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2011 Ford Explorer unveiled, tries crossing over on road to redemption

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NewsFeeder    9

Filed under: SUV, Safety, Crossover, Ford, Design/Style

11explorer01hropt.jpg
2011 Ford Explorer Deep Dive - Click above for high-res image gallery

In creating the 2011 Explorer, Ford engineers and designers had an enormously difficult task set before them. Ford's President of the Americas, Mark Fields, described the job as "Reinventing the SUV for the 21st century." Despite the near complete collapse of the traditional mid-to-large SUV market over the last several years, Ford still sees a substantial market for the capabilities of these boxy behemoths. Customers just don't want the traditional downsides that accompany these body-on-frame 'utes - specifically, their higher fuel consumption and poor ride and handling.

The new Explorer remains squarely targeted at traditional SUV buyers.
Since its debut some 20 years ago, the Explorer has sold over six million units, four million of which are still traversing the world's roads. Through much of the late-1990s and early part of the last decade, the Explorer was Ford's second-best-selling vehicle behind its F-Series pickups, regularly selling 400,000 units a year. Fast-forward to 2009, and that volume had plummeted to just over 52,000. Even so, Ford believes it still has an opportunity. According to the automaker's vice president of global marketing, Jim Farley, each year, at least 140,000 Explorer owners come back to Blue Oval dealerships looking to purchase new vehicles. And obviously, they just aren't buying Explorers.

When word got out that Ford was developing a new unibody Explorer off the same platform architecture that underpins the Taurus and Flex - not to mention the Lincoln MKS and MKT - many people wondered why Dearborn had elected to develop yet another crossover, especially since the Taurus X/Freestyle had just been killed due to slow sales. This predicament was not lost on Ford's product planners, and their four-wheeled response is a new Explorer that remains squarely targeted at traditional SUV buyers - shoppers that Ford sees as a distinct group from most crossover intenders. Long ago, Jeep proved with the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee that a unibody chassis isn't necessarily an impediment to building a fully capable off-roader, and Ford appears to have taken that lesson to heart, along with targeting big improvements in fuel economy and driving dynamics. Follow the jump to find out if they succeeded.


Continue reading 2011 Ford Explorer unveiled, tries crossing over on road to redemption

2011 Ford Explorer unveiled, tries crossing over on road to redemption originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 26 Jul 2010 00:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Intrepidation    848

Design and Quality

The first thing you'll notice about the new Explorer is its appearance, and it couldn't be much more different from the more station wagon-like Flex. This, despite possessing similar hardware underneath. It's also quite different from 2008's Explorer America concept. While that design study featured a unibody, three-row configuration, its shape was comparatively soft and formless.

The production 2011 Explorer combines many of the design ideas found in the latest Taurus along with some of the "kinetic" elements from Ford of Europe's design menu into a taller, SUV form factor. The result is a sleek, modern look that combines ruggedness and athleticism. At the front, a further evolution of the three-bar grille from the Taurus sits above a trapezoidal lower air intake that echos some of Ford's European offerings. Along the flanks, parallel character lines below the beltline and above the rocker panels again mirror the appearance of the Taurus and also carry into the rear quarters. When combined with wheel arches that bulge out to cover a six inch wider track, the pulled-in bodysides lend the Explorer a much more aggressive stance.

The windshield is raked back at a steeper angle than prior iterations, and the blacked-out B- and D-pillars that have been a hallmark of every Explorer are now complemented by matching A-pillars. Only the Explorer's C-pillar is painted body color. Of the three pre-production models we've seen, two were painted white, a move that served to highlight the vastly improved tolerances of the new body panels. The gaps between the doors and bodyshell are remarkably tight and rival luxury vehicles from the likes of Audi and Lexus.

The one fitment exception that stands out is the cut line of the Explorer's hood. Like many other recent designs, the hood wraps over the bodysides in a clamshell stamping. The horizontal gap between the hood and fenders is notably wider than others, which Ford's North America Design Director Moray Callum tells us is to allow for over-slam when closing the hood. Callum further explains that the main reason for adopting this style of hood is pedestrian protection. Moving the flange from the top surface of the engine compartment to the sides provides more compliance if a pedestrian is struck. Despite the larger gap, Ford has integrated it well, running from the top edge of the headlamps back to the side glass.

