The Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle has been reinvented from the ground up to provide drivers with significantly improved on-road driving dynamics, new four-wheel-drive (4WD) capabilities and an intuitive-to-operate terrain management system.
“Explorer customers asked us to improve the on-road driving experience,” said Jim Holland, chief nameplate engineer. “Yet they want the ‘any road, anytime, anywhere, in all weather’ confidence and capability Explorer always has delivered. With its unique and intuitively operated terrain management system, the 4WD model offers easily accessed, selectable modes for maximum traction and control in a variety of off-the-beaten-track situations.”
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.