The Platinum version is a new model that takes the 2016 Ford Explorer into premium SUV territory. (Manufacturer photo)

Finding driving gold in the Ford Explorer Platinum

I took possession of the 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum at Sea-Tac Airport late in the evening after a five-hour flight from Newark, N.J., and getting into that car was like a spa treatment after what I’d been through.

The reason for the East Coast trip was a wedding, to which I wore an outfit that would be considered nice – well, maybe not nice but definitely acceptable – for a big church wedding in Snohomish County and possibly even Seattle. But I might as well have been wearing a flannel nightgown from Lanz of Salzburg at a party for the cast of “Jersey Shore.” It wasn’t just culture shock, it was culture electrocution.

Taxi trips to and from the airport were like being inside a rock polisher. What do taxi companies have against springs and dampers?

A flight on Alaska Airlines is always better than a flight on a different domestic carrier, but five hours in the air still takes a toll on those of us who don’t like sitting still for very long and rarely enjoy being in close proximity to a horde of strangers, especially when many of them are coughing.

So when I finally got back to Seattle and into the Ford Explorer Platinum, that’s why it seemed like a spa.

The Platinum model, new for 2016, introduces the Explorer to premium SUV status. Its supremely comfortable and quiet interior is trimmed with upscale materials including real aluminum and genuine ash wood, fabric-wrapped A-pillars and quilted stitching. The all-new 500-watt Sony audio system includes Live Acoustics and Clear Phase technology designed to reproduce concert-hall sound quality and eliminate sound dispersion throughout the passenger cabin.

Among the many desirable features included as standard equipment on the Explorer Platinum are rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated and cooled seats for the driver and front passenger, heated second-row seats, a power-folding third-row seat, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel column, and a moonroof.

A less desirable standard feature is the non-intuitive and overly complicated MyFord Touch infotainment system, particularly its evil touchscreen. To be fair, I’m not real fond of automotive touchscreens in general, but some of them act eager to please and are therefore very likeable. With the MyFord Touch system, sometimes accidentally barely brushing a finger against the screen causes it to perform an unwanted function; at other times, deliberately pressing down to issue a desired command causes it to do nothing. To its great credit, the system does partially redeem itself by having auxiliary manual controls on the steering wheel.

Continuing with more items that are standard features on the Explorer Platinum: a Class III trailer tow package (5,000-lb towing capacity), active parking assist, a front 180-degree camera, lane keeping and reverse sensing systems, trailer sway control, satellite radio, navigation, hill descent control, and a terrain management system with driver-selectable settings to increase stability during slippery and sloppy road and off-road conditions.

The Explorer Platinum’s power is provided by the same 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine used on the Explorer Sport, generating 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, and joined to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift ability. It’s a flawless combo, very generous with torque, delivering strong and smooth acceleration at all times. Fuel economy ratings are less stellar but not bad for a 4,500-pound vehicle with four-wheel drive, this much horsepower and the Explorer’s capabilities: 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. Regular unleaded fuel is recommended.

Don’t let the Platinum’s cushy, civilized ride and upscale trappings fool you into thinking it’s not tough enough. I drove this new Ford Explorer model on an arduous off-road course and the rugged capabilities it displayed there were as impressive as the sophistication it displayed on the highway.

My tester’s optional second-row bucket seats with center console added $845 to the base price.

2016 FORD EXPLORER PLATINUM AWD

Base price, including destination charge: $53,915

Price as driven: $54,760

Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild and a board member of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

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