In addition to the appearance and build quality, improved aerodynamics was a major focus of the new design. Ford claims a best-in-class drag coefficient of 0.35 for the new Explorer, which should contribute to improved fuel efficiency as well as reduced wind noise.

Interior

Over the last several years, Ford has made huge strides in improving both the actual and perceived quality of its interiors. Just like the refreshed 2011 Edge and the 2012 Focus, the Explorer's new cabin stands head-and-shoulders above the old model. The interior is dominated by soft-touch materials and, at first glance, the control layout appears both intuitive and ergonomically sound.

The additional width of the 2011 model comes through with extra hip and shoulder room in the first two rows. Riders in those seats will also find that they have about two inches more clearance for their ten-gallon hats. Unlike some competitors' crossovers, the second row doesn't offer any fore-aft adjustments, but occupants can at least adjust the seatback angle.

Based strictly on the specifications, leg- and headroom in the third row are pretty similar to the old model, although hip- and shoulder room are down slightly. Even still, six-footers can inhabit the third row with knees unencumbered by the second-row seatbacks.

Since the Explorer shares its architecture with the Flex, it also has the same type of third-row folding mechanism. With the seats up, there is a deep bin behind the seats that provides ample room for groceries or gear – even with seven people in the vehicle. The seatbacks can also be folded forward to retain the bin while adding extra cargo space on top of the seat. Finally, the entire unit can be flipped back into the bin, leaving a flat, bumper-level floor. With the second row seats folded as well, Ford says that the Explorer offers 80.7 cubic feet of cargo space. Additionally, the Explorer will also have an optional power-fold mechanism, but the manual setup is so easy to use that the power-fold system's extra weight and complexity hardly seems worth it.

Safety

One of the main target audiences for vehicles like the Explorer are active families. With this and the Explorer's past rollover controversy still in mind, safety came to be one of the team's top priorities during development. Like every Ford SUV, pickup and crossover in recent years, the Explorer has the automaker's Roll Stability Control (RSC) system, in addition to the more typical stability control. Aside from Volvo, Ford says it is the only the automaker to add a body roll sensor to the usual array of inertial sensors to keep things on an even keel. The Explorer builds on these existing systems with the new Curve Control functionality that we profiled a few weeks ago.

In addition to various dynamic stability control algorithms, the Explorer is available with a radar-based adaptive cruise control system. The same radar sensor used to manage the vehicle speed on a road trip also powers a collision warning system. If the Explorer is closing on another vehicle too quickly, a bright red LED array on top of the instrument cluster warns the driver and pre-charges the brakes for quicker response when they hit the pedal. If the driver fails to respond in time, the system will automatically apply the brakes with full force in order to minimize the impact or avoid the accident completely.

If an impact can't be avoided, the safety engineers have incorporated some new technology to help mitigate injuries to the passengers. Ford first announced its rear seatbelt airbag system last Fall, and it makes its production debut on the Explorer. The outboard belts in the second row consist of a double layer of fabric around a tubular airbag. In the event of a collision, the bag is inflated and the belt material opens up. The safety advantage here is that the impact load is spread over a larger area, reducing pressure at any one point. Because they are physically smaller, children are more susceptible to compression injuries in a collision, and since they typically sit in the second row, these new inflatable belts should help reduce injuries among children in particular.

Another feature unique to Ford (at least to our knowledge) is the use of pressure sensors in the side of the vehicle's body structure. In the event of a side impact, said pressure sensors will actually register before the accelerometers currently used to trigger airbags. Given the limited space between the side of the vehicle and the occupants, those extra few milliseconds of airbag deployment can make a significant difference.

The Explorer will also be available with a cross-traffic alert system that uses radar sensors in the rear corners to look sideways as the vehicle is backed out of a parking space. It can warn the driver if there are any other vehicles coming down the aisle before the driver can see them. Rear vision is also aided by a rear-view camera with a unique zoom feature, something that ought to be very helpful when hooking up a trailer.

Part two of our introduction to the 2011 Explorer will be published later today. In it we'll take a closer look at the new SUV's top technology and powertrain features, as well as have more official images from Ford to share.

