2017 Ford Explorer
Since it first arrived for 1991, the Ford Explorer has been a top seller among larger SUV’s and crossovers, with over 7 million sales to date. But, the market for three-row family utilities is bigger and more cut-throat than ever. So, the latest Explorer is outfitted with lot of little changes that Ford hopes will bring big results, with less exploring and more conquering.
2016 marked the 25th anniversary for the Ford Explorer. And while it was far from the first SUV, it was clearly one of the first that made a case for being a family vehicle more than just a rutted roads runabout.
Today’s Explorer bears little resemblance to that truck-based original, now riding on a three row crossover platform that debuted for 2011. Styling updates for ’16 included more than just the usual front fascia; as hood, headlamps, and fenders were new as well.
Most everything got freshened in back also; lift gate, bumper, and taillights. And of course there’s some new wheel styles to choose from. 20-17 adds a Sports Appearance Package with 20-inch wheels and Magnetic Grey highlights for the XLT trim.
A straightforward 3.5-liter naturally-aspirated V6 is still the base engine. More entertaining is this twin-turbo EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 with 365-horsepower and 350 lb-ft. of torque.
The newest option, is the Mustang’s 280-horsepower 2.3-liter I4 EcoBoost that replaces the 2.0-liter.
If your budget is not restricted, by all means opt for the 3.5 EcoBoost. It makes the Explorer feel like a true performance-style SUV. Though all engines offer adequate power as well as all-wheel-drive; and come equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Max towing is a class-norm 5,000-lbs.
The all-wheel-drive system features Ford’s Terrain Management System with settings for Normal, Snow, Sand, and Mud. In our experience, you pick your road conditions and the Explorer responds.
Now, there seems to be no limit to how far manufacturers will go to add poshness to utilities, nor buyers’ appetites for same. So, Ford brings the Platinum series to the Explorer. It features real wood and aluminum trim, as well as premium Sony sound and quilted leather.
And it’s altogether very nice, almost Land rover spec. inside. The brushed aluminum accents are gorgeous, and the animal hides are Nirvana leather, but think more of the place you want to spend eternity in, not the alternative rock band playing right now on Lithium.
7–passenger seating is standard, with 2nd row Captain’s chairs, an option.
Being one of the larger 3-row crossovers means that cargo space fairs well at 21.0 cubic-ft. behind the 3rd row, 43.9 behind the 2nd row, and maxing out at 81.7 cubic-ft. A hands free lift gate is available with XLT and Sport trim; standard on Limited and Platinum.
Platinum trim also includes enhanced Active Park Assist; and on the safety front, inflatable 2nd row safety belts are now available on all models.
As before, the Explorer won’t yet apply the brakes for you if a collision is imminent; but it will give plenty of warning, and provide full braking pressure once you initiate the stop.
Turbocharging may not me a total replacement for displacement, but our twin-turbo V6 felt plenty V8-strong at our test track. There’s good torque down low, and grippy all-wheel-drive hookup, for a 6.5-second sprint to 60.
There was plenty of high-end grunt as well, accompanied by urgent shifting from the 6-speed automatic; taking us to the end of the ¼-mile in 15.0-seconds flat, at 94 miles-per-hour.
Through the cones, the Explorer still feels big and heavy compared to its many more nimble rivals. But there are still plenty of people out there who want their Bronco-type vehicle to still feel like a truck.
It’s certainly manageable, though. Just keep the speeds down and your inputs smooth.
Despite that big-truck feel, a 121-foot average stopping distance from 60 is quite good for any family-size utility. Nose dive was moderate, with pedal travel on the long side.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the EcoBoost V6 with all-wheel-drive are 16-City, 22-Highway, and 18-Combined. Our average with Regular grade was right on, at 18.1 miles-per-gallon. That makes for a poor Energy Impact Score at 18.3-barrels of yearly oil consumption with 8.2-tons of CO2 emissions.
There’s a wide variety in pricing, as you might expect, starting at $32,105 for a base 2017 Explorer; all-wheel-drive adds $2,150 more. While Platinum trim comes with a tag befitting the name, at $54,180
Even after a quarter of a century, Ford has managed to find ways to significantly improve the Explorer without any turnoffs. The luxury intentions of the Platinum are obvious, while the rest of the lineup still plays the large family vehicle part perfectly. We think that will keep Explorer’s market-conquering ways intact beyond the horizon.
- Engine: 3.5 liter
- Horsepower: 365
- Torque: 350 lb-ft.
