2011 Ford Explorer Review

The American SUV is back. First came the all new Jeep Grand Cherokee and now the 2011 Ford Explorer has been completely redesigned to make it more fuel efficient and comfortable. But unlike the old Explorer the new 2011 model is now based much more on a car-like chassis instead of a truck like body on frame. So the question that you might be asking is just how off-road worthy is the new Explorer?

Do you know what the difference between a crossover and an SUV is? Maybe not, but chances are that if you described what you're looking for in an every day utility vehicle, you'd actually be talking about a crossover.

Ford isn't claiming the new Explorer is more capable or even as capable as the old truck. Instead the folks at the Blue Oval point to their research, showing that the 2011 model is purpose built to meet the needs of the vast majority of shoppers, while still offering enough real SUV utility to remain on the shopping lists of those 'just in case' customers who may not ever need to drive off road, but who want to know they're prepared… just in case.
One immediate drawback is the tow rating, with a max capability of 5,000 lbs, down 2,100 lbs from the previous model and short just as much from its rivals. Ford believes this won't be a deal breaker, however, with market research showing that only 0.04 percent of all past Explorer drivers require more than 5,000 lbs of towing capability and don't already own another vehicle (like a heavy duty pickup) that can do the job.
As for true off-road capability, Ford arranged for us to do a little off-roading; an exercise also intended to display the 'drive smart' technology involved in the Explorer's new Terrain Management AWD system.
Again, the Explorer impressed. The truck's 8-inch ground clearance provides more capability than needed, with the prepped off-road course significantly more challenging than any drive to the cottage we've ever experienced.
As for those looking for maximum off-road capability, look elsewhere says Ford. In their study of past Explorer owners, none used the vehicle for rock climbing and so the more extreme off-road capability was ignored in order to help create that excellent on-road feel.
Driving on longer sections of uneven trail running trough a field – the kind you might see a truck like the Explorer speeding along in a tv commercial – it delivered a composed ride quality on less than perfect terrain, at modest speeds of about 40-mph.
When the road gets rough it's time to utilize the truck's Terrain Management settings, including the Mud and Ruts setting as well as the Hill Descent Control, which instead of using low gears, is a rather crude way of maintaining speed down hill using the brakes. Yet as rudimentary as it feels, the system works, easily handling a slope so steep you'd almost expect the truck to roll end-over-end down to the bottom.
As one of Ford's 'drive smart' technologies, the Terrain Management system uses the vehicle's traction and stability control programs and integrates both steering and throttle response to deliver the best capability depending on the situation. Opting to do away with buttons marked 4HI and 4LO, it instead features a dial on the center console with four easily marked settings for different types of driving environments, so suburban housewives and off-roading enthusiasts alike both know what setting to use to tackle any low-grip situation.
Having already used the normal on-road setting as well as the Mud and Ruts setting for our off-road excursion, Ford arranged some fun in a sand pit to demonstrate the difference between the Sand and Snow settings. With the snow mode engaged the truck limits throttle, dials up the traction control and then takes them both to the extreme limits of boring (and safety) when you add in a lot of steering. Conversely, the Sand mode limits the invasiveness of the traction control and allows for plenty of throttle and steering, so you can hoon-it-up, driving the truck with the rear tires. http://www.autoguide.com/manufacturer/ford/2011-ford-explorer-review-first-drive-video-1483.html, "OFF-ROAD CAPABILITY NOT FORGOTTEN"

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