:forum:http://www.autoblog.com/2010/07/26/2011-ford-explorer-unveiled-tries-crossing-over-on-road-to-redemption/#comments

2011 Ford Explorer puts four-cylinder EcoBoost engine above V6 in pecking order[/size]

by John Neff (RSS feed) on Jul 26th 2010 at 11:57AM Featured

2011 Ford Explorer – Click above for high-res image gallery

For part two of our in-depth look at the 2011 Ford Explorer, we'll take a look at its new powertrains and improvements in fuel efficiency, as well as how well it can still tow a trailer. But first let's see what kind of techno-goodies Ford has applied to this new SUV.

Technology

This being 2010, technology has to play a big part in any major new vehicle introduction. On the inside, the Explorer joins the new Edge, Focus and Lincoln MKX in adopting the MyFord Touch interface. We first saw this new touch sensitive interface when the MKX and Focus were unveiled at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show in January. Much like modern smartphones, the center stack has a smooth surface with capacitive touch buttons to manage the audio and climate controls. Continue reading after the jump or check out part one of our introduction to the 2011 Ford Explorer first.

The MyFord Touch system will be standard on up-level XLT and Limited Explorers. The base Explorer comes equipped with a non-touch version dubbed simply MyFord. The non-touch version has an instrument cluster with a single 4.3-inch LCD display alongside the analog speedometer and a second non-touch 4.3-inch display in the center stack. Buyers can then add Sync along with that popular technology's newly improved voice recognition capabilities.

MyFord Touch upgrades the instrument cluster to the same dual 4.3-inch display system that debuted last year in the Fusion Hybrid as SmartGauge. The center stack display is also replaced by an eight-inch touch screen. MyFord Touch also adds several data inputs including two USB ports and an SD flash card slot. With most phones and other portable electronics now able to charge via USB, having two ports will allow charging of a phone and the use of an iPod at the same time.

One of the big complaints about manufacturer integrated satellite navigation systems has been their high cost, typically around $2,000. Because Sync now includes an integrated GPS receiver and MyFord Touch has the display, Explorer (and Edge and MKX) drivers will be able to add map-based navigation for just $795. The map data will actually be supplied on an SD card to be inserted in the supplied slot. Of course, if you are starting from the base Explorer and you add the $1,000 MyFord Touch option plus $795 for the map data on the flash card, you're back to nearly that originally two grand price tag.

Those who don't want to pay extra for map-based navigation can also use the new downloadable traffic, directions and information (TDI) system. We got a demonstration of the system's ability to download Google Maps at the preview of the Explorer. Ford owners register their cell phone(s) with the SyncMyRide website, then find a destination in Google maps (and later this year, Mapquest), click on it and send it to their phone number. Once the phone connects in the car, drivers can use Sync to download the directions. Turn-by-turn directions will then be displayed in the instrument cluster.

As part of its attempt to set the Explorer apart from its crossover siblings, Ford has also added a new terrain management system. When talking to previous Explorer owners, Ford found that most didn't understand when and how to use the four-wheel-drive low, high and automatic settings. Since the Explorer is meant to be an SUV with real off-road capability, engineers came up with a system that manages the throttle response, transmission shift points and torque distribution management based on the driver selecting the conditions. A control knob on the center console allows the driver to choose from the default normal mode, as well as mud, snow, sand and hill-descent control modes.

In normal mode, the default is to send all of the drive torque to the front wheels and then redirect torque to the rears based on wheel slip. In mud mode, more of the torque is directed to the rear axle, and the transmission shift points are moved up to allow for higher engine speeds, which along with more allowed wheel slip, helps to throw mud off the tires. Sand mode takes this a step further with even higher shift points and dialing back the traction control.

The snow mode goes the opposite direction with less slip and lower shift points to help ensure vehicle stability in winter weather conditions. Finally, the hill descent control automatically manages the vehicle speed when going down steep grades so that the driver can focus on maneuvering the vehicle without having to manipulate the pedals.

Powertrain

The biggest news ahead of the 2011 Explorer's launch has been its expected fuel economy improvement. The 2011 Explorer will initially have two engines available, a normally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 and the new 2.0-liter EcoBoost inline-four. Each of the engines are expected to provide a 30-percent boost in mileage over the Explorer's outgoing 4.6-liter V8 and 4.0-liter V6.

The previously mentioned 2008 concept coincided with the original announcement of the gasoline-turbocharged-direct-injected (GTDI) EcoBoost engines and the concept was said to be powered by a 2.0-liter engine. The production 2.0-liter actually debuted earlier this year in the European Mondeo and S-Max with 203 horsepower, while a more powerful 237-hp version was just recently announced.

