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2011 Ford Explorer Review

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SEE ALSO: Ford Buyers Guide

The 2011 Ford Explorer

by Marty Bernstein
Senior Editor- At -Large

Henry Ford may have created the modern assembly line and created the first popular and affordable American car in the Model T. But Allan Mulally, the current CEO of Ford will be recognized not only for his turnaround of the Ford Motor Company, but for the development of a new SUV with an old name – the 2011 Ford Explorer.

Under his watch, Ford, the only American car company that did not avail itself of government largesse, has taken its gas guzzling SUV of the last century and has dramatically reinvented it to meet today’s needs and environmental issues. And in the process have created an exceptional iconic American vehicle.

Part of the new Explorer’s appeal is the fact it’s no longer built on a truck chassis, but on a passenger car platform which makes for better handling, easier to drive and a more comfortable vehicle for most drivers on or off road. Based on extensive customer research Ford engineers and designers did a comprehensive model makeover to match customers’ needs in an SUV. Use of new materials and improved engine efficiency reduced weight which resulted in vastly improved fuel efficiency while adding to driver and passenger comfort and safety.

From the outside the new 2011 Explorer resembles the older Explorer but with sleeker, more contemporary aerodynamic styling lines and cues that give it a distinctive front, rear and lower profile. It’s grown a bit in size to make the interior more comfortable.

Transforming the new Explorer included the use of new powerplants. The Explorer’s standard powertrain combines front-wheel drive with a 3.5-liter V6 engine, delivering 290 horsepower and 255 lb.-ft. of torque. Paired to a six-speed automatic transmission the V6 is projected to deliver more than 20 percent better fuel economy versus the previous Explorer V6 model and an optional 4WD version can be specified.

Also available is a 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine with turbo that delivers the power of a V6 without compromising four-cylinder fuel economy. Aimed at the SUV buyer whose top priority is fuel economy, this engine delivers a projected 237 horsepower and 250 lb.-ft. of torque. Both Explorer engines are matched to a six-speed automatic transmission.

The test drive was in two parts, real world traffic and more adventuresome off-roading. The new Explorer was adept in both tests. During the city drive handling was smooth, agile and refined and was equally good on the highway and freeways with smooth as silk acceleration, great handling on the curves and twists with negligible traffic or road noise. Then came the off-road, hill climb and descent, mud and sand and other difficult conditions to demonstrate the versatility of the new SUV and the terrific Terrain Management System that with the turn of a dial puts the vehicle into the proper setting for snow, sand and other conditions

Inside the Explorer, the area most other brands’ SUVs forgot, is a decorators domain --think Architectural Digest lite – a large compartment of tactile delights using well coordinated materials, colors, design, ergonomics, style and the quintessential merging of technology, infotainment and safety in a vehicle that comfortably seats 7 normal size adults. Standard convenience features include:

  • MyFord driver connect technology including 4.2-inch LCD screen
  • MyKey™ owner control feature
  • Air filtration system
  • Media hub
  • Easy FuelŽ capless fuel filler system
  • Cruise control
  • Power windows, with one-touch down for driver
  • Power door locks with child safety rear door locks
  • Tilt/telescoping steering column
  • Four 12-volt power points
  • Cargo hooks

Explorer XLT includes standard content and adds:

  • Automatic headlamps
  • Six-speed SelectShift Automatic™
  • Heated sideview mirrors with LED signal indicators and security approach lamps
  • SecuriCode™ keyless entry keypad
  • Reverse sensing system
  • Perimeter alarm

Explorer Limited includes all base and XLT content, plus:

  • PowerFoldŽ sideview mirrors with driver’s side memory

  • Ambient lighting
  • Adjustable pedals with memory functionality
  • Cargo net
  • Dual-zone electronic temperature control
  • 10-way power driver’s seat, with power recline and lumbar
  • Electrochromic interior mirror
  • Rear view camera
  • Remote start system
  • 110-volt outlet
  • Intelligent Access with push-button start
  • Universal garage door opener

A key feature of the Explorer not listed above, albeit an option, is the technological marvelous and amazing My Ford Touch and Sync System for information, entertainment and communication that follow verbal instructions. Oh, yeah … talk to it and it not only understands you but follows your instructions without argument and will then link you to an array of information, entertainment and safety features delivered from an awesome sound system and a big screen.

In all candor I’ve never been a fan of sports utility vehicles. Never tow anything. Never go off-roading. Never shop at Builder’s Square. Never have more than four people in the vehicle. Never take road trips. Never thought I’d like to own an SUV till now. Why? Because the new Explorer is a remarkable contemporary vehicle that goes anywhere anytime and does it all well; furthermore, it is environmentally efficient, packed with incredible technology and safety features.

Three different models are available: Base starts at $28,190, one level up is the XLT starting at $31,190 followed by the top of the line Limited at $37,190. Each has a cornucopia of standard features and attributes that’s way too long to list here and several options which when selected will add significantly to the final price.