2011 Ford Explorer

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Ford’s iconic Explorer has been reinvented and redeveloped to create new expectations for SUV fuel efficiency and performance. It will be the new class leader in its segment with fuel economy improvements reaching more than 30 percent.

“This all-new Explorer adds class-leading fuel efficiency to a legendary portfolio of capability, performance and customer convenience,” said Jim Holland, chief nameplate engineer. “SUV customers in general – and Explorer customers specifically – told us they want the freedom and empowerment Explorer always has stood for, with improved performance and significantly increased fuel economy.”

Offering two new engines – the technologically advanced turbocharged, direct-injection four-cylinder that is the latest in the Ford Motor Company EcoBoost commitment and a responsive, fuel-efficient V6 – the new Explorer balances capability with environmental responsibility.

Explorer V6 sets new standard
The Explorer 3.5-liter V6 is offered as standard equipment across base, XLT and Limited models. Delivering an anticipated improvement in fuel economy of more than 20 percent versus the current Explorer, this smooth and powerful V6 enables intelligent four-wheel drive (4WD) with terrain management. The improvement in efficiency helps Explorer to surpass fuel economy figures for the 2010 Honda Pilot and other vehicles in the segment. Using Ti-VCT for optimized fuel economy and reduced part-throttle emissions, this engine delivers an estimated 290 horsepower and 255 lb.-ft. (345 Nm) of torque.

This V6 engine has been highly developed for the Explorer application, with multiple actions that enhance mechanical efficiency, increase fuel economy, lower emissions, reduce operating costs and bolster durability.

Mechanical efficiency, performance and fuel economy have been improved through Ti-VCT, a low-tension drive belt featuring a one-way clutch for the alternator, a direct-acting mechanical bucket (DAMB) valvetrain with polished buckets to reduce friction, piston-cooling jets, improved bay-to-bay breathing through the cylinder block and composite cam covers that reduce engine weight.

Ti-VCT allows precise, variable control of valve overlap, or the time when intake and exhaust valves are open concurrently. This enables increased mechanical efficiency for improved response and performance, while optimizing fuel economy. In part-throttle conditions, Ti-VCT helps reduce emissions.

The 3.5-liter V6 also features improved deceleration fuel shutoff technology to maximize fuel economy in closed-throttle situations.

The Explorer V6 has been engineered for durability with a chain-driven camshaft, high-strength forged powder metal connecting rods with floating pins, fully counterweighted forged steel crankshaft, a die-cast aluminum deep-sump oil pan and four-bolt main bearing caps with side bolts through the engine block.

Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) characteristics are controlled and reduced through a tuned composite upper and lower manifold, the silent-chain cam drive and an acoustic engine cover.

The Explorer 3.5-liter V6 delivers best-in-class fuel economy yet offers power to tow up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped.

EcoBoost 2.0-liter I-4 delivers normally aspirated V6 punch
For SUV drivers seeking maximum fuel efficiency, Ford introduces the all-new Explorer with an available EcoBoost2.0-liter I-4. Combining direct injection of gasoline and turbocharging, this advanced engine delivers performance comparable to normally aspirated competitive V6 engines. Developing up to 237 horsepower at 5,500 rpm, this I-4 delivers 250 lb.-ft. (338 Nm) of torque.

Estimated fuel economy improves by more than 30 percent, putting the fuel efficiency of the Ford Explorer in line with sedans such as the 2010 Toyota Camry V6.

Like other Ford EcoBoost engines, peak torque is generated at a low 1,700 rpm across a broad band to 4,000 rpm. This torque plateau makes for flexible, efficient power delivery across a wide range of engine and vehicle speeds, while helping save fuel by making power at lower rpm levels. Ti-VCT, four valves per cylinder and DAMB valve lifters increase mechanical efficiency through improved engine breathing across the broad power and torque bands.

A relatively high compression ratio is enabled by the use of direct gasoline injection, operating at fuel pressures from 2,200 to 2,800 psi. The unique turbocharger is optimally matched to the EcoBoost I-4 engine and SUV vehicle performance behavior. Precise fuel pressure control allows the Explorer I-4 to deliver boosted power at low rpm, without annoying turbo lag.

The EcoBoost I-4 uses 5W30-GF4 oil to reduce friction and reduce cost of ownership through 10,000-mile oil change intervals.

Targeted durability is 10 years, or 150,000 miles. Durability actions include enhanced oil filtration and cleanliness, the addition of an aluminum oil cooler with improved heat dissipation and cast inter-bore cooling inside the aluminum engine block. This engine represents the initial U.S.-market application of the brick-style charge-air cooler, delivering increased thermal efficiency.

