Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review: 2016 Ford Explorer Sport V6 EcoBoost

I read about it all the time in press kits: Ford doing extreme weather testing on their cars. And for a moment, I think: surely, this has got to be an exaggeration. No carmaker would go through the lengths of freezing cars in minus 40 Celsius. In a freezer. That is, until I found myself at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport trying to pick up the 2016 Explorer Sport in minus 17 Celsius.

To be fair, locals say the winter weather this year is mild, compared to the Artic Vortex they had last year. But for the born-and-raised tropical climate boy such as me, minus 17 feels like a slow, agonizing death. Don’t get me wrong, I love the cold but I draw the line when I’m running across an open parking lot in a thin shirt looking for a Ruby Red Metallic Explorer Sport. Thankfully, I didn’t have to run far this time.

The Explorer is the world’s best-selling mid-sized SUV and has been America’s best-selling SUV for 25 straight years. Seven million Explorers have been sold and is used in the US by everyone from law enforcement to your motor journalist-slash-tourist. I thought finding a particular Explorer in a parking lot would be a challenge, but that’s not the case here. Sure, the color played a part (most Explorers here are shades of gray), but it’s more down to the ‘Sport’ moniker attached to the Explorer name.

I still didn’t see much of it running around, but the Explorer has been restyled this year. It deviates from the cousin-of-Range Rover look to something a bit more standard. Ford says the design is meant to give it a more rugged appearance and in some regard it has, but the end result is something a bit more mainstream. Still, I admit the larger lamps (now with both LED DRLs and headlights) do sit better with the boxy frame compared to the squinting eyes of the old. Other changes include the closed-out roof rails and revised spoiler. At the back, the lamps have been given a new lighting treatment too. And as a ‘Sport’, this model removes all those chrome embellishments. Ford says one in five Explorer customers also owns another luxury vehicle, but I’d personally take this no-chrome look any day.

Within striking distance of the remote, I figured out the Remote Starter and fired up the twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 engine. This gives the Explorer Sport some time to warm up, but more importantly for me, turn on the heater. For the unforgiving winter climate of Michigan, stepping into a warm, heated cabin is truly a godsend. That along with the heated seats and steering wheel literally gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Settling in, not much has changed with the cabin pre- and post-facelift. It’s still the same cozy, car-like interior I’ve already crown accustomed to. The same combination of soft plastics and matte aluminum trim pieces are supplemented by Sport exclusive features such as the black leather with red stitching and additional carbon gray accents around. In fact, Ford outlines the changes to the 2016 Explorer to just one line: swapping the touch-sense buttons on the center console to physical one. And if you’re wearing gloves or shivering from the cold, this is a remarkably welcome change. The seats, as always, are generally comfortable for all occupants, except for the big boned. The US-spec unit does get the added convenience of lay-flat outboard second row seats.

After finding the most comfortable seating position—a cinch thanks to the power adjustable steering wheel, pedals, and seats—and inputting the destination on the frustrating laggy navigation system, it’s time to set off on the 285-mile drive to Illinois. With 370 horsepower and 475 Nm of torque, the Explorer Sport sounds like a recipe for speeding tickets and license revocation. But that’s not so much the case. The overall feel is one of refinement with copious amounts of power at every engine speed. Gingerly depressing the accelerator allows it to merge onto roads with utmost confidence. It feels quite at home on wide, open roads where its girth never feels like a hindrance.

In tighter confines, the Explorer Sport comes equipped with both a 180-degree front facing camera and rear parking camera allow it to ease into and out of a parking space. The washers may seem like a frivolous feature, but it comes in handy whenever the cameras get blocked by snow or mud. Call me spoiled, but I miss the Active Park Assist feature which is found in the Explorer 3.5 V6 I previously tested. It’s an available option for sure, but seriously, if you can equip it on a P 1.2-million Focus, why not on an P 2.8-million Explorer Sport?

Reaching the pothole-ridden I-94 that links Michigan to Illinois, it feels stable and satisfying to drive at speed. Long distance driving is a strength of the Explorer, especially it now comes with thicker stabilizer bars (32-millimeters front, 22-millimeters rear). It also has adaptive cruise control that allows it to follow a preset distance to the car in front and maintain that gap. When the car in front gets too near, it automatically slows down for you. Cruising at a comfortable, yet brisk 120 km/h pace, it quells wind, road, and tire noise excellently. The Explorer Sport does receive unique tuning to the steering and suspension, and yet, it’s not as sporty as suggested. However, I find that it glides through ruts and road tracks with the same poise and comfort as the non-Sport models. Unlike the regular Explorer though, the Explorer Sport does have a devilishly fun side each time I punch the accelerator.

The worst drivers on these parts are those in Chevrolet Impalas. Whether or not they’re from out-of-town or what not, they always hog the left lane for no apparent reason. Normally, people just let them be or as one irate Jeep driver did, tailgate and flash his headlights constantly at them. For me in the Explorer Sport? Just gun the gas. The smooth nature of the V6 is replaced by something with animal-like ferocity. Coupled with a quick downshift from the automatic (and an expletive or two), the Explorer Sport can rocket past anything. And there’s a bit of Muscle Car in its snarly exhaust too. Paddle shifters are now standard, but I never found it necessary to use them. Ford says that the mixed fuel economy figure is 6.36 km/L, a figure I replicated exactly over a course of a thousand two hundred kilometers. An indicator on the dashboard also keeps track of torque which is shifted quickly and automatically through all four wheels all the time.

