Written by: Calvin Chan
Photography by: Calvin Chan
Thousands of tourists take the Trans-Canada Highway through the beloved Canadian Rockies each year. From Vancouver through Banff and into Calgary, breathtaking mountains and awe-inspiring forestry govern the landscape with snow covered glaciers and puffy clouds you would only find in a Bob Ross painting. It’s not just the winding roads that bring driving enthusiasts here but it’s also the wildlife, the history, and the majestic glacier-fed Lake Louise. Born and raised in Toronto, I’ve been sneered at for never visiting one of Canada’s most renowned national parks, but when Ford emailed me to take a drive on this exact same route, I knew that was about to change.
Grins turned into smiles when I learned that the chariot I would be taking would be their new 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum. How fitting, as it’s also the Ford Explorer’s 25th birthday this year. Defying expectations, the world’s bread and butter SUV has sold more than 7 million units worldwide and for 2016, Ford is launching a refreshed version with a complete redesign from the A-pillar forward. New grills, headlights, fenders, rear taillights and panels cover the revisions, followed by a top-of-the-line Platinum trim that slots itself above the Sport trim. I’ve been told by Ford that this is the most premium offering the Blue Oval has ever conceived and boy, were they right.
Ford asked customers what they wanted in their new SUVs and they got the same two replies: more luxury and more premium features. Customers wanted something more up-scale and an SUV to compete in-house with the likes of the Lincoln MKX. There was no better answer than this new Platinum trim. Ford went all-in. In fact, the only options available on the Explorer Platinum are the choice of paint colours and second-row bench seating. This SUV is loaded up to the brink of exploding: a unique front meshed grille, LEDs, exclusive paint colours such as our Guard (green) paint, flashy 20-inch wheels, and Nirvana quilted leather seats that even come with their own massaging function.
On a two-day trek, we had the opportunity to test out the Explorer’s neat little features and explore the alluring landscapes. We passed by historic museums, a ghost town, and even took a helicopter ride up to see the glaciers in Revelstoke. I think the biggest eye-opener around here was actually seeing peaks and mountaintops on the horizon – in Toronto you see nothing but skyscrapers and empty blue skies.
The roads were just pure bliss. Luckily we weren’t driving in peak season so the absence of trailers and large pickup trucks made the experience that much more enjoyable. We were careful not to arouse the cops though – having a better looking and more expensive version of their Explorer-cop-mobile wouldn’t do us any favours. Lurking under the hood was a 3.5-litre Ecoboost twin-turbo V6 engine that made overtaking right-lane grannies a breeze but keeping us under the speed limit a constant struggle.
With 365 hp and 350 lb-ft. of torque on tap and no noticeable turbo lag, this Explorer is no slouch. The exhaust sounds like it has eight cylinders instead of six and the engine is mated to a brilliant 6-speed automatic gearbox. While competitors are utilizing new transmissions with more eight and even nine gears, the Explorer does without. You won’t notice any gearshifts – they’re that smooth – but fuel efficiency does suffer. The ride was comfortable and supple and the well-bolstered seats provided long-lasting support. The brakes were also incredibly sensitive and confident – we blame those cheeky RV drivers for our last minute oh-shit-handle braking experiences.
Standard on the Platinum trim is Ford’s Intelligent 4WD system but we didn’t get much of a chance to test this feature out on challenging terrains. In addition to the Blind Spot Monitoring System and a rear view camera with a spray washer (you heard right!), the Explorer comes equipped with intriguing new features such as Lane Keeping Aid and Active Cruise Control. Activate the modes with a flick of a button on the steering wheel and the Explorer will monitor the road ahead to keep you in your lane. If you accidentally doze off and start drifting into the next lane, the Explorer will automatically turn the wheel and reposition itself into safety. This, combined with Active Cruise Control that keeps you tagging along with the vehicle in front of you without any gas or brake input, makes long journeys like this feel nearly autonomous. Whenever we needed a few crucial seconds to open our water bottle cap with two hands or to stuff our faces with almonds, these innovative pieces of tech made our lives so much easier.
And that’s the goal of the Platinum – to spoil you in creature comforts that you never would’ve thought you needed. It’s like when they introduced robotic vacuum cleaners and memory foam. The Explorer’s massaging seats with customizable intensities and backrest panel adjustments was a godsend on our long drive. You can actually feel the seat kneading and rolling your muscles – this isn’t just a mild rub on the back.
Ford has also stepped up their game with the interior. To help further distinguish the extra money you paid for the Platinum trim, Ford gives you beautifully quilted and meticulous leather seats that rank in the Range Rover category, a leather and wood-wrapped steering wheel that is also heated 360 degrees, and a first-ever non-blue brushed aluminum Ford oval badge located on the wheel. How cool is that? Sporting a tasteful mix of great materials with a durable feel, this is by far, Ford’s most premium vehicle. Lincoln, be wary of incoming friendly fire.
However, the biggest change is the cabin insulation. The first time we hopped in and closed the door, not a gust of wind or mechanical engine whirl could be heard. It was pin drop silent, backed up by a wonderfully unique 500-watt Sony 12-speaker system that represents the first time Sony’s home-audio technology has been used in a car. Sirius XM radio never sounded so good. More speakers aren’t always better; Sony says all you need is 12 of them with careful placement for tight and full tones. They also utilize new technology such as Live Acoustics and Clear Phase to authentically mimic the feeling of sitting in a concert hall. The depth and the clarity of the music blew us away – even Bluetooth streamed tunes sounded crisp and clear, and those normally sound atrocious on other premium in-car stereos. Mountains, massaging seats, a boom box: it was more like sitting in a movie theatre than anything else.
When we reached our last pit stop in downtown Calgary, I was so caught up in memories of earth and water that I forgot to write down any driving notes of the Explorer itself. Normally, by this point I’d have compiled a long list of pros and cons of the vehicle – everything ranging from laggy controls to uncomfortable seats. Not here, not with the Explorer. I figured that I was so content with the engine, the transmission, and all the gizmos littered inside that everything became so second nature. I’ve never driven a 2015 or 2016 Explorer before, but I hopped right into it like a bespoke suit. Exploring came first, the car a close second. Massaging seats and beautiful leather melted me into my seat as my eyes gazed on the horizon. What a beautiful country we live in, and I couldn’t have asked for a better travel companion.
型号 Model: 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum
顏色 Paint Type: Guard
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $53,203
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,866
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,037 / 2,292 / 1,803
車重 Curb weight (kg): 2,015
引擎 Engine: 3.5L Twin Turbocharged, Direct Injection EcoBoost V6
最大馬力 Horsepower: 365 hp @ 5,500 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 350 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
前懸 Suspension-Front: MacPherson strut with isolated subframe, 32mm stabilizer bar
後懸 Suspension-Rear: SR1 independent multi-link, 22-mm stabilizer bar
煞制-前 Brakes-Front: 13.85 x 1.25-inch vented disc
煞制-後 Brakes-Rear: 13.5 x 0.75-inch vented disc
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway/Combined)- L/100 km: 14.9 / 10.7 / 13.0
輪胎尺碼 Tires: P255/50R20