2011 Ford Explorer: Transformation executed. Check!

3 Aug 2011 | 1,713 views | No Comment
By Don Hammonds Ford's gone uptown in its new 2011 Explorer--in style, content and ambiance, not price. As many of you know, Explorer had fallen into some hard sales times until this year, but thanks to the all-new model, we suspect that happy days are now here again. The new Explorer is far more solidly built than the old model, is much quieter, considerably more luxurious, better styled, and perhaps most important for these times, it's a lot more economical, too.  It all adds up to a big success for Ford. Our test model was a top of the line Limited four wheel drive version, with a base price of $39,190.  Thatprice included full power accessories, aluminum wheels, 10 way power driver seat, six speed automatic ,four wheel drive brakes with abs, reverse sensing and rear view camera, Sync voice activated system, ambient lighting, tilt/telescoping column, Adancetrac with RSC,  and many other items. Options on our test car included navigation, a luxury seating package, power fold third row seat, power liftgate, adaptive cruise control and collision warning system, second row console and other features, all of which raised the price to $45,515. Power came fromn Ford's 3.5 liter V-6, which is rated at a respectable (coonsidering sizw and weight) 17/23 miles per gallon.  The annual fuel bill is $2,367. Obviouisly, the first sign of a sea change for Explorer is the interior. Materials have been vastly upgraded, and presentation and themes are well in keeping with SUVs costing thousands of dollars more. You see double stitching, tasteful aluminum and chrome applications.  You'll also notice that you can now dial up settings for all wheel drive uses on a number of different terrains--a cool, easily used feature. The instrument panel is a show in itself.  When you get in youy see two blank  grayish white screens not unlike a television screen awaiting adjustment.  But hit the ignition and the gorgeous light show begins, with multi-colored interesting presentations on both sides.  The fiuel gauges for instance, looks like a gasoline colored fluid that drops down gradually as consumption increases. A light green area above the needle indicator shows how much has been used.  And we loved the compass display that, with its roundish globe, really looked like the real thing. One glitch we noticed in the console don't fit a number of a cup and mug sizes, so you're likely better off using paper cups in some cases. And now a word on Ford's Sync system.  Used wisely, that is, setting up everything before you drive, can be a terrific asset. But it is so complicated, and the voice element frequently has trouble understanding what you're asking. And it takes a while to learn to modulate your touch for the controls.  Too soft and nothing happens. Too hard and you can get a result you weren't looking for.  And  in at least one place, it's hard to figure out what to touch at all on the audio system, and some of our ham-handed staff had issues with getting the touches just right at all. By the way, the Explorer is plenty roomy, although the third row felt snug at times. And the Powerfold seat is a godsend for the third row, making it especially easy to load and unload the  vehicle. Problems?  In addition  to troubles with Sync due to its complicated features, we found the Explorer to feel pretty heavy and not quite as nimble as some of the competition. And in its road tests of a pre-production prototype, Motor Trend in its May issue complained about problems with a poorly fitted  aerodynamic deflector spat,  shut down of the MyTouch system for about a minute, and several other quality issues. But Ford said these issues have been handled and corrected in time for production. Still, the new Explorer shows the brand is back in a big way. Notice is now served on the competition. synMIX SWDLWXOE APO

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