The new 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine is being introduced globally by Ford Motor Company, with applications in various products in Europe, Asia and Australia, in addition to the new Explorer.

EcoBoost technology will serve as a key element in Ford’s global sustainability efforts, powering up to 1.3 million vehicles on an annual basis by 2013.

Six-speed transmissions help performance and economy
The unique six-speed transmission paired with each Explorer offers performance and economy advantages with the flexibility of optimum gearing for every situation. Lower gears provide the benefit of improved acceleration from a full stop, while higher gears help increase fuel economy by allowing the engine to operate at lower speeds when cruising.

Explorer XLT and Limited models offer a SelectShift Automatic™ transmission, allowing drivers to manually change gears using a shifter-mounted +/- toggle switch.

Explorer road dynamics
The Explorer shift to a unibody platform has enabled significantly improved on-road dynamics. Fully independent front and rear suspension, EPAS, a robust front stabilizer bar, and careful suspension development and tuning provide confidence-building vehicle behavior and handling characteristics.

In front, Explorer features a short- and long-arm suspension configuration, with progressive springs designed to give a smooth ride across a variety of road surfaces and load conditions. Unique dampers are specified to enhance dynamic driving and handling, without wallow or jounce. A 32-millimeter front stabilizer bar helps keep Explorer stable in cornering situations.

EPAS enabled the Explorer dynamics team to tune steering for a variety of conditions. In low-speed parking maneuvers, the system adds boost for easy negotiation of tight spots, with a segment-competitive turning radius. Power assist is reduced at speed to provide increased communicative steering feedback. Variable assistance allows Explorer to optimize steering behavior to boost driver confidence across a wide variety of driving conditions.

EPAS – in addition to saving weight and helping increase fuel economy because of reduced parasitic drag on the engine – also enables optional active park assist functionality.

Explorer rear suspension consists of SR1 – so-named for its 1:1 shock absorber ratio. For each wheel movement, the dampers make the same motion in the same cadence. This harmony enables easier tuning for ride and handling by vehicle dynamics engineers, as a stable baseline is inherent to the configuration. SR1 eliminates undesirable ride motions from counter reactions.

Explorer on-road dynamics have been benchmarked against luxury SUVs such as the BMW X5 and Audi Q7.

Intelligent 4WD with terrain management system
The new Ford Explorer democratizes 4WD technology, previously limited to luxury SUVs. Models equipped with intelligent 4WD with terrain management use technology to provide the driver with security and confidence in a variety of climate and surface conditions.

Terrain management gives the driver a choice between four settings on a center console-mounted knob. Each setting has a unique engine calibration, throttle command, transmission shift schedule, traction and stability control calibration – all optimized to a range of driving situations. The four settings are normal, mud and ruts, sand, and snow.

In normal 4WD operation, torque is biased to the front wheels, sending power to the rear wheels as necessary as dictated by conditions and slip.

Mud and ruts mode allows cautious torque demand at the top end of the throttle, getting more aggressive as needed. The transmission holds lower gears longer to prevent unwanted transmission upshifts, while stability control is desensitized to help maintain vehicle momentum through rutted, soft or uneven surfaces.

Sand mode enables an aggressive throttle to immediately maximize wheel torque, while causing the transmission to hold lower gears for as long as possible. Traction control is desensitized in sand mode to allow wheel spin.

Snow mode allows less wheel spin, provides more cautious throttle control, enables earlier transmission upshifts, and allows a higher level of traction control sensitivity to limit wheel spin.

Intelligent 4WD with terrain management also includes Hill Descent Control. This stability control system feature is intended to control vehicle speed and acceleration during low-speed descents off the beaten path, or low-grip on-road situations. A technology shared with best-selling F-Series trucks, Hill Descent Control operates by recognizing downhill gradients and limits Explorer to a predetermined target speed.

Class III towing
Explorer V6 models can be equipped to tow up to 5,000 pounds. Trailer brake control wiring is included, in addition to trailer sway control – a feature borrowed from the Ford F-150. Trailer sway senses side-to-side trailer movement and uses stabilization controls to keep the vehicle/trailer combination in confident control.

A tow/haul mode, engaged by an instrument panel-mounted button, optimizes the shift schedule to help the vehicle in hilly situations. A rear view camera with zoom feature helps the Explorer driver to line up perfectly for every trailer hookup. Explorer offers competitive towing capability combined with a class-leading array of towing aid technologies.

Explorer continues the tradition of capability, with enhanced accessibility of 4WD empowerment and towing strength while taking on-road dynamics to a new level.

Source: Ford (press release/media site)