For the Explorer, Ford is currently quoting the same 237 hp, although officials tell us that the version used in the Explorer and Edge will have different calibrations from the Euro edition, at least in part to meet U.S. emissions standards. Despite its small displacement, the four produces 27 hp more than the prior Explorer's ancient 4.0-liter V6.

The V6 will actually be the standard engine and the higher mileage turbo-four will be optional.

The really important characteristic of these downsized engines is the torque that's made possible by turbocharging and direct injection. The charge cooling effect of the direct injection allows Ford to run 16 psi of boost, which helps the 2.0-liter engine generate 250 pound-feet of torque from 1,750-4,000 rpm. The old 4.0-liter peaked with 254 lb-ft at 3,700 rpm, but didn't have the flat torque curve of the new smaller engine.

It will be several months before we know for sure if this is enough engine for a 4,500-pound SUV. However, based on our experiences with Ford's 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 and other similar turbocharged four-cylinder engines, it will likely do just fine and should achieve EPA mileage numbers of at least 18 mpg city and 26-27 mpg highway.

The 2011 Explorer's other available engine is the 3.5-liter V6 which we've come to know and admire in other Ford vehicles over the last several years. For this new application, it retains its port fuel injection system but output has been bumped from 262 hp in the Flex to 290 hp with torque up from 248 lb-ft to 255. That's only 2 hp shy of the old V8 but a deficit of 60 lb-ft. Ford is projecting that the V6 will get 20 percent better fuel efficiency than the old V6 and 30 percent better than the V8. Like other new Fords, both engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. For those who want to manually control gear selection, an up-down switch is mounted on the side of the shift knob.

You might expect that the four-cylinder EcoBoost would be the 2011 Explorer's base engine with the V6 optional, but you'd be wrong. The V6 will actually be the standard engine and the higher mileage turbo-four will be optional. The hope is that customers will be willing to pay extra for more fuel efficiency. Ford still isn't talking pricing yet, but hopefully the EcoBoost option will only be a few hundred dollars at most.

With fuel economy and capability being the two primary factors in which customers are interested, Ford appears to have hit the target on the first and mostly hit the latter. We say mostly because there is one specification where the 2011 Explorer falls short of its predecessor: towing. The old V8 Explorer could tow a 7,000-pound trailer while the old V6 ranged from 5,100-5,300 pounds depending on the configuration.

The 2011 Explorer with its base V6 now has only a 5,000-pound towing capacity, beating the Flex by 500 pounds but falling short of the Chevrolet Traverse by 200 pounds. A couple hundred pounds probably won't matter much to most customers, but the 2,000-pound drop compared to the old V8 could be a deal breaker for some. People who need 7,000 pounds or more will have to step up to a full-size SUV or pickup from Ford, or look elsewhere, such as at the diesel-powered German SUVs from Volkswagen, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

The real towing deficit comes with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, which is limited to a mere 2,000 pounds. With the torque available from the turbo-four, we would have thought it could handle more than one ton on its trailer hitch. The difference is likely due to the fact that the EcoBoost engine is only available with front-wheel drive, while the V6 is offered with either front- or all-wheel drive. The four-cylinder Explorer is clearly only for those who need go-anywhere capability without a trailer.

When Ford first announced EcoBoost, Derrick Kuzak talked about engine downsizing as part of a holistic approach to improving fuel efficiency. In conjunction with smaller engines, the amount of structure required to support the powertrain can be reduced, leading to lower vehicle mass. This leads to lower mass brakes and suspension, which then comes back around to reducing the powertrain requirements. Hyundai clearly demonstrated this by limiting its new Sonata to four cylinder engines only and thus reducing the weight of the car by over 100 pounds.

Similarly, despite the increased size and drastically increased equipment on the Explorer, Ford has managed to cut the weight of the V6 model by about 100 pounds compared to the old V8 model. Other positive changes include the structure now containing twice as much high-strength boron steel as well as an aluminum hood.

At this point it's too early to tell how capable the Explorer really is as an SUV and whether or not the engineers have succeeded in their goal of reinventing it. Certainly Jeep has demonstrated that a unibody structure is no detriment to off-road ability, and the Grand Cherokee can tow over 7,000 pounds. Based on its heritage with the Flex/Taurus platform, we expect the Explorer's on-road dynamics to be among the best in its class. The 2011 Explorer will be available in November and we'll make certain to get behind the wheel before then to determine if it's really any good at all the other stuff that makes an SUV what it is.

