The standard Explorer engine is a 3.5L V6 that makes 290 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque, front-wheel drive and a 6-speed transmission. Ford's 2.0L EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine is available, which makes 237 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. Ford claims that this engine delivers V6 power with 4-cylinder fuel economy and expects mileage to be as much as 30 percent better than last year's.
Fuel economy was one of the Explorer's targets, and it hit its mark in several ways. Besides the engine and transmission, this SUV uses electric power-assisted steering to reduce power loss, a variable-displacement air conditioning compressor and low-rolling-resistance tires. The Explorer lost about 100 pounds over the past year, despite all the new safety and technological additions, thanks to changes like using aluminum for the hood. A front air dam and rear spoiler work with the new aerodynamic design to further improve aerodynamics.
The Explorer is the first vehicle to use second-row inflatable seat belts, which spread the force of impact across five times the surface area of a conventional belt. They are optional in the XLT and Limited trim levels.. In addition, the Explorer has standard traction control with Roll Stability Control and Curve Control, which provides braking optimized for each wheel. Air bags all around and the SOS Post-Crash Alert System are also standard.
A true sport-utility vehicle, the Explorer includes hill start assist and trailer sway control and has an available rear-view camera with a zoom function for hooking up a trailer on your own. Intelligent 4-wheel drive is available with the V6 engine. This shift-on-the-fly system has four settings for normal, mud, sand or snow conditions. Selecting the appropriate terrain type changes the behavior of the engine, throttle, transmission and traction and stability control systems appropriately. Hill Descent Control uses engine braking to assist the driver on very steep inclines.
Inside the newly quieter cabin, Ford has added head and shoulder room to all three rows of seats and increased the flexibility of the interior for carrying people or cargo. Standard equipment includes MyFord Driver Connect technology with a 4.2-inch LCD screen, MyKey, cruise control, rear climate control and power windows and doors.
The XLT trim adds automatic headlights, heated mirrors with LED signal indicators, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel and a reverse sensing system to the base model. The Limited trim includes quite a bit more, including power-folding mirrors, adjustable pedals, dual-zone temperature controls, 10-way power driver's seat, heated leather-trimmed front seats, SYNC, Sony audio system, rear view camera, remote start and push-button start. A power liftgate, navigation system and Blind Spot Information System can be added to the Explorer XLT and Limited. The Limited has a small set of options all its own, too, like active park assist, adaptive cruise control, heated and cooled front seats and rain-sensing wipers.
The Explorer has been on the mid-sized SUV scene for nearly two full decades and has come to define the segment. The Explorer gets a thorough revision for 2011, with more fuel-efficient engines, a weight-saving design, the addition of advanced safety systems and a strong slate of technology equipment.
A new V6 engine is expected to deliver 20 percent better fuel economy than the 2010 model, and the available EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine should do 30 percent better. The exterior facelift the Explorer received isn't all for looks, it also improved aerodynamics to assist in lowering the gas mileage.
The overall quality of the Explorer has been improved this year, visible in details like tight margin gaps. Engineers also worked to reduce noise, vibration, and harshness in the cabin to produce the quietest Explorer yet.