Ford Explorer - Monster SUV
The monster petrol Ford Explorer V6 motor delivers almost 300bhp yet is still frugal amongst the 7 Seater competition. The first Ford Explorer was based on the old F250 pick-up chassis and was a replacement for the 'boxy' Ford Bronco which had run its course. The Explorer has always been a useful vehicle, being used for the school run, transporting big items and comfortably fitting six or seven people in with ease.
Unfortunately the old Explorer started to get beaten in terms of handling, practicality and reliability by the newer German SUVs such as Audi's Q7 and the BMW X5 cars. Now, Ford might be a little behind the times as of late but it still manages to churn out some excellent cars which sell by the bucket-load. For 2011, the new Ford Explorer is now based on the D4 platform chassis which is shared by the Focus, C-Max and the Kuga, albeit with slight changes. There is a third row of two seats folded in the boot, making the new ford Explorer a 7 Seater. There is 43.8 cubic feet of space in the boot when all 7 seats are upright.
By running on what is 99 per cent a car-based chassis, the new Explorer is still a large SUV, but it has MacPherson suspension, double wishbones and finely tuned damping by the new chief engineer Jim Holland, famous for his Land Rover past. The new Explorer is said to handle much more predictably, which is handy as with a thumping V6 under the bonnet the SUV will need to be able to react to corners more like a car than an old truck.
There will be two engine variants, although most buyers will opt for the 3.5 V6 Duratec. The staple 2.0 four-cylinder I4 EcoBoost engine is on offer but the figures are not too different to those of the V6 and it cannot compete with the torque-load lugging capabilities of the larger engine. The I4 engine is a 170bhp engine whereas the V6 pumps out a massive 297bhp, coupled with 250lb-ft of torque yet still manages 25mpg on the motorway!
The Explorer heads back to its roots as a 'proper' off-roader. The Terrain Management dial on the centre console allows the driver to select the torque distribution, traction control system threshold, ABS brakes and throttle response for optimum off-road driving. There is also the option of selecting knobbly tyres from the dealer should you be spending most of the time in muddy conditions.
This comes as a breath of fresh air to the SUV industry as we're bombarded by the gargantuan beasts which look like they could take on off-camber hills and slippy slopes, but have road tyres and suspension which would wince at a comically small pothole.
The Explorer is jam-packed full of safety equipment as well, with dual rear safety belt air bags, curtain, driver and passenger airbags, as well as collision warning buzzers and electronic stability control; proving that Ford have come a long way since the old pick-up truck Explorer of the 90s.
When you're looking for a large car, which can handle off-road conditions and take the kids to school, but one that won't handle like an old barge, the new Ford Explorer 2011 might just fit that bill. Shame there's no diesel engine because Ford has really excelled with its 'oil-burner' engines since the turn of the century.