:forum:http://www.autoblog.com/2010/07/26/2011-ford-explorer-puts-four-cylinder-ecoboost-engine-above-v6/

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Intrepidation    848

Gotta say that looks fantastic. very strong and tough looking, yet sleek and refined. Nice detailing. i especially like the detailing on the grill, similar to the Taurus. Way better than a slab of chrome.

Interior is very sleek and modern looking. In photos it looks to be of high quality too. Love the center stack design with its flush interface controls.

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regfootball    252

Gotta say that looks fantastic. very strong and tough looking, yet sleek and refined. Nice detailing. i especially like the detailing on the grill, similar to the Taurus. Way better than a slab of chrome.

Interior is very sleek and modern looking. In photos it looks to be of high quality too. Love the center stack design with its flush interface controls.

absolute agreement.

no complaints either interior or exterior from me. well, it might be the photography, but some plastic looks budget. That, and the mere involvement of Sony. I hate Sony, I wish they would die.

You see the 'explorer' name is embossed in the mirror trim?

Bad move making that Hankook and Optimo letters so prominent in the photos for the tires. At least its not Firestone / Bridgestone.....on purpose? Michelins, please? This ain't a Korean car.

I was not expecting much, but to mesh rugged styling on a crossover platform and keeping the explorer look they have done real well. especially balancing the long rear overhang, by pulling the windshield forward. that gives them a more expansive interior I bet as well.

Really, nicely done. Now we don't have to settle for Kia Sorentos. I wonder how irrelevant the otherwise interesting Flex becomes now.

Edited by regfootball

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gm4life    5

Well... I love the interior! The extrior doesn't really do it for me. I see way too much Taurus X in its profile. Its not ugly just not my favorite.

Edited by gm4life

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Croc    268

Wow. When I heard "unibody Explorer" I didn't get it. Now, I get it. Great job Ford! My only question is the ride height. In some photos it looks fine, in others it looks a little low. It's just hard to tell what size tires it's riding on...

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ocnblu    776

I'm impressed, it looks great from every angle. The Explorer name is sacred at Ford, and they did it justice. Looks to split the difference, size-wise, between the Thetas and Lambdas over at GM. Certainly lacks the bloated look of the Lambdas.

That being said, I am generally not a fan of transverse-engined crossovers masquerading as SUVs. Perhaps this new direction for the Explorer will make room for a true, simple, rugged, rock crawling Bronco resurrection.

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hyperv6    774

I see a lot of the new Nox in this in many styling areas.

It looks good and since 90% of the buyers seldom go off road it should sell well no matter the engine or chassie layout.

The only question is price. How much? The Flex is awful high for all you get if you load up the options.

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aaaantoine    4

Looks sharp... But, how do you find the side buttons on that Sony stack without looking? It looks completely flat.

Also: Gloss surfaces are fingerprint magnets.

Edited by aaaantoine

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Drew Dowdell    5,169

Very nice! Poised to take the top spot if they price it right.

Everybody keeps mentioning the Flex. I think the Flex is different enough to survive, it's really just a semi-retro Taurus wagon.

My question is: What happens to the Edge? Even a base Edge stickers for $28k. Are they going to drop that price now that it can come with a 4-cylinder?

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ShadowDog    15

Looks sharp... But, how do you find the side buttons on that Sony stack without looking? It looks completely flat.

Also: Gloss surfaces are fingerprint magnets.

And the inevitable scratches really start making things turn ugly fast.

Funny, I see many design cues from a variety of manufacturers... except Ford.

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Ford unveils its all-new 2011 Explorer

Makeover targets SUV loyalists, those seeking fuel-efficient auto

BY BRENT SNAVELY

FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

When Ford reveals its all-new 2011 Ford Explorer in a multicity marketing event today, consumers will notice an Explorer that’s drastically different from the iconic SUV of the past.

The familiar boxy, truck-like style has been replaced with one that is more aerodynamic and familiar in other ways: It’s more in line with many of the modern car-based crossovers of today.

What’s more, parts of the side body share design cues with the Taurus sedan, which shares its underpinnings with the new Explorer.

The interior is more refined and offers more technology and creative features, such as optional inflatable rear seat belts.

