Why the 2011 Ford Explorer is too new to be recommended?

Article by Christian Andrei, on May 12, 2011

It’s unfortunate that developing the latest For Explorer took many years and a huge amount of money but Consumer Reports could only give it the No. 17 rank out of the 19 that it tested.

Consumer Reports thinks that Ford’s latest crossover is only slightly better than Ford Edge and Nissan Pathfinder, which are known to have scored very low and wouldn’t be recommended. Ford has always prided itself for its product quality advances and so it would be a big blow for the Explorer to be regarded so poorly.

Ford reportedly spent millions of dollars to revamp and turn the Explorer into a car-based SUV. The Explorer is considered to be one of Ford’s most celebrated nameplates and a serious profit machine, second only to the F-series pickup.

Ford made this new Explorer to be far more advanced and polished than the truck-based Explorer SUV that had dominated the segment for many years and had led to an annual U.S. sales figure that exceeds 400,000 units.

Consumer Reports said that the leaner Explorer offers 18 mpg overall, a considerable improvement over 15 mpg on the previous model. Consumer Reports said that the Explorer has its fine points, including good brakes, a spacious, practical interior, a third-row seat that’s usable and a big cargo capacity. Ford claims that its fuel economy is “respectable” and that its ride is “steady and compliant.”

Redesigned not just from the inside out but also from top to bottom, the new 2011 Ford Explorer is able to mirror a modern vision of what it is that many customers nowadays expect from their SUVs. North America Design executive director Moray Callum revealed in a statement that while Ford did indeed change everything for the 2011 version, the same model remains to be instantly recognizable as a Ford Explorer. This is because, he added, while it is a modern interpretation of the Ford Explorer, the capabilities that customers are familiar with are still there; and they’re available without compromise.

Meanwhile design manager Melvin Betancourt shared that the 2011 Ford Explorer manages to put on a rigid unibody platform that’s a combination of a noise-cheating and wind-cheating aerodynamic form with an evocative and bold design language. That this 2011 Ford Explorer has that off-road capability is proven by the ground clearance, the height, stance, and other SUV cues, he continued. Considering that the original version was a segment-defining icon, the main challenge of the design team was how to reinterpret it and make a modern SUV fit for the 21st century.

According to Betancourt, the design of the new Explorer started with the stance and proportions. When the muscular and toned sheet metal are mixed with the fluid and agile lines, this results in unmatched aerodynamics with athletic appearance. Integrated to its fascia, he added, are the flexible lower air dam and the liftgate spoiler lip, both of which complement each other in order to give that fuel economy that has first been proven in the wind tunnel. Betancourt continued saying that since the blackened rockers manage to lift the eye, it conveys the new model’s driver empowerment and four-wheel-drive capability.

The 2011 Ford Explorer continues to have the traditional cues expected from the Explorer like the C-pillars in body color and the blacked D-pillars. However for the new model, by having both the A-pillars and the B-pillars blackened, it allows for a new wraparound daylight opening. With the body-side undercut that continues to follow the new design protocol of the Taurus plus wheel flares that are clearly inspired by none other than the Mustang, without a doubt the design of the Explorer remains to be related to the brand’s DNA design.

Betancourt explained that when viewed from the front, the 2011 Ford Explorer displays a new interpretation of its three-bar grille, a signature feature of the brand. Just under the bumper, he continued, the trapezoidal lower grille provides that visual continuity among Ford models on its showroom floor. Other SUV cues that customers are sure to identify are the shorter overhang, the rounded corners, aggressive wheels and tires, and the roof rack. The rear portion also has SUV cues like the jewel-like tail lamp cluster and the LED stop lamps inside. Meanwhile the Explorer is projected using the rear liftgate appliqué. Similar to what was done on the Explorer, the goal for the design of the interior was to make it more modern, utilize soft-touch surfaces, and ensure that occupants are comfortable.

It was agreed that the interior would have a three-row medium in order to make use of the connectivity, convenience, and technology offered by the model. There is also the goal of inspiring confidence in the driver especially by providing dynamic driving anywhere, anytime, and no matter what the road is. Due to the high standard of fit-and-finish and the choice of the materials used, the interior gives one a feeling of being inside a premium and upscale vehicle. Interior studio manager Mike Arbaugh shared that his goal when it came to the interior of the Explorer was to give it an expensive look.

Since the 2011 Ford Explorer hopes to challenge many of the higher-end SUVs like the Audi Q7 and BMW X5, Arbaugh continued, the interior design, as well as the fit-and-finish and craftsmanship, should also play a role. The interior of the 2011 Explorer has been packaged using the best-of-both-worlds approach. What this means is that it has that distinct and sophisticated American feel to it and combined with the premium design cues that give a feeling of driving dynamics, something European models are known for. An example of the European theme is how the instrument panels appear to gracefully flow to the doors and then to its forward-leaning center stack. Meanwhile, the way the command seating has been positioned gives off that sense of security that many customers look for in an SUV.

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