Concept-Ford Explorer America Preview
By Jeff Youngs, February 24, 2012
- Concept indicating possible future direction of the Explorer SUV
- Unit-body design
- Glass roof
- EcoBoost turbocharged direct-injection engine
- Navigation system with 3-D compass and topographical map
- Minivan-style sliding rear doors
- Ford claims 20 to 30 percent fuel economy increase over current Explorer
One could say that the Explorer is both a make and break proposition for Ford. In the 1990s the Explorer was the company's star player, establishing Ford as one of the top SUV builders in the global automotive industry, spawning a series of successful large SUVs and even influencing the design of the F-Series pickup.
Today, higher gas prices and raised environmental consciousness have changed what Americans want from their SUVs. Rather than abandoning its former champion, Ford created the Explorer America concept as a way to show how the Explorer could change with the times. Using lighter unit-body construction and high-tech engine, Ford claims the Explorer America delivers a 20- to 30-percent increase in fuel economy compared to the production Explorer.
The original Explorer was designed for serious off-roading, but with the vast majority of SUV owners staying firmly on-road, the Explorer America relies on its exterior styling to convey its high-adventure aspirations. The Explorer America features a bold, blocky shape with a tall body and short windows. Up front, the now-familiar three-bar grille theme has been adapted to integrate low-profile headlights and turn signals. Out back, blacked-out D-pillars give the appearance of wrap-around glass, while the taillights feature body-colored center inserts.
Getting into the Explorer America should prove easy thanks to minivan-style sliding rear doors and the lack of a B-pillar between front and rear doors. Inside, a 3-piece glass roof floods the interior with light, while lightweight rear seats flip and slide forward to provide easy access to the third row. The ignition switch and parking brake switch have been moved to the end of the column stalks, freeing up space and providing a clutter-free interior. The concept car's dash is dominated by a 3-dimensional compass and topographical map for the navigation system.
The Explorer America abandons the Explorer's traditional body-on-frame construction for a lighter unit-body design. The Explorer America is designed for two engines. One is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine using Ford's EcoBoost (formerly known as Twin Force) system with a turbocharger and direct fuel injection. Power output is 275 hp and 280 lb.-ft. of torque. The other is a 3.5-liter V-6 engine developing about 340 hp. Either engine is mated to a 6-speed transmission using a column-mounted shift dial; to select a lower gear the driver simply twists the dial. Electric power steering, a technology already adapted by several automakers but new to Ford, will contribute a fuel savings of approximately five percent, Ford says.