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Ford unveils new 2016 Explorer

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

The latest Ford Explorer focuses on driving performance and functionality, staples of the vehicle’s history since its launch in 1991.
  • The new Ford Explorer goes on sale next summer.
  • The 2016 Explorer will feature a new 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine that delivers 270 horsepower.
  • More than 7 million Explorers have been sold in the United States.
  • Explorer is built in North America at Chicago Assembly Plant, as well as in Venezuela & now, Russia.

For its 25th birthday, Ford Motor Co.'s popular Explorer SUV is getting a new engine, new technology and a new trim level.

The Dearborn automaker will unveil a refreshed 2016 Explorer on Wednesday at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The latest Explorer focuses on driving performance and functionality, staples of the vehicle's history since its launch in 1991.

"Customers love Explorer, and expect this SUV to lead the way in innovation, performance and fun," Arie Groeneveld, chief engineer for the new Explorer, said in a statement. "It's a tall order, but we're aiming to build the best SUV in the world."

The new Explorer will go on sale next summer. Additional details, like pricing and gas mileage, have not been released.

The 2016 SUV will have as an option a new 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, available on the base, LXT and Limited models. The four-cylinder produces at least 270 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. It replaces the 2-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder on the current model.

Mileage numbers have not been released, but Ford said "no sacrifice in overall fuel efficiency" is expected. New technologies, like an active oil control system, wastegate control and a higher compression ratio all help save fuel.

The base, XLT and Limited trims come standard with a 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 290 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. The Sport and Platinum editions come standard with a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 that produces 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque.

The new Explorer is full of new technologies, like front and rear cameras with washers; enhanced park-assist; smart-charging USB ports; hands-free liftgate; active grille shutters that help cool the powertrain; and air curtains that minimize drag.

The new Platinum series features leather-wrapped multi-contour seats, quilted stitching and aluminum and wood finishing. It will be the first Ford to get an all-new 500-watt Sony audio system. The instrument cluster will feature a 10-inch digital display supported with analog displays — another first for Ford.

"Explorer helped define how the world thinks about SUVs," Raj Nair, Ford group vice president and chief technical officer, global product development, said in a statement. "Explorer is the centerpiece of Ford's global utility vehicle lineup because it delivers an ideal combination of form and function."

Explorer sales — which include the Sport and Sport Trac models — were up 8.6 percent through the first 10 months of the year, according to Autodata.

Because demand is so strong, Ford has been increasing production of the SUV at its Chicago Assembly Plant. Over the last four months, nearly 80 percent of Chicago Assembly's production has been Explorer, up from about 74 percent this time last year.

The new vehicle announcement comes as Ford's sport-utility segment continues to grow. Ford said its SUVs — from its compact EcoSport to its full-size Expedition — accounted for 23 percent of global brand sales in 2013, and could reach 29 percent of global sales by 2020.

"Ford's revamped Explorer launches into a market hungry for SUVs," Karl Brauer, senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book, said. "The Explorer led the SUV movement 20 years ago, making it one of the most recognizable nameplates in the industry. Now its evolved into a modern crossover SUV, with car-like ride and handling, improved fuel efficiency and all the latest safety tech, positioning it to succeed during the SUV's second coming."

mmartinez@detroitnews.com

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