What is it? The Explorer has finally shed its truck-like, body-on-frame platform with this redesign for a carlike unibody design that shares its underpinnings with the Flex. The new Explorer will seat up to seven people in three rows of seats.
The base engine is a 3.5-liter V6 with an estimated 290 horsepower. This rating is near the top-of-the-class and is a big improvement over the current antiquated 4.0-liter V6. With the 2.0-liter, turbocharged, direct-injection four-cylinder, Ford is promising as much as 30-percent better fuel economy than the current V6 model, thanks to improved aerodynamics, reduced weight, a six-speed automatic transmission.
What's new and notable? The current Explorer really isn't that great off-road, limited by its mechanicals and modest ground clearance. However, the new Explorer promises improved low-traction capabilities with a much more sophisticated all-wheel-drive system with convenient, driver-selectable modes to configure the drivetrain for different terrain, much like the well-regarded Land Rover system.
MyFord Touch "driver connect" technology is optional and standard on higher-trim models. Some of its features, like the crisp and clean dashboard displays are welcome. But we're not sure that some elements, like touch-sensitive controls for climate and radio functions, are improvements over regular, grab-without-looking knobs.
Notable, available safety features include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot detection, cross-traffic alert, rear inflatable seat belts, and SOS post-crash alert system.
CR's take: The use of a turbocharged four-cylinder engine in an SUV of this size is a first. Ford claims the EcoBoost engine will deliver the power of a V6 and the fuel economy of a four-cylinder. We'll see when we test it.
When will it be available? Winter 2011.