But the big challenge facing the new Explorer is whether it will be embraced by SUV loyalists and also appeals to those who’ve traded SUVs for more fuel-efficient alternatives.

“It will be very interesting to put this up against the Grand Cherokee, which is still very much the traditional-style SUV,” said Aaron Bragman, an analyst for IHS Automotive. The new Explorer, he said, “does not so much feel … like an SUV.” But that may be smart, as drivers continue shifting to more fuel-efficient vehicles that offer SUV-like capabilities.

Adding to the challenge: Ford will market the Explorer as an SUV, even though it is a car-based crossover with less towing power than the outgoing Explorer. Jim Farley, Ford’s group vice president of marketing, said what matters most to consumers are fuel efficiency and capability — not whether the vehicle is a crossover or an SUV.

The new Explorer delivers in those areas. Equipped with the standard V6 engine, the Explorer delivers a fuel-efficiency improvement of at least 25% over the outgoing model.

Tailored to families needs

The Explorer is so well known that 96% of U.S. consumers recognize the name, giving Ford a big advantage as it introduces its all-new, and radically different, 2011 Ford Explorer to the world today, Ford executives said last week.

“The good news is, I don’t have to do a lot of explaining about a new name,” said Farley. “There are still four million Explorers running around the roads of America.”

The 2011 Explorer, which is being revealed today at events across the country, is expected to be in dealer showrooms by the end of the year. Ford, which sells the 2010 Explorer at a starting price of $29,280, will announce the price of the 2011 Explorer in a month or two.

Ford is marketing the 2011 Explorer as a fuel-efficient SUV that is capable of fulfilling the needs of most families.

Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas, said Explorer customers, “want to be able to not only drive the vehicle to work…but also on a Saturday morning, get the kids up and say ‘hey, grab the fishing rods, we’re going to go up to the lake.’ ”

Fuel-efficiency key

However, some analysts were concerned about the exterior design, which is not very SUV-like, and looks more like a modern crossover.

Bragman said he sees parallels between the new Explorer and the Taurus X, a crossover wagon that had lackluster sales. The Explorer is built on the same platform as the Taurus full-size car. Despite that, Bragman said, “It is where the market is going.”

While sales of the Explorer surpassed 300,000 every year for most of the 1990s, sales fell to 52,190 last year, and the entire midsize SUV segment barely topped 280,000, according to J.D. Power and Associates.

As SUV sales have fallen, crossover sales have surged. While an SUV is built on a capable truck platform, crossovers are built on more fuel-efficient car platforms but offer many of the same space and cargo features of an SUV. Most customers found that they didn’t need the off-road capability that SUVs provided and that they would rather have a more fuel efficient vehicle.

“It is the primary reason why consumers are saying no to SUVs,” said Fields. Ford hasn’t disclosed its actual fuel economy targets but said the Explorer’s V6 engine it will offer with the Explorer will get 25% better fuel efficiency than the outgoing version. Also, an optional, turbo-charged EcoBoost engine will get 30% better fuel economy than the outgoing explorer. An EcoBoost upgrade usually costs more than $1,000.

The current V6 front-wheel drive Explorer has an EPA rating of 16 mpg in combined city and highway driving.

“The new 2-liter Explorer’s fuel economy will in fact be more in line with sedans, such as the Toyota Camry V6,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice president of product development.

However, initial estimates of the actual fuel efficiency of the Explorer with an EcoBoost engine put its fuel economy at 19 m.p.g. in the city and 26 m.p.g. on the highway, slightly less than the front-wheel drive four-cylinder 2010 Toyota Highlander crossover, which gets 20 m.p.g. in the city and 27 m.p.g. on the highway.

Towing capacity changes

Moving the Explorer from a truck platform to a car platform has its sacrifices. The new Explorer will be able to tow 5,000 pounds, which is 2,000 pounds less than the outgoing version.

Despite that, Ford says the towing capacity will satisfy the needs of about 80% of Ford customers. Ford also is touting a new terrain management system that comes standard on four-wheel drive versions of the Explorer. The feature allows the driver to switch to adjust to different driving conditions with the twist of a dial.

“Our customer feedback says ease, convenience and confidence are the real differentiators when it comes to towing,” Kuzak said.

The Explorer, Kuzak said, offers sway control technology that helps drivers stay in control and a rearview camera to make hooking up easier.

