Since its debut some 20 years ago, the Explorer has sold over six million units, four million of which are still traversing the world’s roads. Through much of the late-1990s and early part of the last decade, the Explorer was Ford’s second-best-selling vehicle behind its F-Series pickups, regularly selling 400,000 units a year. Fast-forward to 2009, and that volume had plummeted to just over 52,000. Despite lackluster sales of SUVs since gas prices made a huge leap upwards and the trend towards downsizing the cars in which we drive, Ford believes it still has an opportunity. According to the automaker’s vice president of global marketing, Jim Farley, each year, at least 140,000 Explorer owners come back to Blue Oval dealerships looking to purchase new vehicles. And obviously, they just aren’t buying Explorers.
Follow the jump below to view the full gallery of exterior and interior photographs
The 2011 Explorer will initially have two engines available, a normally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 and the new 2.0-liter EcoBoost inline-four. The normally aspirated V6 engine is standard and will churn out 290 horsepower. The optional 2.0L turbocharged EcoBoost inline 4-cylinder will deliver 237 horsepower – equivalent to a V6, but with significant improvement sporting better fuel economy and lower emissions over a V8 engine. The new V6 is 20 percent more fuel efficient than the previous V6 engine. The EcoBoost is expected to be 30 percent more efficient.
The vehicle also is 100 pounds lighter. With a lightweight design, the 2011 Ford Explorer model becomes an eco-friendly option. The government hasn’t released ratings, but Ford says the EcoBoost I4 will be similar to a Toyota Camry with a V6, which gets 28 miles per gallon on the highway.
The Ford Explorer’s new engines and unibody chassis combine for a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds.
The interior incorporates a lot of new technology, including MyFord Touch system. Taking a design queue from the popular smartphone, the center stack has a smooth surface with capacitive touch buttons to manage the audio and climate controls.
The MyFord Touch system will be standard on up-level XLT and Limited Explorers. The base Explorer comes equipped with a non-touch version dubbed simply MyFord. The non-touch version has an instrument cluster with a single 4.3-inch LCD display alongside the analog speedometer and a second non-touch 4.3-inch display in the center stack. Buyers can then add Sync along with that popular technology’s newly improved voice recognition capabilities.
The equipment list of the 2011 Ford Explorer includes a Sony Audio System with HD Radio, an SD card reader and RCA video input jacks and a an 8-inch LCD screen with intuitive five-way controls. Turning the SUV into a high-speed, Wi-Fi mobile hot spot is made possible by inserting a USB mobile broadband modem into the vehicle’s USB port.
Another nifty high-tech option is the “Send to SYNC” feature that lets the driver send Google Maps directions to the SUV, which speaks the directions out loud to the driver. The feature also lets drivers have incoming text messages read to them aloud.
Ford has also added a new terrain management system. When talking to previous Explorer owners, Ford found that most didn’t understand when and how to use the four-wheel-drive low, high and automatic settings. Since the Explorer is meant to be an SUV with real off-road capability, engineers came up with a system that manages the throttle response, transmission shift points and torque distribution management based on the driver selecting the conditions. A control knob on the center console allows the driver to choose from the default normal mode, as well as mud, snow, sand and hill-descent control modes.
Price: $28,190, or up to $37,190 for the Limited.