For the last five years, the Ford Explorer has been a common sight on our roads, and rightfully so. Blending the size of a big SUV, the ride expected of executive sedans, and features expected of top of the line luxury cars, it came as no surprise that the Explorer became a staple of the many gated communities in the metro.
The 2016 Ford Explorer can be considered special as it celebrates 25 years of the nameplate which has spanned five generations since 1991. It might have gone through a significant change in 2011 when Ford decided to transition it from a mid-size body-on-frame SUV to a full-size crossover SUV. Yet, it still retains the Ford truck heritage with a North American Truck of the Year laurel on its belt as proof of such.
The 2016 facelift continues on the heels of its success with another iteration of the twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost-powered, performance-oriented Sport version. Historically, the Sport badge was reserved for the 3-door version of earlier Explorer models from 1991 to 2003. As times have changed, so has the new Explorer Sport.
On the outside, the Explorer Sport can be distinguished by its blackened elements such as smoked headlamps and tail lamps as well as the radiator grill, door handles, side mirrors and tailgate garnish.
The update gives it a totally new front-end which looks more is chiseled and consistent with Ford’s new design language. Although I can’t help but compare it to a Land Rover, this seems to be the overall direction Lead Designer Mike Arbaugh took with the facelift.
The rear features a pair of slightly revised tail lamps and larger tailpipe extensions for a more athletic appearance. This is finished off with a new set of 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 255/50R20 tires.
Open the door and be welcomed by a leveled up interior that feels much like the premium British crossover it was formerly related to. The changes made for this update were quite minimal as the pre-facelift model was already good to start with. It merely needed minor tweaks — more black or aluminum here and there.
The SYNC infotainment audio system remains powered by the Sony system, which routes music to 12 speakers. It now features a simplified set of climate and entertainment controls with normal buttons instead of the counter-intuitive touch panel. You can manipulate most controls through the touch-screen LCD screen as well.
The third row seats, although not as adult size as we expect it to be are ‘adequate’. They can be deployed, folded or stowed automatically at the push of a button. You can likewise close the tailgate with a button as well. There’s also the neat ‘foot activated’ tailgate opener in case your hands are occupied. It also comes with USB charging ports, a 230V socket for the power-deprived on-the-go individuals. Did I mention it has a plethora of bottle and cupholders to keep you hydrating even if you drive through a desert? There’s a lot more, but I think if we put those all in words, it might not even fit inside the Explorer Sport.
Under the hood is the carried-over 3.5-liter V6 twin-turbo EcoBoost mill which churns out 370 metric horsepower at 5500 rpm and 475 Nm of torque at 3000 rpm. This is mated to a six-speed transmission which transfers the power to all four wheels. The updated ‘SelectShift’ allows moving gears through the steering-mounted paddles instead of the +/- button on the shifter. While it’s nice to be able to manually select gears, it shifts just fine as-is on normal or sport modes. It also comes with a Terrain Management system which allows you to select between normal, sand, wet and even snow; depending on your present driving condition.
Firing up the engine with the push of the button brings out a low rumble. The very potent engine easily propels the car with good pace. Power delivery is smooth and feels very reflective of throttle input. Shifts are smooth and precise as well. Overtaking cars on the open road is a cinch. As with the pre-facelift version we tested, torque steer is evident when you mash down hard on the throttle, and that can be quite unsettling. But you don’t drive it like you stole it everyday do you?
Being powered by a V6 that needs to haul quite a load, it did 4.8 km/l in the city with moderate to heavy traffic and about 10 km/l on the highway.
Being a Sport model, it comes with fitting suspension to move you around as athletically as possible. It enables this rather hefty crossover to move through bends and corners quite confidently. This does minimize ride comfort a bit. You can’t have it all for something that costs less than PhP3 million. Take note that this is also a wide vehicle at 2006 millimeters. Moving through tight roads will need a little adjustment.
For safety, it comes with side curtain airbags, knee airbags, traction control with roll stability control, camera-assisted front and rear parking sensors, BLIS (blindspot warning) with cross-traffic alert, second row seatbelts with airbags, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and an SOS post-crash alert system. We didn’t bother to test most of these and feel pretty much assured that we’ll be safe if something ever happened.
With less than PhP 400,000 separating this and the rather fully-loaded 2.3-liter EcoBoost Limited version, it does make a serious proposition if you drive it yourself for out of town drives and outdoor adventures. Otherwise, the former is more than enough for urban duties or traveling mostly on flat terrain.