The 2011 Ford Explorer has been redesigned from bottom to top, inside and out to meet the needs of SUV drivers from Dubuque to Dubai. While the atmospheric conditions of eastern Iowa can be closely replicated in Ford’s Dearborn, Mich., facilities, there’s no substitute for being there when validating vehicle capabilities for Dubai customers.
“The sweltering heat and humidity conditions of Dubai have helped us develop a better Explorer,” said Chief Engineer for Vehicle Engineering Don Ufford. “With midday temperatures pushing 125 degrees Fahrenheit – aggravated by high humidity near the sea coast – Dubai represents an ideal environment to test and validate vehicle performance in some of the world’s most extreme conditions.”
Ufford and his team make the trek to Dubai for more than the opportunities that are inherent in the extreme-condition testing the humid desert climate provides. They are here to listen to customers, too.
“We regularly sell close to 10,000 Explorers per year in the Middle East market,” Ufford says. “SUV drivers in this part of the world regularly use the broad range of capabilities these vehicles offer. Our rationale for testing in Dubai is simple: If we can perform well here, we can do well anywhere.”
A recent Dubai trip for Ufford and the team offered the opportunity to test interior air conditioning effectiveness and occupant comfort in the combined desert heat and high humidity of the adjacent Gulf of Oman. With a 50 percent humidity factor, the equivalent temperature can exceed 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Engineers fitted an Explorer test vehicle with interior temperature sensors in the very places where occupants would be sensitive. A majority of the adjustments the team makes to improve air conditioning performance will find their way into all Explorers.
“Fine-tuning vehicle performance for these extreme conditions helps us deliver a better product for all of our Explorer customers,” Ufford said. “Nearly all of the adjustments we make to optimize for conditions in Dubai are integrated back into the global product program.”
Dubai also offers unique terrain characteristics to validate Explorer 4WD capabilities.
“The intense heat and sweltering humidity combine to turn the fine-grained white sand into a deep, soft proving ground to evaluate the sand setting on Explorer’s terrain management system,” Ufford said. “Customers here regularly drop tire pressure and head off into the sand dunes for off-road vehicular recreation. We wanted to make the terrain management system on the new Explorer easy and intuitive to use so customers have the confidence to go off-road without worrying about whether they have properly engaged all the vehicle systems.”
Terrain management sand mode allows for some wheel spin at initial throttle tip-in to gather momentum, while limiting slip as vehicle speed increases. Once in motion, the sand setting on Explorer’s terrain management system constantly monitors traction to send the right amount of torque to the wheels for optimal performance in the soft and hilly conditions, without the need for customer intervention.
Intelligent 4WD with terrain management – including the sand setting – will be an added convenience to experienced SUV drivers and a confidence-builder for those new to the segment.
The all-new 2011 Ford Explorer – delivering capability, refinement and fuel economy – will be available in North American Ford dealerships later this year with exportation to more than 90 markets globally.