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2016 Ford Explorer Review

The 2016 Ford Explorer may offer a smooth and comfortable ride, but it ranks near the back of its class due to its frustrating infotainment system, poor maneuverability, and low reliability rating.

Pros & Cons

  • Powerful four- and six-cylinder engines
  • Comfortable, smooth ride
  • Frustrating infotainment system
  • Limited outward visibility

New for 2016

  • Refreshed exterior styling
  • Larger turbocharged four-cylinder engine
  • Updated audio and climate controls
  • New hands-free liftgate

Rankings & Awards

The 2016 Ford Explorer's #14 ranking is based on its score within the 2016 Affordable Midsize SUVs category. It was a finalist for our 2016 Best Large SUV for the Money award. Currently the Ford Explorer has a score of 7.6 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 61 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.




Critics' Rating: 8.4
Performance: 7.6
Interior: 7.4
Total Cost of Ownership: 8.6
Safety: 9.2
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

2016 Ford Explorer Overview

Is the 2016 Ford Explorer a Good Used SUV?

The 2016 Explorer isn’t a great pick if you’re shopping for a used midsize SUV. The 3-row Explorer rides comfortably, and its available EcoBoost engines gives the SUV some real muscle. But its poor reliability rating, clumsy infotainment system, and limited seating space makes the Explorer tough to recommend. There are far better – and more reliable – options in this class, including the 2016 Chevy Traverse.

Why You Can Trust Us

We’ve researched 61 Ford Explorer reviews, as well as hard data points like reliability scores and cost of ownership estimates, to help you make the best car-buying decision possible.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our team has decades of experience in the auto industry. Though we’re passionate about cars, we’re even more committed to providing helpful consumer advice. To maintain objectivity, we don’t accept expensive gifts or trips from car companies.

How Much Is the 2016 Ford Explorer?

You can expect to pay between $22,000 and $39,000 for a used 2016 Explorer. These figures are based on 2,600 listings for the 2016 Ford Explorer on our site. The average list price is $29,600. Prices will vary depending on the vehicle's condition, mileage, features, and location.

See the Best Used Car Deals »

How Much Does the 2016 Ford Explorer Cost to Own?

The costs to fuel, maintain, repair, and insure the Explorer on the road are about average for the midsize SUV class. Over five years, you can expect to pay $25,000 – or about $5,000 per year. The 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe has some of the lowest projected costs for a 3-row SUV in this class, at around $24,200.

Is It Better to Buy a Used or New Explorer?

The 2018 Explorer starts at $31,990. That’s about $2,400 more than the average 2016 Explorer. You can surely save money by shopping for a used 2016 Explorer, and you’ll find the exact same engines and safety features as in 2018 models. However, buying new does have its perks. The 2018 Explorer has a much easier-to-use touch screen, which also supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A 2018 model will also carry longer warranty coverage than the average used model, and you won’t have to worry about a questionable maintenance history since it’s new.

Read about the new Ford Explorer »

On the other hand, you might want to consider the midsize 2018 Ford Edge and the compact SUV Ford Escape. Both of these 2-row SUVs start for less than the average price of a used 2016 Explorer. Seating for both is limited to five, but each is more maneuverable and earns a better overall score than the used Explorer.

See the Best New Car Deals »

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How Reliable Is the 2016 Ford Explorer?

The Explorer has below-average reliability, earning a score of 2.5 out of five from J.D. Power.

Read more about Explorer reliability »

2016 Ford Explorer Recalls

At the time of this writing, there are six recalls for the 2016 Explorer. Ford has identified a loose seat track bolt and insufficient driver’s seat welds, which may not properly restrain occupants in a crash. Another recall addresses the parking brake: it may not fully engage. Other recalls cover improperly tightened fuel tank bolts, incorrect rear wheel bearings (FWD models only), and a faulty engine block heater that may overheat. Before buying a used Explorer, make sure these recalls have been addressed.

See more information on Ford Explorer safety recalls »

Which Model Year of the Ford Explorer Is Best?