Safety promoted

The new Explorer will also come loaded with new safety features, perhaps an effort to combat recollections of the rollover scandal tied to the Explorer 11 years ago.

Aside from inflatable rear seat belts, Ford will offer a curve-control system that will swiftly apply brakes to help drivers stay on course if they enter a curve too fast.

Too many crossovers?

While the 2011 Explorer may compete with other crossovers in Ford’s showroom, such as the Flex, which also has three rows of seats, or Edge, Farley isn’t concerned.

Every year, he said, about 140,000 Explorer owners walk into showrooms ready to buy a new vehicle.

“Explorer customers….by definition want three rows and want capability,” Farley said. “And from that standpoint, it’s pretty easy to explain.”

link:

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100726/BUSINESS01/100725035/1331/BUSINESS01/Ford-unveils-its-all-new-Explorer&template=fullarticle

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2011 Ford Explorer makes its debut as an evolved SUV

By Sharon Silke Carty, USA TODAY

DEARBORN, Mich. — It never became a symbol of excess, like the Hummer, but the once wildly popular Ford Explorer had become a relic of days when gas was cheap, housing prices were rising and the idea of driving a big, truck-based SUV to the suburban supermarket was rarely questioned.

But Ford unveils its new-generation 2011 Explorer today in a different world, where unemployment is still painfully high and people are questioning the costs of everything: gas, food, college degrees.

The new car-based crossover Explorer is very different, but Ford (F) faces a marketing challenge in a name many people link to gas-guzzlers. Jim Farley, Ford's head of marketing, says his No. 1 job will be to break down barriers people have built up against SUVs.

"My job is really to myth-bust, to really tell the story authentically and re-engage those people who lost the dream of the category," he says.

Ford is rolling out the new Explorer today in an unusual fashion, eschewing auto shows and Super Bowl ads to instead show the vehicle at a number of events around the country and on Facebook.

It hearkens back to car rollouts of the 1950s and '60s, when people would line up outside a car dealer to see the tarp pulled of the newest model.

"We really wanted to pick a day and make it Explorer day," Farley says. "We wanted to make it bigger than just an auto show."

Getting the Explorer right could extend Ford's recent winning streak. Last week, it reported $2.6 billion in earnings for the second quarter, based primarily on sales of its car models. SUVs and trucks traditionally have been far more profitable for automakers, so if Ford can woo Americans back to Explorers, it could mean even higher profits. Pricing has not been announced for the 2011.

"It is an incredibly important launch for them, between the brand recognition and the general impact on the bottom line that this vehicle could make," says Rebecca Lindland, an analyst at IHS Automotive.

During Explorer's heyday in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Ford sold about 400,000 a year. Last year, it sold just 52,000. Granted, 2009 was a terrible year for car sales, but even in 2008, sales were not much better.

About 96% of American consumers know the Explorer brand name, says Mark Fields, Ford's executive vice president and president of The Americas. But the primary reason they've said "no" to buying one is fuel economy, he says.

"We really want to take away the reasons people have to not buy SUVs," he says.

Ford spent a lot of time working on improving the Explorer's fuel economy. The new version weighs 100 pounds less than the last Explorer, and it's more aerodynamic.

Official fuel-economy numbers are not yet out, but Ford says the 2011 will get 20% to 30% better government mileage ratings. Lindland says she expects ratings to come in even better: She thinks engineers will find a way for at least one engine option to get more than 30 mpg on the highway. "Thirty mpg is the new mantra. Everyone is looking for that 30 mpg threshold. I hope they get it."

In creating the new model, the company studied customers' needs. Amy Marentic, Ford's large cars and crossover marketing manager, said marketing folks went out and stayed in the homes of 20 or so Explorer owners. The marketing executives went through their closets, went with them on their errand runs and ate dinner with them.

"We spent time with them so we could anticipate their needs," she says.

They found folks still yearned for a vehicle they could take off-road occasionally, holding onto the fantasy of an adventure vehicle, but needed a vehicle that could carry seven people and a lot of stuff.

Also from the research came the idea of a terrain-management system that adjusts the four-wheel-drive characteristics based on the driver simply turning a knob to select road conditions, such as sand, snow and mud. They also improved the company's signature SYNC voice-controlled entertainment system and expanded it into a system they now are calling MyFord Touch.

Based on the Taurus platform, the 2011 Explorer should have a more car-like ride.

