The 2011 Ford Explorer Dazzles from Inside with Full Slate of Technical Changes

Submitted by Keith Griffin

From a pure driving standpoint of getting from A to B, there is little that is going to excite you about the 2011 Ford Explorer. What is probably going to get you to sign on the dotted line is new technology that helped make the Explorer the 2011 North American Truck of the Year.

The first thing to look at would have to be fuel economy; something few of us have the luxury of overlooking with gas prices around $4 a gallon. The 2011 Ford Explorer delivers a staggering 25 percent improvement in fuel economy over the 2010 Ford Explorer. Combined fuel economy is now 20 mpg vs. 16 mpg for last year’s model.

Explorer’s standard powertrain combines front-wheel drive with a 3.5-liter Ti-VCT V6 engine, delivering an estimated 290 horsepower and 255 lb.-ft. of torque. The numbers for the all-new Explorer are 17-mpg city and 25-mpg highway. Those numbers will get even stronger when, later this year, the first North American four-cylinder EcoBoost engine, a 237-horsepower 2.0-liter, will make its debut in the 2011 Ford Explorer. Expect stronger city numbers and highway numbers approaching 28 mpg.

I have driven the V-6 EcoBoost engine in the past and it’s a strong piece of technology that delivers better fuel economy. I drove one model in high-altitudes in Colorado and it had no problem pulling a trailer. A four-cylinder EcoBoost goes a long ways toward delivering diesel-like fuel economy at gasoline prices.

As Ford explains, a key contributor to EcoBoost fuel efficiency is direct injection of gasoline. This system precisely delivers a fine mist of fuel directly into each cylinder for optimal performance, economy and emissions. Unlike port-fuel-injection (PFI) engines that spray fuel in the intake system, the direct-injection system puts the fuel exactly where it needs to be for combustion.

Ford’s industry-exclusive rear inflatable seat belts earned the 2011 Traffic Safety Achievement Award from the New York International Auto Show’s World Traffic Safety Symposium. This advanced restraint system is designed to help reduce head, neck and chest injuries for rear seat occupants. Over time, Ford plans to offer this technology in other nameplates globally.

In everyday use, rear inflatable belts operate like conventional seat belts, including compatibility with infant and child safety and booster seats. The additional comfort and padding of rear inflatable seat belts encourages increased use. In the event of a frontal or side crash, the increased diameter of the inflated belt more effectively holds the occupant in the proper seating position, helping to reduce the risk of injury.

The inflated belts help to distribute crash force energy across up to five times more of the occupant’s torso than a traditional belt. This expands its range of protection and reduces risk of injury by diffusing crash pressure over a larger area, while helping provide additional head and neck support. Following deployment, the belt remains inflated for several seconds before dispersing its air through pores in the material.

Among the standard Explorer safety features of the 2011 Ford Explorer are:

  • • AdvanceTracwith RSC features Curve Control functionality to provide braking – optimized by each individual wheel
  • • Second-generation first-row airbags, side seat airbags
  • • Belt-Minder® for driver and first-row passenger
  • • Front passenger sensing system
  • • Energy-management system pretensioning for height-adjustable first-row seat belts
  • • Safety Canopy side curtain airbags

Available Explorer safety features include:

  • • Adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support
  • • BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) with cross-traffic alert

According to Ford, Curve Control is a new feature designed to enhance vehicle braking in instances of excessive speed in turning or curve conditions. Collision warning with brake support and Curve Control actually apply the brakes when these systems sense situation irregularity, helping the driver to avoid an incident by bringing the vehicle back in safe control. Top-heavy SUVs do not perform well on curves, which is why this is a great system unless, of course, one was to just drive responsibly and not go into curves faster than they should. But, sometimes things happen, so it’s good there are systems like this,

Explorer V6 models are available with an intelligent 4WD system that adds terrain management. Situation-selectable, this powertrain advancement takes the guesswork out of 4WD range choice. A driver need only turn the console-mounted knob to the proper setting among snow, sand, mud and normal modes. This system also includes a hill descent mode. This is becoming a must-have technology for SUVs that even pretend to go offroad.

Let me clarify that a little bit. The Ford Explorer is more than capable of going offroad. It’s just the SUV owners who want four-wheel drive and then never take it offroad. Those are the pretenders. I would never buy a vehicle with four-wheel drive because I know I would never use it for its intended purpose and I would be driving a less fuel-efficient vehicle.

VITAL STATISTICS

  • • Wheelbase: 112.6 inches
  • • Length: 197.1 inches
  • • Width (with mirrors): 90.2 inches
  • • Height: 70.4 inches
  • • Curb weight: 4509 lbs.
  • • Engine: 3.5-liter, dual overhead cam, V-6
  • • Horsepower: 290 @ 6500 rpm
  • • Torque: 255 lb. ft. @ 4000 rpm
  • • EPA estimated mpg city/highway: 17/25
  • • Base price: $28,190
  • • As-tested price: $43,285
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