Back in 1991 model year, Ford unveiled what has probably been the brand’s most significant all-new vehicle. The Ford Explorer provided domestic North American auto makers a fighting chance to compete with the import vehicles. 20 years later, the Explorer remains alive and well.
Debuting as a mid-sized sport utility vehicle, the Explorer began a more than one decade love affair with the truck-based Ford. With sales of 445,157 units in the year 2000, Ford’s Explorer resided at the top of the world for the Blue Oval outselling each of Ford’s car models. However, even equipped with its four-wheel drive system and V-8 power, the popular SUV would be placed into a predicament it could never recover. Relating to under-inflated Firestone tires, the high ground clearance and ladder-frame chassis would be finger the Explorer as possessing a center of gravity issue. However, it is never affirmed that the Explorer’s weight distribution played a direct role in serious accidents resulting from tire failures.
Explorer sales would stay strong for a few years following the tire recall crisis but the Explorer would fall victim to changing consumer tastes as crossover vehicles became more sought after products. Last year, only 52,190 Ford Explorers were sold. Realizing that if you can’t beat them, join them, the 2011 Explorer is setting aside the truck-based construction for a more civilized base seeking better fuel economy and car-like handling.
Besides being built on unibody construction for the first time, the Explorer’s will be attracting a more upscale market than with previous incarnation. Riding within a 1.1 inch shorter wheelbase, the new Explorer is actually 3.7 inches longer in overall length compared to the outgoing ladder-frame Explorer. Enjoying one of its sleekest designs ever, the 2011 Ford Explorer has clearly taken part in a few more minutes of wind tunnel time. Wearing a proud Ford grille, the latest SUV projects what is smooth, carefully-contoured bodywork. Ford’s Chief Engineer for the 2011 Ford Explorer Jim Hollard describes the matured vehicle taking its new place in the SUV/crossover lineup “The new Explorer represents the democratization of luxury SUV levels of style, craftsmanship, technology and capability,”
Inside the 2011 Ford Explorer, the goal of refinement is achieved with the proper use of soft touch materials along with a sound-controlled cabin optimized with improved NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness) technology. Technology plays an important part inside each new Explorer as a 4.2 inch LCD screen with MyFord Driver connect technology offers drivers voice activation and personalization of the vehicle through a five-way control. On the Explorer Limited, the interior is upgraded with a MyFord Touch system adding an 8 inch touch-screen for selecting items.
Keeping in mind the utility that made the Explorer popular, practical features joins the high-tech. Four 12-volt power outlets are placed around the cabin successful for charging laptops or for powering items related to a family camping trip. Three-row seating inside the 2011 Ford Explorer is standard on all models. However, if the 2nd and 3rd row seats are folded, up to 80.6 cubic feet of space can be utilized flexible storage opportunities.
In regards to power, consumers will find a conspicuously absent item on the 2011 Ford Explorer equipment list. Pushing forth in promoting their new SUV with more efficiently-packaged powerplants, a V-8 option will not be included with this Explorer. Instead, an EcoBoost I-4 and a 3.5 liter V-6 engine will be made available producing competitive power to the 2010 Ford Explorer. Using a turbocharger and direct injection, the four-cylinder version of Ford’s tech-savvy EcoBoost will bang out a potent 237 horsepower. Using the same V-6 engine found inside the Ford Taurus, the estimated 290 horsepower output is just short of the discontinued V-8’s performance. Gaining 20 per cent better fuel economy than the previous V-6 engine, 2011 Explorers with the larger engine can also make use of a driver-selectable intelligent four-wheel drive system. Six-speed automatic gearboxes drive all Ford Explorers.
Thanks to Ford, the Explorer name lives on beyond 2011 in a modern automotive being. While an SUV purest will certainly hold a vigil to the loss for the United States’ most prolific truck-based, mid-sized vehicles, the old Explorer has respectively reached the end of its voyage.
Photo and information source: Ford