"Customers have evolved, but the SUV has not evolved," she said. "We want to change that."

link:

http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2010-07-26-explorer26_ST_N.htm

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Nice...lots of strong Ford styling cues, esp. some Fusion (headlights), Taurus (grille, side detailing) and NG Focus (taillight) cues. Should do well w/ it's target market, but I wonder how it will hurt sales of Ford's other CUVs (Edge especially, and the Flex also).

I think I'd still rather have the '11 Grand Cherokee, though.

Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar

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Intrepidation    848

Nice...lots of strong Ford styling cues, esp. some Fusion (headlights), Taurus (grille, side detailing) and NG Focus (taillight) cues. Should do well w/ it's target market, but I wonder how it will hurt sales of Ford's other CUVs (Edge especially, and the Flex also).

I think I'd still rather have the '11 Grand Cherokee, though.

Me too, more classic proportions and timeless lines. I think Ford has Chrysler beat on interior tech and center stack design though. I like both very much.

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Drew Dowdell    5,169

Nice...lots of strong Ford styling cues, esp. some Fusion (headlights), Taurus (grille, side detailing) and NG Focus (taillight) cues. Should do well w/ it's target market, but I wonder how it will hurt sales of Ford's other CUVs (Edge especially, and the Flex also).

I think I'd still rather have the '11 Grand Cherokee, though.

Looking at both of these, it's a very nice difficult choice to have.

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smk4565    356

The new Explorer looks really good. They did a good job of making a unibody crossover look like a truck, which a lot of times doesn't happen. The interior looks very well put together, and the nav screen and MyTouch thing give it an advantage over competitors. So does the hill decent/terrain selector, which is common on a Grand Cherokee or Land Rover, but you usually don't see that feature on a crossover.

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Drew Dowdell    5,169

The new Explorer looks really good. They did a good job of making a unibody crossover look like a truck, which a lot of times doesn't happen. The interior looks very well put together, and the nav screen and MyTouch thing give it an advantage over competitors. So does the hill decent/terrain selector, which is common on a Grand Cherokee or Land Rover, but you usually don't see that feature on a crossover.

Well the Grand Cherokee has been unibody since 1999.... so it, and this new Explorer are really bluring the lines between CUV and SUV

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Intrepidation    848

I like how even versions without MyFord Touch get a 4.3 inch display in the center stack (second photo, the non Sony unit). So the center stack doesn't look cheap even in the cheaper versions.

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regfootball    252

Very nice! Poised to take the top spot if they price it right.

Everybody keeps mentioning the Flex. I think the Flex is different enough to survive, it's really just a semi-retro Taurus wagon.

My question is: What happens to the Edge? Even a base Edge stickers for $28k. Are they going to drop that price now that it can come with a 4-cylinder?

the edge is a two row. singles and couples without kids will prefer a 2 row. or for some, they have an explorer in the garage and an edge as a second vehicle. the edge is one of the best personal crossovers. plus ford needs the edge to make up for sales drops of the aging escape which they will downsize soon.

notice in that scenario there is no GM vehicles. .......

Edited by regfootball

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pow    106

Edmunds is reporting 18/26 mpg for the 2.0T EcoBoost FWD model. That's not bad for a 4,600 lb SUV, but still the 2011 MKX 3.7 gets 19/26, and the 2011 Odyssey 3.5 gets 19/28. They say its interior volume is smaller than Pilot and Highlander even though it's now closer to Traverse size. I do wish it were more weight and space efficient -- they're not being particularly innovative here -- but the new Explorer does appear to be a well-rounded and competitive SUV.

IMO, it looks a little *too* familiar, like a modern-day Taurus X...

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Well the Grand Cherokee has been unibody since 1999.... so it, and this new Explorer are really bluring the lines between CUV and SUV

The FWD, car based platform makes the new Explorer a CUV. Looks SUVish, but definitely CUV.

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siegen    20

Looks good. It is quite a conservative design. No idea why Ford chose to "tease" it a bunch prior to releasing it. I am glad that they switched to unibody. That is the way things are going and it's good to have a heavy hitter like this make the change. Though I'm surprised all of you guys are so accepting of it. Shouldn't it be blasphemous? Most of you bashed the hell out of the Ridgeline for being unibody. All Ford has to do is make an SUT version of this new Explorer and you essentially have a Ridgeline with Ford styling.

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