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2011 Ford Explorer really is different

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2011 Ford Explorer really is different



To succeed, the 2011 Ford Explorer must do two things:

• Reset the bar for family SUV fuel economy with an EPA highway rating around 30 m.p.g.

• Persuade buyers that the poster child for the 1990s SUV boom has been reinvented for the 21st Century.

Even though its styling is all new, the Explorer's attractive but understated looks won't precipitate a stampede to Ford dealerships. The new SUV looks like a tall station wagon version of the Ford Taurus sedan.

The new Explorer doesn't just look different from the SUV that was a Ford mainstay for 20 years. It is completely different. The seven-passenger SUV will provide more room and better fuel economy than previous Explorers. The trade-off is less off-road ability and towing capacity.

Other automakers call such vehicles "crossovers" to distance themselves from SUVs' gas-guzzling image, but Ford will wrap its arms around the Explorer's SUV heritage and tout the new model as more capable than the competition -- without the drawbacks of an old-style SUV.

Ford has dropped hints to expect an EPA highway rating of at least 28 m.p.g. from Explorers with the optional turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine -- by far the smallest engine ever offered in an Explorer.

That would beat the V6 Highlander, Pilot and Traverse, but Ford should shoot for a splashy figure like 30 m.p.g. -- particularly since the advanced little engine will cost more than the larger and more powerful V6 that's standard.



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