Preview: 2011 Ford Explorer

This week, Ford announced a whole lot of details about the upcoming 2011 Explorer SUV, including photos, technology and capability.  They spent a lot of time talking about fuel efficiency and high technology, which I’ll go into after the break, followed by a high-resolution image gallery.

There are several technologies which Ford added to its newest Explorer design, in order to keep its current SUV customers happy, while stealing away buyers from its competitors.  The highlights of this laundry list are the following:

Efficiency:

  1. Aerodynamics: The design for the new Explorer was optimized in a wind tunnel to produce the least amount of drag, one of the biggest problems with large SUVs trying to gain fuel efficiency.
  2. EcoBoost Engine: Ford’s name for its powerful but efficient engines, which all employ Direct Injection and Turbocharging, boosting fuel efficiency and power, respectively.  Also, at cruising speeds, the turbocharger isn’t needed, which also boosts efficiency.
  3. Lighter Vehicle Weight: By using aluminum and high-strength steels, engineers were able to remove about 100 pounds of weight, compared to the 2010 Explorer.
  4. Low Rolling Resistance Tires: Special rubber in the tires lessens the waste heat generated when a car is moving.  These tires are usually standard equipment on hybrid vehicles.
  5. New Air Conditioner: A “variable displacement” air conditioner, which works more like the engine in a car, in that it only produces as much energy as is needed.  This is used again to boost fuel efficiency without sacrificing power.

Overall, Ford is expecting its V6 Explorer to have a 20% increase over 2010 models, and the EcoBoost 4-cylinder should be closer to 30% more efficient.  This should lead to 18/26 city/highway mileage numbers for the turbo 4-cylinder, and probably 16/23 city/highway for the V6 model.

Safety:

  1. RSC, or Roll Stability Control, helps keep the Explorer from rolling over, while Curve Control keeps the vehicle moving in the intended direction.
  2. BLIS and Cross Traffic Alert help in lane changes and parking lots, respectively.  Adaptive Cruise Control helps keep your distance while on the highway.

The new Explorer will employ all of Ford’s standard safety features, as well as the latest and greatest innovations, the highlights of which are listed above.  This should lead to a pretty safe SUV.

Quiet:

Using their NoiseVision technology, Ford’s engineers found the “hot spots” where noises are generated as wind flows around the vehicle, and engineered these noises out during the design phase.  This leads to a much quieter ride that requires less sound deadening materials.

Other:

  1. Unit-body Construction: The new Explorer rides on a platform similar to that of the Ford Flex, Taurus, as well as the Lincoln MKS and MKT.  This means it will have a more car-like ride to it, but retain all the ruggedness of its predecessors.
  2. Intelligent 4WD: Ford has equipped the new Explorer with an intelligent 4WD system, capable of handling most types of off-road terrain via a driver-selectable knob.
  3. Towing: The new Explorer, when equipped with a V6 engine, will be able to tow up to 5,000 pounds, and a rear-mounted camera with zoom capability will aid drivers in hooking up their toys.

While it may have a car-like ride on-road, and be based on car and crossover DNA, the new Explorer should be no slouch when the going gets tough.

Summary:

Beyond all the aforementioned improvements and features, Ford will of course be offering its MyFord Touch system, as well as an audiophile-grade sound system by Sony.  Also, a lot of you are probably wondering why Ford even bothers, as the new Explorer closely resembles one of the myriad of crossovers they are already producing.  The answer to that question lies in the intelligent 4WD system, not found on any Ford crossover.  It allows drivers to go places crossovers simply can’t – namely mud, sand and deeper snow.

When the new Explorer goes on sale, which should be sometime later this year, I think it might actually cannibalize some of Ford’s crossover sales, especially the Edge, and if it’s as quiet and luxurious as their PR department says it is, look for the already fairly slow-selling Lincoln MKX and MKT crossovers to take a hit as well.  With any luck, Ford is already designing a Lincoln-ized version of the new Explorer, which should include Bridge of Weir leather, nicer interior materials, its own bodywork, and some of the other touches that differentiate Lincoln vehicles from their Ford brethren.

Image Gallery:

by John Suit

Source: Ford

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