Way back in the early 1990s, when things were good and people were buying more cars than trucks, Ford came out with a nifty little vehicle that took the frame of the Ranger and made it into a closed-up trucklet, which we now know as an SUV, and called it Explorer.
And not to take away any thunder from the Jeep Grand Cherokees and General Motors Suburbans, but Explorer really helped push the SUV category into the mainstream.
Fast forward almost 20 years and the SUV market is a mature one, saturated with models of differing sizes, prices and capabilities. Add to that the high fuel prices of the last five years and and stricter emissions and crash safety measures and the current SUV has a lot of demerits.
Ford, continuing its resurgence as one of the planet’s top auto manufacturers, has completely redesigned Explorer from the ground up with a different, but familiar look, different platform and the promise of awesome mileage and safety features.
The biggest difference between new and old Explorers, outside of the sheetmetal (more on that later) is the use of unibody construction on the 2011. In years past, Explorer stayed true to its Ranger-derived roots by utilizing a body-on-frame construction that made Explorer very truck-like in its ride and demeanor.
The new unibody makes Explorer more car-like, with a stiffer structure and less weight compared with the body-on-frame of the previous model. This should mean a better ride and car-like handling. Think of it as a 21st century station wagon…on steroids.
And speaking of the body, the 2011 Explorer continues with the same overall shape of the old model but with more aggressive front end, reminiscent of the current design of most Ford cars, but without the “chrome visor” look grill of the Fusion and Edge.
With protruding wheel arches and deep character lines along the flanks, Explorer looks more athletic and balanced in profile and 3/4 view. Out back, Explorer looks like most SUVs, albeit with a strikingly handsome chrome line delineating upper and lower tailgate sections.
Inside, Explorer heads upmarket with a stylish dash design, elegant-looking materials and well-placed controls.
In a first for this segment, Explorer will offer an EcoBoost inline-four that is direct injected, turbocharged and intercooled to the tune of 237 horsepower and 250 lb.-ft. or torque, which is about as powerful as the old V6! This engine will be optional and is geared towards those who want good fuel economy and don’t need to haul a trailer but still want the space of an SUV.
The standard engine is Ford’s 3.5-liter V6 with peak horsepower of 290 and 255 lb.-ft. of torque.
Both engines offer variable valve timing and other fuel-saving goodies to eek out the best mileage numbers as possible. Add in unique six-speed transmissions for each engine and you get a mileage-leading team.
On the technology front, expect the standards like Bluetooth Nav and now the MyFord Touch system replacing Sync. Also expect many different outlets and inputs for all your gadgets and gear.
Pricing starts at $28,190 for the base model, $31,190 for an XLT and $37,190 for a Limited.
Here’s one for the “wish we had this here in the U.S.” file:
I found this on the Ford media website…where I was researching the new Explorer. Talk about a tease!
The all-new Ford Ranger…for the Australian market.
Hello, Ford? Please, please , please bring this Ranger here!!!!!
And now, your Retro Review:
2006 HUMMER H3
I Think I’ll Call It ‘Mini-HUMMER’
by James E. Bryson
Downsizing comes in many forms, like outsourcing, job discontinuance and plant closings. In the automotive world, the trend mostly goes the other way. Any new cars or trucks are usually bigger than the last model and have more features and safety measures as well.
If you make one of the biggest vehicles out there, the only way up is to make a smaller model that costs less yet still has the same aura, at least attempts to have, as the original.
The newest HUMMER on the road, the H3, follows the latter principle to the tee. It’s smaller, lighter and more stylish then either the original H1 or the H2, with bulging fenders and a (dare we say it) cute face the seems counterintuitive to the dirty nature that the H3 portends.
With a tall, imposing stature and a wide stance, the H3 looks more like a Jeep Wrangler on a banned substance than a HUMMER offspring at first glance. After a careful look inside and out, you see that no Jeep has ever been appointed with such niceties and luxurious touches.
We loved the two-tone color scheme in the cabin of the H3. With dark on top and lighter on the bottom, it gave the trucklet an ultra-classy feel that you just don’t find in a vehicle that can take on the Rubicon Trail and embarrass a lot of others who try. Coupled with that the quality feel of all the controls and clean dash design and you have one highfalutin machine.
We found good quality materials everywhere we looked. The seats weren’t leather but a nice material suited for rugged terrain and the mess that comes with it. The controls were well placed and easily found.
Like a colander that needs more holes, our tester came equipped with an off-road suspension to go with the huge 16 by 7.5-inch aluminum wheels and P265/75R-16 tires, which don’t sound like much but give the H3 a tall, bouncy ride, with a capable off-road air.
The drivetrain in the H3 is quite remarkable in that it is new to the GM fleet and not your typical SUV propellant.
For starters, the engine, the only one offered in the H3, is a 3.5-liter, inline five-cylinder from the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon pickups. When’s the last time you heard of any vehicle with five cylinders?? We think it’s a great powerplant (220 horsepower and 225 lb.-ft. of torque) with plenty of passing power on the highway and enough grunt to make city driving less of a chore. We remarked early in 2005 that we found the I5 to have a distinct growl with pleasant overtones in the Chevy/GMC twins, which carried over to the H3 with abandon.
Then there’s the transmission choices – a five-speed manual (the first in a HUMMER) and a four-speed automatic round out the offerings and give a broader appeal to the HUMMER brand because of the manual trans and the sporty nature it portends.
The only downside to all this "HUMMER-ness" is the dismal mileage such an SUV is expected to get. On the upside, we observed approximately 18 miles per gallon, which is great for a full-size truck or SUV…too bad the H3 is in the mid-size category where that figure isn’t bad but is bested by such vehicles as the Jeep Liberty and Ford Escape.
Whilst driving the H3, we noticed that seeing behind the vehicle was a bit difficult due partly to the big spare tire hanging on the rear door and the height at which the H3 stands, which is quite tall for a mid-size SUV. Otherwise, we felt comfortable on the highways and byways, never feeling tippy in moderate maneuvers and only the occasional wobbling over freeway bumps at speed.
We also had trouble with the pedals…they felt solid and gave us confidence in braking and acceleration, but the go pedal was too close to the Stop pedal for an average shoe size of 10. We ended up getting used to it and never had any "oops" moments, but it was strange us because everything else seemed so well thought out.
Another small issue we found was the plastic trim on outside bottom areas. It looks cool (the dimple-theme flows into the inside as well) but scuffs easily from shoes and such.
Rear seats are comfy but do not fold ANYWHERE near flat, even though the brochures and press materials say otherwise, making hauling large items difficult because the load floor has a giant cliff you need to move things over to get them into the cargo hold – the rear doors are useful in this regard.
On the price front, the H3 ain’t half bad, as they say. Starting at $28,935.00, with plenty of standard equipment, our H3 had an as-tested price of $34,284.00.
That added girth to the sticker came as a handful of options: Adventure package (off road suspension, oversized carpeted floormats front and rear – $1025.), Four-speed automatic transmission with StabiliTrak stability control – $1595, power sunroof – $800, trailer hitch and wiring harness – $270, and the obligatory destination charge of $565.
The math-conscience people out there have already noticed that those numbers just don’t add up. And they would be right. Our test H3 also had a few "dealer installed" accessories: Black tubular step bars – $595 and roof rack cross members – $399. There are myriad add-on items for the HUMMER, leading us to believe that our tester was on the lower end of the price spectrum.
Add it all up and you have a comfortable, well-appointed vehicle that will take you almost anyplace in the country, road or not.