After teasing us for weeks, Ford has finally unveiled the 2011 Ford Explorer. The vanguard of the gas-guzzling SUV movement has been reimagined and redesigned as a vehicle that promotes fuel economy and the ability to handle a veritable boatload of passengers. It comes with two engines, a standard V6 and the pricier 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine, a new “terrain management system”, and a host of high-tech features on the interior.
I’ve had a few days to let the deluge of information on the new Explorer sink in, but there is still one nagging question in my mind; is this a crossover, or an SUV?
Ford is calling the new Explorer an SUV, and in terms of proportions, it all seems to be there. The 2011 Explorer is 4 inches longer than its predecessor, and five inches wider, adding some much needed leg and hip room, though 2 inches have been shaved from the top. Despite being longer and wider, the new Explorer has managed to shave some 100 pounds off of last years model (which tipped the scales at 4,700 pounds). The new Explorer also retains 8 inches of ground clearance, something all would-be off-roaders need.
But the new Explorer doesn’t have a traditional four wheel drive system. Rather, it is available with either front-wheel drive (whereas the old Explorer was rear-wheel drive) or all-wheel drive. The new “terrain management system” replaces the 4-hi, 4-lo system most 4×4 vehicles have. A nice little knob lets you set the system for mud, snow, sand, and everyday driving. But look at this new Explorer. Does it look like a strong off-roader? I’m skeptical.
The big news though are the powertrains. The standard engine for the 2011 Explorer is a 3.5 liter V6 engine, which offers 290 horsepower and 255 ft-lbs of torque. This is good enough for a tow rating of 5,000 pounds, 2,000 pounds less than the outgoing V8 engine. However, the V6 engine is about 20% more efficient than the V8, though MPG ratings have not been set in stone. In an interesting twist, the smaller 2.0 liter EcoBoost four cylinder engine is the premium engine choice with 237 horsepower and 250 ft-lbs of torque. While it has a towing capacity of just 2,000 pounds, it is estimated this engine will produce an mpg rating of 18 in the city and 26 on the highway. Not bad for a two-ton SUV.
As for standard features, a 4.2 inch LCD MyFord touch screen comes standard, linked with Sync to connect drivers with music and phone calls. Very neat, and the list of standard features goes on to include seatbelt air bags, cruise control, power-everything and Curve Control. This detects if the Explorer is entering a corner too fast, slowing the SUV 10mph in a second.
Still though, I’m not sure this is a full fledged SUV. It isn’t really a crossover either. Maybe a CrossSUV? With the Flex and Edge, does Ford really need a third SUV/Crossover/Whatever this is?
What is your verdict on the 2011 Ford Explorer?
Chris DeMorro is a car enthusiast, blogger, and all-around crazy man who is as passionate about hybrids as he is about Hemis. You can follow his constant misadventures at Three Months In A Mustang.