Lobsters and Lighthouses.
Two of my favorite things. And traveling with my adventure-seeking ten-year old daughter.
So, imagine the fun we set out to find when we dreamed up a plan to drive up the East Coast, eating lobster, and climbing as many lighthouses as we could along the way. We were going exploring, and the only auto that made sense for this epic road trip was the 2016 Ford Explorer.
Yes, it was more room than we really needed for just the two of us, but other family was supposed to join us mid-way through the trip and we wanted to be sure we had room for everyone. In the end, that didn’t happen, but we were thankful for the space to stretch out in the back when we wanted to nap on the longer ferry rides—or to get a little work done while the ferry captain was doing the driving (USB charging ports and a 110-volt plug made it easy to keep my laptop, her tablet and our phones fully charged).
With the fold-flat seats (at the simple touch of a button), it was like we had our own living room in the back of the car, and that proved to be quite the blessing when we really wanted to relax. We had the Platinum edition of the Explorer, which meant we had all kinds of extras that made the ride downright luxurious. I’m not exaggerating.
The front seats had massage options that made the 1800+ mile journey home much more bearable (yes, I’m the fool who missed this feature on the first half of the trip as we drove north). And the safety features kept us alive in difficult driving situations, like the one we survived driving through New York City late at night—in the dark—and pouring rain. Not only did the navigation system help us avoid some of the worst traffic backups, suggesting alternate routes that carved an hour off the wait in heavy traffic, but it also suggested places to eat, and hotels where we could sleep, located right off the interstate, when we needed to stop.
More than once the sleep alert made me aware that maybe I was getting too tired to drive (it turns red if you veer out of your lane too often). In my case, it wasn’t an issue of being too tired, but maybe not using my blinker often enough when changing lanes (it took me a bit to figure out that’s what my problem was). The lane-keep assist would try to put me back in my own lane when that happened, and I’d have to override the steering wheel. Again, that took some getting used to, but I could have avoided it altogether if I’d used my blinker the way I was supposed to (even if there wasn’t a car behind me).
I grew to appreciate the blind spot warning I’d see in my mirror if another car was too close when I switched lanes…and I had to argue more than once with the ferry operators that maybe I shouldn’t get any closer to the vehicles around me when I was driving and parking on the ferries. They were telling me I had all kinds of room, while the Explorer’s sensors were showing me going from yellow to red on my nav screen, telling me I was dangerously close to hitting something, despite what the ferry workers claimed.
The Safety Car
There were so many extras like this in the Explorer that my daughter started calling it “The Safety Car”. She’s right. I don’t think I would have wanted to drive anything else through the nightmare NYC traffic became on that dark and rainy night (it just cries out for a movie, right?). When you have to drive across six lanes of traffic– from being spit off one bridge (a double decker one at that!) into the right-most lane, all the way over to an exit on the left, in about 400 feet, you better have the safest car on the road (it’s possible that’s an exaggeration, but it’s how it felt and it was all a blur at the time). I’d say Divine Intervention made it happen, but I have to give Ford the credit for coming up with this combination of safety features keeping me on my toes. And you can bet I’m thanking Ford for that massaging seat that helped me de-stress after the experience of it all.
The twin-turbocharged, 365-hp EcoBoost V-6 motor gave us the get-up-and-go we needed in tight traffic situations like that, and the all-wheel drive let us know we were good to go if we wanted or needed to drive on the sand out to any of the lighthouses on our list (it would have been good in the snow, too, but that wasn’t a concern in July).
Another extra quite appropriate for our trip was the smart headlight option on the Explorer. It actually brightened and dimmed on its own, based on whether traffic was coming our direction or not. It made it like we could almost see around a corner, which was a great benefit to someone driving on all unfamiliar roads.
The quilted leather upholstery only added to the luxury feel of the Explorer (hey, better to stay at the Four Seasons than Motel Six if you’re given the option, right?). We loved the hands-free option with the liftgate in the back, especially when my hands were full of our backpacks and travel gear, and hers were carrying the food and drinks. We just had to wave our foot under the bumper and wait a second, and voila!, the back lifted open all on its own. And don’t even get me started on the sunroof and moonroof. I’m a big believer in more light–always!
The only thing I’m not crazy about is the price tag. The 2016 Platinum model comes in at $53,915. That’s 20-thousand dollars more than the base model (at $31,995 for a front wheel drive, 3.5L V-6). But I guess what they say is true—you get what you pay for—and I guess things like seats that massage you non-stop are going to cost a bit.
The bottom line on the review is this: we covered about four thousand miles in this car. In a week! And I would have been fine driving four thousand more. It was functional. Versatile. Comfortable. And safe. The ideal vehicle for a trip-of-a-lifetime with your youngest child, who still thinks it’s cool to hang out with mom, especially while eating lobsters and exploring lighthouses.
You can see video of our fun–including many of the lighthouses and lots of the car features–if you click on the arrow in the box below. Please comment below and let me know what you think is coolest about this car!
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(Note to readers: Ford Motor Company provided the vehicle for this trip. I was not otherwise compensated. As always, my opinion remains my own.)