You'll have to wait until next summer to get your hands on one, but the 2016 Ford Explorer will feature revised styling, an impressive new EcoBoost engine and an all-new Platinum version with far cooler technologies than offered by the Toyota Highlander, Chevrolet Traverse or any other 3-row midsize SUV.

We got up close and personal with the updated Explorer at a Ford event the day before its world debut at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. Already the best-selling midsize SUV in the country, it doesn't look like the Ford Explorer will be slowing down any time soon.

Let's talk about the new tech first:

Dual Cameras with Washers  In what Ford is calling an industry first, the 2016 Ford Explorer offers front and rear 180-degree cameras with washers. In addition to helping you see what's directly in front of or behind the vehicle, these wide-angle cameras can help you peek into cross-traffic when your line-of-sight view is otherwise obstructed by the big SUV parked next to you, for instance.

Enhanced Active Park Assist  In addition to steering you into a parallel parking space, the enhanced version of Ford's handy parking assistant can also help you pull out of a tight parallel parking space. It now helps with perpendicular parking, too.

Smart-Charging USB Ports  Smart front and rear USB ports sense the power needs for each device and deliver the optimal charge level.

Hands-Free Liftgate  The Ford Escape small SUV was among the first vehicles to offer this feature, and now big-brother Explorer gets it. When both hands are full, just kick your foot under the rear bumper and the tailgate opens automatically.

Buttons!  In a case of moving back to go forward, the center stack in the 2016 Ford Explorer returns to traditional buttons in place of the sometimes slow-to-respond capacitive touch controls that many owners and reviewers have found frustrating.

Bigger Turbocharged Engine

The 2016 Ford Explorer powertrain lineup will feature the familiar 3.5-liter V6 engine and top-shelf 3.5-liter turbocharged Ecoboost engine. However, the efficiency-minded 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder Ecoboost engine is being replaced by a new 2.3-liter Ecoboost engine that delivers more power but similar, class-leading fuel efficiency. This new engine has already impressed us in the redesigned 2015 Ford Mustang and the all-new 2015 Lincoln MKC small SUV, and we expect to like it in the new Explorer, too. And unlike the outgoing 4-cylinder engine, the new one will be offered in conjunction with 4-wheel-drive, and also provide a tow rating of 3,000 pounds. This is good news for plenty of customers, as 65 percent of Explorer buyers opt for 4-wheel drive.

New Platinum Trim

Ford sells a lot of fully loaded Explorers, and says many of those customers are willing to pay for even more goodies. So say hello to the new Explorer Platinum trim, featured in the gallery above. In addition to a full complement of features and unique exterior touches, the new range-topping Explorer boasts the softest leather ever found in a Ford, real wood and brushed aluminum trim, including the first-ever brushed aluminum Ford oval, located on the steering wheel.

If It Ain't Broke...

Ford says the Explorer's styling is a key draw for a big percentage of buyers -- and we have more than enough anecdotal evidence to believe it -- so styling changes on the 2016 Explorer are minimal, but not meaningless. A new grille design is the most obvious change, but a side-by-side inspection with the current model brings to light several updates that combine to deliver a look that's both more rugged and more refined.

The Ford Explorer is the segment sales leader and arguably the most famous SUV of all time, and we'll find out next year how these changes will impact the Explorer's fortunes in our annual rankings.


The Ford Explorer is just one of 10 three-row midsize SUVs on the market, all of which are covered in our Midsize SUV Buyer's Guide. You can also learn more about the segment by checking out our Midsize SUV Best Buy of 2015, and our most recent list of 10 Best Midsize SUVs.



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