The job: build a car-based crossover with three rows of seats that looks like an SUV, crawls out of mud and can tow 5,000 pounds, but with the fuel economy of a Toyota Camry. Oh, and keep the starting price under $30K.
That’s a pretty tall order, one that might even seem impossible. Ford thinks it’s done it, though, with the 2011 Explorer, the details of which were finally released yesterday after weeks of social media hype and teaser pics. Ford’s big unveil happened on television, online and in nine cities across the country, foregoing the traditional use of an auto show to launch an important vehicle. One thing for sure, Ford has captured the attention of the auto world with its enormous marketing effort.
In creating the 2011 Explorer, Ford engineers and designers had an incredibly difficult task set before them. Ford’s President of the Americas, Mark Fields, described the job as “Reinventing the SUV for the 21st century.” Did Ford succeed in that quest, or simply end up with a heck of a good crossover being branded as an SUV? Keep reading for details on Ford’s all-new Explorer and decide for yourself if it’s a game changer.
The biggest change for this new Explorer is the move from a body-on-frame ‘ute to car-based unibody construction. While the change means the Explorer won’t keep up with the Jeep Grand Cherokee or the Rubicon, it does mean owners will see much-improved fuel economy while still easily handling mud, snow and sand thanks to Explorer’s Terrain Management System.
Official fuel economy numbers haven’t been released yet, but with the optional 2.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine, Ford estimates a 30 percent increase from the previous Explorer. That translates to an impressive 18 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. The base engine will be a 3.5-liter V6. There will be no V8 option.
The Explorer’s aggressive front end is reminiscent of a Land Rover, with the three-bar grille and lower air intake combining with the bulged wheel arches and blacked out A, B and D pillars to create a rugged, athletic look with a muscular stance. The body-colored C pillar clearly identifies this new rig as an Explorer, but to my eyes creates the crossover’s only awkward line.
Ford has a lot riding on the new Explorer and will find out if buyers agree that it’s the SUV for the 21st century when it goes on sale later this year.
Will the Ford Explorer reinvent the SUV like the original model did, or will it just be another entry into the already crowded crossover segment?