The 2016 Explorer is part of the SUV’s fifth generation, which began in 2011. Major updates throughout this generation include the addition of a turbocharged four-cylinder engine in 2012, a twin-turbocharged V6 in 2013, and a midcycle redesign in 2016 that brought a refreshed exterior and an even stronger four-cylinder engine. However, none of these updates fixed the SUV’s lingering problem: its frustrating MyFord Touch infotainment system. That fix came in 2017 with the debut of the easier-to-use SYNC 3 system. If you are shopping for a used Explorer, the 2017 model is your best bet. But of course, you should note that there are better options in this class.

Compare the 2015, 2016, and 2017 Explorer »

Which Used Ford Explorer Model Is Right for Me?

Ford offers the 2016 Explorer in five trims: base, XLT, Limited, Sport, and Platinum. The Ford Explorer base model comes standard with a 4.2-inch display screen, a rearview camera, air conditioning, keyless entry, cruise control, a CD player, a USB input, cloth seats, and alloy wheels. The Ford Explorer XLT trim adds push-button start, satellite radio, fog lamps, and rear parking sensors.

The best value in the lineup is the Limited trim, which adds an 8-inch touch screen, a navigation system, a front view camera, front parking sensors, remote start, a hands-free tailgate, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, and third-row power-folding seats. The Sport trim adds a more powerful EcoBoost V6. Lastly, the Platinum trim adds blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane-keep assist, parallel park assist, rain-sensing wipers, and a dual-panel moonroof. Many of these features were optional in the Limited and Sport trims as well.

See 2016 Ford Explorer trims and specs »

What Does Ford's Certified Pre-Owned Warranty Cover?

Ford offers a certified pre-owned program for vehicles six years old or less and with fewer than 80,000 miles. Eligibility is determined by the vehicle’s initial sale date. For its certified pre-owned vehicles, Ford extends the original new-car powertrain warranty to seven years from the original sale date or 100,000 miles. These vehicles also get a one-year/12,000-mile limited warranty after the original three-year/36,000-mile new-car warranty expires. Each Ford CPO vehicle must pass a 172-point inspection. Additional benefits like vehicle history reports, towing, and roadside assistance may be available, so read the Ford warranty page carefully.

Ford does not have one of the better CPO programs among affordable carmakers. According to our analysis, Chevy, GMC, Honda, Kia, and Mazda all have better programs.

See the best CPO programs »

How Safe Is the Explorer?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2016 Ford Explorer a perfect five-star rating in overall, front, and side impact testing, as well as four stars in rollover safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the SUV a Marginal rating, the next-to-the worst raging, for small overlap front crash safety. The Explorer earned Good ratings, the highest offered, in all other areas tested.

All 2016 Explorer SUVs come standard with a rearview camera. Available features include front and rear parking sensors, a front view camera, parallel park assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, forward collision warning, and adaptive cruise control.

See Explorer safety scores »

2016 Ford Explorer Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: 2016 Ford Explorer or 2016 Chevrolet Traverse?

The 3-row 2016 Chevy Traverse is one of the best picks in the midsize SUV class. The Traverse rates much higher than the Ford in reliability. It also features a far roomier cabin with seating for up to eight, as well as best-in-class cargo space – nearly 35 cubic feet more than the Explorer. Used models are typically less expensive as well. Overall, the Traverse is a better people- and cargo-hauler than the Explorer, though it’s not exactly fuel-efficient (just 15/22 mpg city/highway).

Which Is Better: 2016 Ford Explorer or 2016 Honda Pilot?

We named the Honda Pilot our 2016 Best 3-Row SUV for the Money and Best 3-Row SUV for Families. The Pilot seats up to eight and has a roomier interior than the Explorer. Even its third-row seats can accommodate adults on short trips. The Honda also boasts a simpler touch screen, nicer cabin materials, more advanced safety features, and a better reliability rating.

