The 2016 Ford Explorer Makes Its Way to the Houston Auto Show

By -

DSC00531 (1600x1200)

Ford wowed journalists and spectators at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit by rolling out three powerhouse models: the Shelby Mustang GT350R, the next-generation GT, and the 2017 Raptor. Unfortunately, it didn’t bring any of those big-numbers specials to the Houston Auto Show.

However, the automaker did bring an Explorer, a vehicle that, in terms of sales volume, cranks out some big numbers of its own. The 2016 Explorer the automaker has on display at the NRG Center this week is tasked with continuing the success of its predecessors.

DSC00528 (1600x972)

Ford launched the original Explorer – get ready to feel old – 25 years ago as a 1991 model. In the last quarter century, the SUV has been through the highs of starring in “Jurassic Park” and selling in droves to the lows of the Firestone scandal, staggeringly high gas prices, and The Great Recession. Through good times and bad, Americans have driven 7 million Explorers off of dealer lots since they first went on sale.

Now, conditions for the Explorer are on the upswing. The Blue Oval sold 190,000 of its signature SUVs in the U.S. last year. According to Craig Patterson, Ford’s utility marketing manager, global utility vehicle sales have increased 87 percent since 2008. That automotive segment is the fastest-growing one in the world.

DSC00527 (1600x929)

The 2016 model year brings with it a new look, a new trim line, and a new engine. Ford’s designers revised the Explorer’s exterior.

The Sport’s bar-filled grille and swept-back headlights, in my opinion, now make its front end look more upscale because of its similarity to the face of the Land Rover Range Rover Sport.

DSC00532 (1600x1152)

Patterson said a lot of Explorer owners told Ford they want the technology and quality they’d experienced in import vehicles along with the luxury of the Limited variant.

That’s why the Blue Oval is adding a Platinum version of the rig to the lineup, which also includes Base, XLT, Limited, and Sport editions. It gets a 500-watt Sony Audio System, a leather-wrapped instrument panel and dash, and real ash wood and brushed aluminum trim.

A 365-horsepower/350-lb.-ft. 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 from the Explorer Sport comes under the hood.

DSC00529 (1600x1184)

Speaking of the Explorer Sport, it was rolled out in 2013 and has grown to make up 20 percent of Ford’s Explorer sales mix. In fact, it’s been the fastest-selling Explorer the last two years. More than 90 percent of its buyers choose to dress it up with a $4,500 options package.

Ford’s naturally aspirated 3.5-liter, 290-horsepower V6 and twin-turbo six will be joined by a new EcoBoost motor for the 2016 model year: the 2.3-liter I4 from the 2015 Mustang. It’s expected to make more than 270 horsepower and at least 300 lb.-ft. of torque. It’ll be available for pairing with four-wheel drive and Ford’s Terrain Management System and capable of helping base, XLT, and Limited Explorers tow 3,000 pounds.

You can catch the 2016 Explorer in the Ford section of the Houston Auto Show until Sunday, Jan. 25. (You can also learn more about it here.) Your local dealer will have it in stock this summer.

Chime in with your thoughts on the forum. >>

Derek Shiekhi contributes to a variety of Internet Brands’ Auto sites, including J-K Forum , Jaguar Forums, and 5 Series. He's also a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association.

Comments ()