In the weeks that followed, this Explorer Sport was subjected to a wide array of temperatures and through varied conditions like rain, flurries, and a downright snow storm. There were days I actually had to shovel it out and opened the frozen doors.  Plus, it carried four 28-inch hard case luggage all the time without any problems. Through any and all of these circumstances, everything works. The power mirrors unfolded fine, the tailgate sprung open, and the third row seats folded without a hitch. When Ford says they subject their cars to work on extreme environments, I believe them now. After all, a drive on Michigan roads is a fine example of that.

2016 Ford Explorer Sport V6 EcoBoost
Ownership 2016 Ford Explorer Sport 3.5L V6 EcoBoost AWD
Year Introduced 2012 (Refreshed: 2016)
Vehicle Classification Mid-sized Crossover
The Basics
Body Type 5-door Crossover
Seating 8 (Philippine-spec); 7 (US-spec)
Engine / Drive F/AWD
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 3.5
Aspiration Twin Turbo, Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders V6
BHP @ rpm 370 @ 5,000
Nm @ rpm 475 @ 3,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission 6 AT
Cruise Control Yes, Adaptive
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 5,036
Width (mm) 2,004
Height (mm) 1,803
Wheelbase (mm) 2,865
Curb Weight (kg) 2,218
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut, Sport Tuned
Rear Suspension Independent, Muti-link, Sport Tuned
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Solid Disc
Tires Hankook Ventus S1 Noble2 255/50 R 20 H (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 7 + 2 x 2nd row seatbelt airbags
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front and Rear, with Front and Rear Camera
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, Front
Auto Lights Yes
Auto Wipers Yes
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjustment Tilt/Telescopic, Electric
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Electric
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40, Electric
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, Heated, with Fold
Climate Control Front Dual Zone, Rear Manual
Audio System Stereo
SD Card
No. of Speakers 12
Steering Wheel Controls Yes


  1. Replies
    1. Forgot to put it in the story, but it's 18 MPG mixed use or around 6.36 km/L

  2. Is this 2.5M? I thought the only facelifted variant is the top of the line 2.8++M? Correct me if im wrong? Now even the 2.5M unit is facelifted?

    1. I've seen a facelifted Explorer with the chrome bits. I presume that's the 2.0 Limited since the Sport blacks out all the chrome.

    2. They now launched the facelifted Limited 2.3 EcoBoost (4x2), it's priced some P34K more over the old 2.0 EcoBoost model according to some dealers.

  3. Pls help me decde. Budget 3M

    Thinking of getting this vs entry level 2016 Prado or a 2010-2012 secondhand Dubai Landcruiser?

    1. Land Cruiser bro! It's filled with more features and is more comfortable. Go with the Prado though if you care about gas consumption, handling and overall size.

    2. I'm a Mazda guy, not a Toyota guy. But if I would choose between the Explorer and the Prado, I'll choose the Prado, it's more reliable than the Explorer, also more fuel efficient. Don't buy second hand cars, there's nothing more satisfying than buying a brand new car. With 3M, you could buy from luxury brands, choose either Audi, Lexus, or BMW, stay away from Mercedes Benz.

    3. Never get a 2nd luxury hand car especially one that came from other countries. Inabuso na yan ng mga arabo.

    4. This comment. Agreed. Only get second hand from people you know and trust.

  4. ^US Spec seats 6? Hows the seats configured?
    Anyone who has 3M to spare on a vehicle dont need to worry about gas consumption or fuel efficiency IMHO. Go for this it will surely stand out among the generic Japanese cars along PH roads...

    1. Sorry. I was looking at the passengers not including driver. Anyway, the US spec seats 7 and the Philippine spec seats 8. Corrected the spec sheet.

    2. That is the usual misconception. People in our country who buy luxury vehicles always think about fuel efficiency especially the gas variants. If someone tells you otherwise, they're lying. lol

  5. We have q here but its color is white hope to share the photo.

  6. We have q here but its color is white hope to share the photo.

  7. How's the ride comfort compared to the regular Explorer? If I'm not mistaken this sport variant also have sport suspension.

  8. We have a early 2015 4x2 2.0 ecoboost and its a gas guzzler (city, hwy and mixed)! Now the rack n pinion broke and its waiting for a replacement which costs 110k fortunately its under warranty. Its only has less than 20t kms and city driven. Go for JAPANESE!

    1. Oh, my! We just upped our budget so that we could get the 2016 4x2 2.3 limited. Does your 2.0 ecoboost get at least 7-8 km/l on average? What was the cause of the damage to the steering system? From an owner's perspective, do you think explorers in general have reliability issues? Thanks!

  9. I've been eyeing for a Ford Explorer for quite a time now; however, I've seen from the US sites that 2017 Explorer has the MySync 3 that has Apple Carplay. Got any idea when it's coming to the Philippines? Thanks!

  10. sir uly,
    Toyota Prado 3M or Explorer Sport 2.8M?
    or shall i wait for d mazda CX9 2017? please help!