explorer XLT. Ford offers three higher trims, including Limited, Sport, and Platinum, which we tested.
Ford has updated the Explorer's engine mix for 2016, adding a 2.3L inline-4 EcoBoost to replace the 2.0L four-cylinder. The new engine cranks out 280 hp (an increase of 40 hp) and 310 lb.-ft. (an added 40 lb.-ft.), and arrives as a $995 engine upgrade. The Explorer carries over its 3.5L V-6, and has increased availability for the 3.5L V-6 EcoBoost that makes 365 hp.
While we enjoyed driving the powerhouse V-6 EcoBoost, the other engines provide better fuel economy. While the V-6 EcoBoost with 4WD is rated at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg on the highway, the 2.3L with 4WD is rated at 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.
The FWD 2.3L is rated at 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, while the FWD 3.5L non-turbo is rated at 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.
Photo by Vince Taroc.
The 2016 Explorer arrives with a more rugged look that aligns it with its truck brethren. Ford shifted the Explorer onto its D4 unibody platform for 2011, and the SUV has seen a surge in sales in the past few model years. The move reduced harshness by adding flex to the ride that better absorbs bumps.
For 2016, Ford added what it's calling "intelligent four wheel drive" as an option to the front-wheel-drive SUV. Ford has enhanced its all-wheel-drive system so it can provide up to 90% of the available torque to the real wheels. Most AWD systems provide a maximum of 60% torque, said William Mattiace, Ford's SUV spokesman.
An available "terrain management system" offers four modes for normal, mud/ruts, sand, and grass/gravel/snow. The system includes a hill descent feature that functions as cruise control for steep grades.
Several safety and driver-convenience features arrive for 2016, including front and rear cameras and parking assist. The 2016 Explorer adds an available front 180-degree camera that allows the driver to see around obstacles and improves visibility when pulling out of a driveway, street or parking lot.
The Explorer's spacious cabin can accommodate a driver and six passengers when equipped with the standard bench seating in the second row. A power rear liftgate can be activated with a kick of the foot below the vehicle's rear bumper.