The all-new 2011 Ford Explorer has been unveiled. The model is very important for Ford as it hopes to take market share back in the mid-size SUV class. Ford has rebounded to make a profit for the past five quarters and is hoping to build on its success from the 2010 model year.
The 2011 Explorer represents a big change for Ford. For the first time, the Explorer is built on a car-like unibody platform, where the body and frame are combined. All prior Explorers, 20 years of models to be exact, were built on the truck based body-on-frame platform. The new architecture is quieter and more aerodynamic and allows for better handling and fuel economy.
Fuel economy in the 2011 model is expected to be about 30 percent better than the 2010 model with the turbo-charged four-cylinder EcoBoost engine with an average of 18-mpg city and 26-mpg highway. This is comparable to a 2010 Toyota Camry with a V-6. Even the V-6 will have best in class fuel economy. The Explorer comes standard with rear-wheel drive and has a four-wheel drive option.
Despite the change in architecture, the 2011 Explorer’s ground clearance is 8.2 inches, only .1 inches less than the 2010 model. This ground clearance combined with four-wheel drive should continue to make the Explorer well suited for off-road driving.
Ford offers five SUV models: the Escape, Edge, Explorer, Flex, and Expedition. While they may appear to be a similar size and have similar styling, the Explorer is considerably larger than Flex and offers seating for 7 passengers, unlike the Edge, which does not offer third row seating. In fact, the new Explorer is nearly 4 inches longer than the 2010 model. Impressively, despite its added length, the 2011 Explorer is 150 pounds lighter than the 2010 model, with its new platform and use of lighter materials.
The 2011 Explorer will be offered in three trim lines, base, XLT, and Limited. The up-level Eddie Bauer trim is no longer offered. The Explorer’s V-6 produces 290 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. It is rated for towing up to 5,000 pounds. Ford is introducing a new turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost engine in the 2011 model year. In the Explorer, it produces 237 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. Towing capacity is not yet know for the four-cylinder engine. Both engines make use of a 6-speed automatic transmission.
The 2011 Explorers is being built in two separate locations. V-6 Explorers are being built in Lima, Ohio while EcoBoost models with the turbo 4 cylinder engine are being built in Ford’s Valencia, Spain plant. Despite all the improvements, the 2011 Ford Explorer will have a starting retail price of about $29,000, $1,000 less than the 2010 model. A bevy of options will be available, with a fully optioned Explorer costing nearly $40,000.
The 2011 Ford Explorer goes on sale this winter. It should be a strong competitor to models such as the Chevrolet Traverse, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Jeep Grand Cherokee.