2011 Ford Explorer unveiled, tries crossing over on road to redemption

Filed under: SUV, Safety, Crossover, Ford, Design/Style


2011 Ford Explorer Deep Dive – Click above for high-res image gallery

In creating the 2011 Explorer, Ford engineers and designers had an enormously difficult task set before them. Ford’s President of the Americas, Mark Fields, described the job as “Reinventing the SUV for the 21st century.” Despite the near complete collapse of the traditional mid-to-large SUV market over the last several years, Ford still sees a substantial market for the capabilities of these boxy behemoths. Customers just don’t want the traditional downsides that accompany these body-on-frame ‘utes – specifically, their higher fuel consumption and poor ride and handling.

The new Explorer remains squarely targeted at traditional SUV buyers.

Since its debut some 20 years ago, the Explorer has sold over six million units, four million of which are still traversing the world’s roads. Through much of the late-1990s and early part of the last decade, the Explorer was Ford’s second-best-selling vehicle behind its F-Series pickups, regularly selling 400,000 units a year. Fast-forward to 2009, and that volume had plummeted to just over 52,000. Even so, Ford believes it still has an opportunity. According to the automaker’s vice president of global marketing, Jim Farley, each year, at least 140,000 Explorer owners come back to Blue Oval dealerships looking to purchase new vehicles. And obviously, they just aren’t buying Explorers.

When word got out that Ford was developing a new unibody Explorer off the same platform architecture that underpins the Taurus and Flex – not to mention the Lincoln MKS and MKT – many people wondered why Dearborn had elected to develop yet another crossover, especially since the Taurus X/Freestyle had just been killed due to slow sales. This predicament was not lost on Ford’s product planners, and their four-wheeled response is a new Explorer that remains squarely targeted at traditional SUV buyers – shoppers that Ford sees as a distinct group from most crossover intenders. Long ago, Jeep proved with the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee that a unibody chassis isn’t necessarily an impediment to building a fully capable off-roader, and Ford appears to have taken that lesson to heart, along with targeting big improvements in fuel economy and driving dynamics. Follow the jump to find out if they succeeded.

Gallery: 2011 Ford Explorer

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2011 Ford Explorer unveiled, tries crossing over on road to redemption originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 26 Jul 2010 00:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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