Compare the Explorer, Traverse, and Pilot »

2016 Explorer Performance

How Does the 2016 Ford Explorer Drive?

The Explorer has three engine options. The base, XLT, and Limited models are available with a 3.5-liter V6 (290 horsepower) or a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder (280 horsepower). Sport and Platinum models have a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 (365 horsepower). A six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard; all-wheel drive is available. All three engines provide ample muscle around town, and each can scoot the Explorer up to highway speeds with confidence. If you’re looking to haul heavy cargo, you’ll want to stick with one of the V6 engines. The four-cylinder feels strained when towing a trailer or climbing steep hills.

The Explorer rides quite comfortably, and its suspension soaks up most bumps and dips without fuss. Its steering is rather responsive as well. That said, the Explorer’s awkward sightlines make it feel bulkier than it actually is. Navigating through parking lots and tight city streets is tougher than it should be.

Does the 2016 Ford Explorer Get Good Gas Mileage?

The Explorer gets 19 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway (18/26 mpg, AWD) with its four-cylinder engine, which is fine by class standards. The standard V6 drops these ratings to 17/24 mpg (16/23 mpg, AWD). The twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 returns 16/22 mpg city/highway.

2016 Ford Explorer Towing Capacity

The Explorer is rated to tow up to 3,000 pounds when equipped with its four-cylinder engine and optional towing package. Explorer V6 models can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Read more about Explorer performance »

2016 Explorer Interior

How Many People Does the 2016 Explorer Seat?

The Ford Explorer is a three-row SUV with seating for seven. Second-row captain’s chairs are available, but these lower the vehicle’s seating capacity to six. The Explorer offers adequate head- and legroom for adults in both its first and second rows. The third-row seats are suitable only for smaller children, as is typical in this class. There are a couple of snafus, however. While the front seats are plush and offer fine lumbar support, the seat cushions are rather short, which can make long trips uncomfortable for tall drivers. Furthermore, thick roof pillars and a long, flat hood impair driver visibility. Many of the Explorer’s cabin materials look and feel low-quality as well, with the exception of the Platinum trim, which is quite nice inside.

How Many Car Seats Fit in the 2016 Ford Explorer?

The Explorer has three full sets of LATCH connectors for securing child seats. The IIHS gave the SUV’s LATCH system an Acceptable rating, the second-highest score, for ease of use. It noted, however, that some of the anchors are hard to access and can be confused for other hardware.

2016 Ford Explorer Features

All 2016 Explorer models come standard with a 4.2-inch display screen, a USB input, Bluetooth, and a rearview camera. Available features include satellite radio, rear-seat DVD screens, an 8-inch touch screen, and a navigation system. Neither infotainment setup is very user-friendly. The standard 4.2-inch screen has a cluttered button layout. The 8-inch MyFord Touch screen has a tendency to respond slowly, though it was improved for 2016 with a simpler button arrangement. Previous iterations relied on a touch-sensitive panel.

See 2016 Ford Explorer specs »

Read more about Explorer interior »

2016 Ford Explorer Dimensions

Ford Explorer Cargo Space

The Explorer has 21 cubic feet of cargo space behind its third-row seats and 43.9 cubic feet with those seats folded. Overall cargo space jumps to 81.7 cubic feet with the second- and third-row seats folded, which is about average for the midsize SUV class.

2016 Explorer Length and Weight

The 2016 Explorer is 16.5 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 4,457 pounds to 4,890 pounds, depending on the model.

Where Was the 2016 Ford Explorer Built?

The Ford Explorer was built in Chicago, Illinois, at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant. The Ford Taurus is also assembled there.

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Explorer Shoppers Should Also Consider...

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#1 in 2016 Affordable Midsize SUVs

Hyundai Santa Fe 2016 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe

#2 in 2016 Affordable Midsize SUVs

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#3 in 2016 Affordable Midsize SUVs

Mazda CX-9 2016 2016 Mazda CX-9

#4 in 2016 Affordable Midsize SUVs

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