The Honda Pilot, good as it might be, has been a blight on the road. Its eyeball searing gawky looks were only short of the not-lamented Pontiac Aztec. These are harsh comments, but a vehicle that makes you scream when you first see at an auto show is certainly a show stopper and not in a good way. Honda defends the previous Pilot as having traditional sport utility vehicle styling. That may be so, but it was very third world and inappropriate for the American market. Lasting for an extremely long cycle for Honda – seven years – the Pilot was a very good vehicle under the skin and its interior was commodious to say the least. But, now it’s thankfully dead and to be replaced by the third generation 2016 Honda Pilot on June 18, 2015.
The 2016 Ford Explorer marks the 25th anniversary of the vehicle line. When it launched as a 1991 model, the Explorer redefined what a sport utility vehicle should be – it was a high volume SUV with 4-doors (Ford wrongly estimated 4-door sales would be 30% of the mix – later, it became 100%). 7,000,000 sales later, Ford is launching a nicely updated mid-cycle product change. When the 2016 Ford Explorer launches, most people won’t be able to tell the difference from the present Explorer. While the vehicle’s sheetmetal ahead of the A-Pillar is all new and the liftgate and taillamps are all new, the differences are subtle to the casual observer. So while the change for 2016 is major, its appearance change is minor.
Ford has one of the broadest SUV lineups in the industry with Escape, Edge, Explorer, Flex and Expedition and the 2015 model year is time for a new Edge. Interestingly, Ford’s introduction to the Edge omitted the word “crossover”. They are merely referring to it as a “mid-size utility”. The concept execution of the new Edge was shown to the media on Tuesday, November 19 at a venue in the Los Angeles garment district. It was shown to the wider media at the Los Angeles Auto Show the next day.
The 2015 Ford Edge is designed to be sold globally and especially targeted at China and the USA. It is based on the front wheel drive platform of the hot-selling Ford Fusion. It retains the dimensions of its predecessor but adds an inch of wheelbase. The styling is sportier than before with the new Ford hexagonal grille treatment, more muscular bodyside graphics and a faster backlite. At a glance, it is still obviously an Edge.
The styling of the new Edge is an appropriate evolution from its predecessor, but technology may be where the Edge breaks the mold. Ford executives were using the term “democratization of technology” a lot at the show. This means that new technology will be available up and down the Ford lineup from the Escape and Focus to the Flex and Taurus.
The upcoming Edge has a full suite of whizbang features available: EcoBoost powertrains, active park assist, a lane-keeping system, adaptive cruise control, blind spot information system, MyFordTouch. The concept is shown with a 10-inch touch screen in the center stack. They make a big deal that their old capacitive switches are gone and replaced with “premium mechanical switchgear”.
While the LA Show vehicle is officially termed a “concept”, it is very close to the production model coming later in 2014.
“Ford Explorer’s win of AutoPacific’s 2009 Ideal Vehicle Award shows that Ford has designed a Premium Mid-Size Sport Utility Vehicle that is ideal for its buyers. Explorer also won AutoPacific’s 2009 Vehicle Satisfaction Award. The Explorer has been a top competitor in this class for almost twenty years and Ford has become a master in SUV design. Ford clearly understands what these buyers want and have delivered,” said George Peterson, president of AutoPacific, Inc. “In a product segment where buyers value ease of use, generous passenger and cargo space in a good-looking vehicle, owners rate the Explorer above all the rest.” Top-scoring Explorer attributes include:
* Exterior styling
* Ride and handling
* Cargo space
Ford Explorer is the vehicle that started it all, way back in 1991. As the first of the modern four-door SUVs, Explorer turned the market around. The 2009 Explorer continues its excellence as a vehicle for all seasons. Owners rate it tops in the Premium Mid-Size Sport Utility category, with a high score in most categories. Rather than class-leading scores all around, the key to this win is having no low score in any area. In addition, the Explorer is segment leader in the following areas:
• Ride and handling
• Safety features
• Controls have quality feel/operation
• Seating capacity and comfort
• Flexible/changeable seating
• Cargo space/capacity
• Ease of loading/unloading cargo
• Overall dealer experience was also best in class
AutoPacific’s 2008 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards results are in. AutoPacific’s awards collect the opinions of OWNERS. There is no subjectivity added by AutoPacific at all.
Truck-Based Traditional SUVs Most Satisfying
As usual, there are expected winners and unexpected losers, but let’s take a look at some overall results that will surprise many of you.
The vehicle type with the highest Vehicle Satisfaction Score is the Traditional Sport Utility Vehicle category. These are truck-based SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade
, Toyota Sequoia
, Ford Explorer
, Toyota 4Runner
, Kia Sorento
, HUMMER H3
and Toyota FJ Cruiser
. In fact, the Toyota Sequoia was the top scoring vehicle – car or truck – in AutoPacific’s 2008 Vehicle Satisfaction results.
