Enough with the spy shots, enough with the teasers. The 2011 Explorer is finally here officially. The looks aren’t very surprising – after all, we’ve been seeing bits and pieces for months now. That said, it’s a good looking vehicle. The black B & D pillars are either awesome or a bit odd, depending on your tastes. I’m having trouble getting used to them… but that’s me.
The platform is new to the Explorer, of course. That’s the biggest news here. Instead of the traditional body-on-frame used by all previous Explorers, the 2011 Explorer rides on a unibody chassis. Variations of that platform are used in the Taurus, Flex, Lincoln MKT & MKS. That, of course, makes the 2011 Explorer the first front wheel drive Explorer.
2011 Explorer Specs
- 237 HP 2.0 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder engine
- 290 HP 3.5 liter V6
- Six speed automatic transmission
- FWD standard, AWD available
- Seats up to 7
- Max towing capacity: 5,000 lbs
- No EPA rating – but expected 23 MPG combined for I4
Compared to the previous generation of Explorer, the 2011 model loses a bit of leg room in the first and third rows, but gains some in the second row. There’s about 80 cubic feet of cargo area available, which is down just a bit as well.
Thoughts on the powertrains
Surely you noticed that there’s no V8 available. Instead, Ford is offering a base 4 cylinder turbo, with the optional upgrade being a naturally aspirated V6. While it’s odd to see the lack of a V8 available on an Explorer, this V6 churns out 290 HP. There will be absolutely no shortage of power on this vehicle, especially when you consider that the 100 lb weight loss.
Smaller engines… unibody construction… no V8… all this sounds like reduced capability. When it comes to towing, that’s absolutely correct. The 2011 Explorer tows a maximum of 5,000 lbs – over 2100 lbs less than the outgoing model.
Ford has watched Explorer sales fall over 80% since the peak. Instead of building yet another out of style body-on-frame Explorer, they decided to take a risk. The unibody construction and smaller engines combine to make the most fuel-efficient Explorer yet. Chances are good that it’ll be the best riding one as well. Reduced off-road and towing capacity are notable, but not important. The vast, vast majority of SUV buyers never used their vehicle’s capabilities anyway. That is most certainly proved by the huge CUV movement that we’re in the middle of.
Ford has a winner here, there’s no question about it. The only question I have is this: Is there room for both the Explorer and Flex in Ford’s lineup? When you get right down to it, there’s very little difference between the two vehicles.
2011 Ford Explorer Gallery