2011 Ford Explorer Raises XSUV Bar – Explorer Reinvented1
The 2011 Ford Explorer is the latest iteration of the Ford Explorer and arguably one of the most important. In many ways the Explorer launched the popular use sport utility vehicle market in the USA when it introduced the 4-door Explorer in 1991. Previously, 4-door SUVs had been either Jeep Cherokees, the occasional Japanese entry and Chevrolet/GMC Suburbans. With the introduction of the Explorer the growth in the SUV market skyrocketed until almost one in four vehicles sold in the USA was an SUV of one type or another. In its heyday, Explorer was counted among the top five best selling vehicles in the USA and in its top year sold almost 450,000 units.
Until the new Explorer, the Explorer had been very much a two box SUV designed to move five (and later seven) people comfortably. While Explorer was an “SUV” it was a pretty mild one. It was known for being easy to live with but not for its prowess off-road. Ford never pretended the Explorer had the off-road chops of a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
EcoBoost 4-Cylinder OPTIONAL Powertrain The base engine for the Explorer is the 3.5L V6 with 290-horsepower. This engine is expected to be in 75% of Explorers sold. The extra cost optional powertrain is the 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine with 237-horsepower. This is an unusual pricing strategy for any manufacturer – giving LESS FOR MORE. Of course, Ford will position the EcoBoost 4 as the high technology, high fuel economy alternative that is worth more. Well, we’ll be watching this one closely because Americans usually don’t buy less for more and many still believe the adage “There is no replacement for displacement.”
Styling Now Distinctive in a Good Way The new Explorer has, by far, the most distinctive styling of all
Explorers. It does have Explorer cues, but also cues from the Ford
Taurus. Its predecessors were evolutionary from the first generation almost to a fault. The new Explorer breaks the mold and its Taurus-esque cues are very evident.
Explorer is based on the Ford D4 Platform (Flex and MKT and
also the D3 Platform – Taurus and MKS). Built at Ford’s Chicago
Assembly Plant, Explorer probably is responsible for filling half the
plant. So Ford clearly expects the Explorer to sell 100,000 or more
well above the 52,000 it sold in 2009. Capacity for its line is
probably 140,000 or 150,000 units.
Explorer a REAL SUV The basics of the new Explorer are
fundamental to the D4 Platform adjusted for “SUV”. Both the Flex and
MKT are crossover SUVs (XSUVs in AutoPacific parlance). The Explorer
meets all of Fords SUV product acceptance specifications so Explorer
should be much more capable off-road. Don’t know if it will run with
the Grand Cherokee or not, but it will be much more capable than Ford’s
Explorer Basics – Based on Front Wheel Drive Platform with I4 or V6 The
Explorer is based on a front wheel drive platform. Ford expects about
half of Explorers to have all wheel drive. About 25% of the Explorer
sales are expected to have its all new extra cost 2.0L 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine
that produces 237-horsepower and 250 lb ft of torque. This single
turbocharged, gasoline direct injection 4-cylinder gets 4-cylinder fuel
economy (30% better than the outgoing Explorer) and provides V6
performance. All wheel drive is not available with the 4-cylinder. The
3.5L V6 on 75% of the Explorer has 290-horsepower and 253 lb ft of
torque. The 3.5L is expected to get 20% better fuel economy than the
outgoing 4.0L V6 and 32% better than the V8.
An obvious question (other than the EcoBoost 4-cylinder pricing) is why doesn’t the Explorer offer the 3.5L EcoBoost
V6 (355-horsepower) offered in the other D3 and D4 Platform vehicles?
Why does a wimpy Flex XSUV get to have the monster engine and the
Explorer full SUV only get the lower output powerplants? We’ll search
for the answer.
MyFordTouch – Leads Feature Laden Explorer Ford is doing quite a bit to pitch its excellent MyFordTouch system. A combination of telematics/infotainment/communications/entertainment/diagnostics, MyFordTouch with Media Hub and SYNC is probably the industry’s state-of-the-art driver interface system to date. Now finally using conversational voice commands, MyFordTouch promises to improve the convenience and enjoyment of Explorer’s drivers and passengers. Key to the implementation of MyFordTouch was to make the feature simpler, safer and smarter. It looks like Ford has achieved that objective. MyFordTouch is a $1,000 option on the Explorer. To add full OEM Navigation to that package is another $795.
While MyFordTouch will get all the ink, Explorer has all the optional technology features found on the D3 and D4 platform vehicles. Showing that the manufacturer is listening to what its customers want, Explorer has steering-mounted five-way and secondary audio controls standard. AutoPacific research has shown steering wheel controls are at the top of consumers want lists. Cruise control is standard as are power windows and locks with keyless entry remote. Explorer will be available with adaptive cruise control, collision warning, Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert and active park assist.