Car-Based Crossover SUVs More Satisfying than Cars, Minivans, Pickups
The second highest scoring category was the Crossover Sport Utility Vehicle category. These are car-based SUVs like the Audi Q7
, BMW X3
, Acura RDX
, Buick Enclave
, GMC Acadia
, Hyundai Veracruz
, Suzuki XL-7
, Ford Edge
, Saturn Vue
, Toyota RAV4
and Nissan Rogue
. Crossovers are the response by the automakers to make more user-friendly SUVs and in 2006 Crossover SUVs began outselling Traditional SUVs… a trend that will not be reversed.
Rated substantially behind SUVs are Cars, Minivans and Pickups.
Clearly, even in times of high and increasing fuel prices, SUVs are here to stay. Their Swiss Army Knife utility guarantees they will be a central part of a high many family fleets in the future. The continuing jihad against SUVs has failed again!
The Explorer is the vehicle that launched the modern SUV category in 1991 and Ford has used these years to understand the SUV market better than any other manufacturer. The result is that Ford Explorer wins as Most Ideal Mid-Size SUV with consistently good results across the fifteen rating categories. Ford’s planners, designers and engineers understand what buyers of Mid-Size SUVs want. Explorer was over segment average in all 15 categories and scores particularly well with respect to passenger room, cargo room, handling, technology, and power and acceleration.
Showing that Ford Motor Company planners, designers and engineers not only know the traditional SUV market better than most with Ideal Vehicle Award wins by the Ford Expedition and Ford Explorer, Ford’s all new crossover SUVs win in their categories as well. Ford’s new Edge wins as Ideal Premium Crossover SUV. Edge not only wins its category, but has the highest “Ideal” ratings of any SUV overall. Edge is a sales success…and buyers often consider it near ideal. Few buyers would change the exterior size or styling. Both ride and handling are highly rated, as are technology level and interior storage.
The Ford Escape was Ford’s first Crossover Sport Utility Vehicle. When it was launched, it hit the sweet spot in the SUV market… good size, great interior package, super visibility, well-priced, looked like an SUV. Over the years, Ford essentially did nothing to the Escape to keep it overtly fresh except launch the Escape Hybrid – a really good move, but not something that sold huge volumes of Escapes.
Now, for the 2008 model year, Ford has implemented what the industry calls a “front and rear six”. This means that, keeping doors, roof, windshield, windows, etc the same, Escape gets new styling for the front “six inches” and for the rear “six inches”. In addition, the Escape gets an interior freshening.
The puzzling part of the Escape redo, however, is the use of a eggcrate grille rather than the horizontal bar motif now rolling out on Ford Edge and Explorer and Expedition. While these three SUVs all are on the market now with the new-look Ford Truck front end, Ford insiders confess that the Escape’s front end styling was approved before the Edge, et al and that there would have been a delay if they had circled around to do the “right thing”. Reality bites.
The First Sport-Utility with a Truck Bed is New for 2007
With the new-for-2001 Sport Trac, Ford was the first to put a short pickup bed on the back of an SUV passenger cabin, then based on the Ranger just as prior Explorers were. The shape has not taken off like gangbusters, but Sport Trac has managed to sell between 48,500 units and 83,600 units most years, with little marketing support behind it. And its owners are enthusiastic enough to have created a fan-based web site (www.mysporttrac.com) and an annual two-day rally in June (Ford will support one of the two days this year). Along with the annual Louisville meet, centered around the truck’s production location, there have been regional meets all over the country. Since its launch, sales have dropped below 40,000 units only twice, and in 2005 this was in part due to a short production year.
Not only are there enough buyers who appreciate this combination and enough opportunity for sharing components for Ford to keep it alive and bring us the second generation Explorer Sport Trac
for 2007, some in the competition have borrowed from the playbook. GM takes on this configuration compete amongst full-size crew-cab pickups, and include the Chevrolet Avalanche
/Cadillac Escalade EXT
and Hummer H2 SUT
, though GM adds a mid-gate for hauling even longer loads. Honda’s Ridgeline
goes most directly up against the latest Explorer Sport Trac. If Dodge’s Rampage concept (Chicago, 2006) is any indication, they are at least considering playing in this group. The GM products are based on full-size SUVs and Honda looked to the Pilot for a base, though the platform was substantially modified. For now, there aren’t many like the Sport Trac in the automotive landscape, and it competes most directly with four-door crew cab pickups, as do Avalanche, Escalade EXT, and Ridgeline.
In late March 2006, AutoPacific
correspondents got the opportunity to climb behind the wheel of the latest Explorer Sport Trac, reaching dealers as these words are being written. Here are our first thoughts.