USA TODAY's James R. Healey get an advanced look at the 2016 Ford Explorer in advance of it's official worldwide unveiling at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Video by Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY
The 2016 Explorer — displayed at a preview event for the auto show here this week and going on sale next summer — will be topped by a new Platinum version. It will be priced upwards of $50,000 — where no version of the renowned utility vehicle has gone before.
It's aimed at buyers who want something with more features and a higher-status persona than the Limited and Sport models currently atop the Explorer family.
Other models' base prices will be similar to today's, Ford said, but won't be announced until close to the on-sale date.
Explorer once was the best-selling SUV in the U.S., but — reflecting a wider trend — it has slipped behind smaller SUV's, such as Honda CR-V, which now is the best-seller, as well as Toyota RAV4 and Chevrolet's Equinox, an aging but well-equipped model. And, of course, Ford's own Escape.
Still, Ford sells about 200,000 Explorers a year, a considerable number.
And, he noted, it's been worth quite a bit of money to Ford since the first version — primitive by today's standards but shockingly refined at the time — hit the market in 1990 as a 1991 model. Ford's sold 7 million since then.
It was one of the first four-door, family-oriented SUV's at a time people were weary of minivans and the boring image they projected. The then-new breed of gentrified SUV's were roomy enough for families and had a hipper, adventuresome image. Sales zoomed.
The new Platinum model is for "box-checkers," Ford said — buyers who want everything, so check all the options boxes on the order form.
It comes with a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, 20-inch-diameter wheels, satin chrome detailing, unique grille and LED headlights, dual power moonroof and the satin-finish Ford oval logo.
The last is no big deal outside the company, but it's a huge move for Ford. No other company vehicle has worn anything except the blue Ford oval logo. It's meant to signal special premium status for the new Platinum.
Big powertrain news is that the 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder that's been so well-received in the redesigned 2015 Mustang replaces the current Explorer's 2-liter four-cylinder as the gas mileage leader. The 2.3-liter will be offered with all-wheel drive, which wasn't available with on the smaller four.
•Smart charging system via USB plugs. The two receptacles will put as much power into your phone, music player or other device as it can handle, as fast as it can accept it, Ford says.
•180-degree-view front camera, for a view of otherwise invisible traffic when creeping forward out of a sight-blocked space.
•Built-in washers for the front and rear cameras.
• An updated array of safety and driver-assistance systems, such as lane keeping and adaptive cruise control.