- 0-60 mph: 6.5 seconds
- 1/4 mile: 15.0 seconds @ 94 mph
- EPA: 16 mpg city / 22 mpg highway,
- Energy Impact: 18.3 barrels of oil/yr
- CO2 Emissions: 8.2 tons/yr
2024 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
Bringing Supercar Performance To The Street…American Style
What happens when you let enthusiasts and engineers worry less about tradition and allow them to do what they do best? You get cars like this Chevrolet Corvette Z06. What happens when GM let’s us borrow one for a few days? That’s what we’re about to find out!
While the Z06 package first became an option for the Chevrolet Corvette back in 1963, it wasn’t until the C5 that it describe the ultimate track-focused ‘Vette. And while since then every Z06 has gotten more extreme, if we were plotting things out on a graph, this is where the line of performance progression goes from a steady incline to almost vertical. Yes, the latest C8 Z06 is all that.
It starts with a brand new LT6 5.5-liter DOHC V8 that outputs 670-horsepower and delivers 460 lb-ft. of torque. It sounds great too, the very aggressive nature of its flat-plane crank design has it sounding, and feeling like it’s trying to shake its way out of the engine bay unless you unleash some of its furry.
This dual-cammer featured a dry-sump design from the get-go and is more racing engine than souped-up small block, being developed originally for the C8.R race car.
It made short work of Roebling Road Raceway’s long front straight, able to reach 160 by the end of it. With Hellcats no longer rolling off the assembly line, this is easily our new favorite V8.
But, as you can imagine, Chevy has done much more than just plop a bigger motor into its rear-midship engine bay, which was easier to do since they didn’t have to worry about anyone seeing over it. They’ve addressed just about every part of the car to ensure it puts that power to best use for coming out of corners like few other cars on the street.
That includes upgrades for the short/long arm double wishbone suspension setup that can be further enhanced with an available Z07 Performance Package that adds more aggressive tuning for Magnetic Ride Control, and Michelin Sport Cup 2R tires. Which can be mounted on 20 and 21-inch carbon fiber wheels with carbon ceramic brakes nestled behind.
It all translated into more grip than a semi’s worth of industrial strength Velcro through Roebling’s 9-turns.
With Hellcats no longer rolling off the assembly line, this is easily our new favorite V8.
Like most Corvettes, the Z06 can be as wild or mild of an experience as you care to make it but will most likely be the fastest car to show up at most track days. Yet, the same magnetic dampers that void all body roll on the track, provide an almost plush ride quality for the drive home, though not quite as plush as the standard Corvette.
We’re struggling to find something non-fan boy to say; sure the 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox doesn’t deliver shifts with the brutality of some exotics, but really, they’re just as fast, and the shifts are much smoother.
Believe it or not, almost all the body is unique. So, rather than just tacking on some fender flares, Chevy made the entire car wider to cover the 345 rear tires, yet keep the same uniform look in place.
The optional Carbon Fiber Aero Package adds a front splitter, rocker extensions, front dive planes, and a huge rear wing. We’re not sure if the multi-level nature of that rear wing was done for functional or aesthetic reasons, but it doesn’t block your rearview, and that is much appreciated.
We always talk about torque being more important than horsepower when it comes to acceleration, and the Z06 works with almost 200 fewer lb-ft. of torque than horsepower, but you sure wouldn’t know it when you mash the throttle.
Easy to use programmable launch control allows you to dial in your preferred RPM for launching; we found 4,500 was just about perfect for Roebling’s front straight, allowing for just a tiny bit of slip before rocketing us to 60 on a 40 degree day in just 2.6-seconds.
Power continues to pour on hard as the engine quickly hits its 8,600 RPM redline, and gear changes happen often. The sound inside the cabin in intense, and when the ¼-mile came to an end in 10.7-seconds at 130 miles-per-hour, it felt like it was just getting started.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are a low 12-City, 19-Highway, and 14-Combined.
For the Z06 there are 3 LZ pricing points to land on, starting at $114,395; but you can go with the top-of-the-line Z06, add 50-grand worth of options, and still come out half the price of anything you can compare it to.
Call us home teamers all you want, but America’s only exotic does it yet again, not only is it the best Corvette ever, but it is also easily one of the greatest American cars of all time, arriving at a particularly poignant time culturally as we mourn the potential loss of internal combustion engines altogether. So, come for the spectacular engine and stay for the complete performance package, and experience, that is the Chevrolet Corvette Z06.
- Engine: 5.5-liter V8
- Horsepower: 670
- 0-60 mph: 2.6 seconds
- EPA: 12 City | 19 Highway | 14 Combined
- Transmission: 8-speed dual clutch auto
- Torque: 460 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 10.7-seconds at 130 mph