Ford’s 2016 Explorer gets a macho makeover and more tech

If you’re wondering how the explosion of SUVs and crossovers came to be, much of the thanks (or blame) can be directed at the Ford Explorer. It was one of the first family-friendly utility vehicles and – with over 7 million sold in the U.S. to date – it continues to be one of the most popular.

To keep that popularity streak going, the 2016 Ford Explorer debuted at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show with some noteworthy updates.

This is a refresh, not a full redesign, but the Explorer does get a tougher-looking front end and LED lighting in place of the outgoing models for car-like styling. The LED’s heat sinks are actually visible, giving the lighting units a more technical look.

Underneath the massaged styling is a newly-available 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, the same one used in the 2015 Mustang and Lincoln MKC. it produces “at least” 270 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, according to Ford.

The four-banger sits between a pair of carryover V6 engines in the Explorer lineup. The standard offering is a naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter mill with 290 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque, while Explorer Sport and Platinum models get a turbocharged EcoBoost 3.5-liter with 365 hp and 350 lb-ft. A six-speed automatic is the only available transmission.

The Platinum model is new for 2016, and sits at the top of the lineup. It;s loaded with features like a dual-pane moonroof and 500-watt Sony audio system, as well as 20-inch wheels and a full suite of electronic driver aids.

Every Explorer gets some additional tech for 2016, though.

New features include front and rear cameras with washers (which Ford says is an industry first), USB charging ports strategically positioned in the cabin, and Ford’s hands-free ljftgate.

The Explorer also gets an enhanced park assist feature that can now help a driver pull out of a parallel parking spots as well as pull into them (along with perpendicular spaces).

The 2016 Ford Explorer goes on sale next summer. Pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date.

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