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See also Ford Explorer Sport Trac for the Explorer-based pickup truck


The Ford Explorer is a mid-size SUV sold in North America and built by the Ford Motor Company since 1990, as a replacement for the smaller but related Ford Bronco II. It is manufactured in Louisville, Kentuckymarker (it was also assembled in Hazelwood, Missourimarker until the plant closed on March 10, 2006). The Ford Explorer was instrumental in turning the SUV from a special-interest vehicle into one of the most popular vehicle types on the road. It is marked as Ford's only mid-sized SUV and is slotted between the larger Ford Expedition and the smaller Ford Escape.

The Explorer has also been involved in controversy, after a spate of fatal rollover accidents involving Explorers fitted with Firestone tires.

Both two-door Explorer Sport and four-door models of Explorer have been sold. Part-time four-wheel drive is an available option, and since 1995 this has been a 'shift on the fly' system with full protection against being engaged at high speed.

A specially modified Special Service Vehicle version is also available from Ford Fleet for law enforcement.

Explorer was also the name of a trim package offered on the Ford F-Series trucks from 1968 to 1986.

A 'Explorer' named vehicle is slated to replace the Ford Taurus X as a CUV beginning with the fifth generation, to be called Explorer America, targeted as a possible 2010 or 2011 model. The new Explorer will be a less rugged but cheaper unibody vehicle, with less towing capacity and offroad capability.

First generation (1991-1994)

The Explorer was released in March 1990 as a 1991 model. It was equipped with a 4.0 L 155 hp (116 kW) V6 engine and 4-speed A4LD automatic transmission or 5-speed M5OD manual transmission. Like the Ford Bronco II it replaced, it was an SUV derivative of the Ford Ranger Pickup, but larger. Following the Chevrolet S-10 Blazer, it came in both 2-door and 4-door bodystyles. It was available with rear or four-wheel drive. The four-wheel drive versions came with a Borg Warner 13-54 part-time four wheel drive transfer case. The 13-54 was available with "Touch Drive" electronic push button shifting as well as manual, lever operated shifting. Both designs were "shift-on-the-fly" designs that allowed the truck to be shifted from two wheel drive to 'four-high' at any speed. All Explorers came with the 8.8-inch (22 cm) Ford rear axle in either a limited slip or open version with a variety of available gear ratios. Explorers came in 4 trim levels: base XL, XLT, Sport (only available on the two-door version), and the upscale Eddie Bauer Edition. 15 hp (11 kW) was added for 1993 for a total of 170 hp (119 kW). The Limited edition, added for 1993, was available only in the 4-door style and was even more upscale than the Eddie Bauer version. It featured automatic headlights, foglamps, an automatic transmission as standard equipment, an auto-dimming rear view mirror, a center roof console with compass and outside thermometer, special wheels, and a special grille.

Technically similar to the original Ford Explorer, the Explorer Sport came in both rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive variants. It replaced the 2-door Ford Bronco II, and was larger than the Bronco II. A variant of the Explorer Sport was sold by Mazda as the Navajo, which won Motor Trend's Truck of the Year award but was discontinued in 1994.

Common complaints about the first generation models mostly came from the A4LD automatic transmission. Towing wasn't its strong point and it couldn't handle much more power if the engine saw any aftermarket upgrades. Also, problems came from the automatic locking front hubs. Moderate off road driving would destroy the plastic internals and leave the SUV stuck in 2WD. Manual locking front hubs did not suffer from reliability problems.

Second generation (1995-2001)

The Explorer saw significant exterior, interior and suspension updates in 1995. The former "Twin Traction Beam" (TTB) front suspension was replaced with a more carlike independent front suspension. The Explorer lineup now consisted of two models: 2-door Explorer Sport and the 4-door Explorer. The Limited was a higher end 4-door. A 210 hp (157 kW) 5.0 L Windsor V8 engine and heavy-duty 4-speed 4R70W transmission were added for 1996, along with a "full time" all-wheel drive system on the Eddie Bauer and Limited in 1997. A more-powerful SOHC 205 hp (153 kW) engine came as an option in 1997 along with an optional 5-speed automatic. A Mercury twin, the Mountaineer, was added in 1997 as well. In early 1997, the 5.0 L received new cylinder heads (GT-40P series), which upped power to 215 hp (160 kw). Since this change was made in the middle of the 1997 release, the 1997 GT-40P equipped Explorers and Mountaineers were dubbed 1997¼ models. The 5.0 L V8 powered Explorer has become favored in the high performance SUV crowd, with many performance parts available. This is due to the fact that many aftermarket 5.0L Ford Mustang parts are interchangeable with the Explorer variant. Also, the Explorer has aftermarket parts available for it including superchargers, nitrous kits, and headers.

The 1995 Explorer was the first production vehicle to use a neon center high mount stop lamp. This was replaced with a more conventional lamp when the liftgate was refreshed in 1998. A slight change in front end design came in 1999, at which time the XLS name replaced XL as the base model.

Like the basic Explorer, the Explorer Sport was significantly updated in 1995. The Eddie Bauer trim level was replaced with Expedition on 2-door Explorers (1995 only, the name would be reused on the 1997 Ford Expedition). The rear was given a face lift for 1998.

There was a North Face model also introducued, but was exclusive to the UK.

2001 also saw the introduction of the Explorer Sport Trac, which put a small pickup bed behind the four normal SUV doors.

In 2009, this generation Explorer had five of the top seven spots for vehicles traded in under the "cash for clunkers" program, with the 1998 model topping the list. The 1994 model from the previous generation also had the eighth spot on the list.

Third generation (2002-2005)

The 4-door Explorer and companion Mercury Mountaineer were redesigned entirely in 2002, losing all design similarity with the Ranger while gaining a similar appearance to the Ford Expedition (the third generation Explorer is even often confused with the second generation Expedition, having rounded wheel sockets and "larger" back lights along with a more rounded appearance overall) and the still in production, second generation inspired Explorer Sport Trac. Engines were either the 210 hp (157 kW) SOHC 4.0L V6 with of torque or a 239 hp (178 kW) 4.6 L V8, with the 203 hp (151 kW) 4.0 L still available on the Explorer Sport. A third-row seat became available for the first time, bringing total passenger capacity to seven. Both manual and automatic transmissions and all-wheel drive were available (with 2002 being the last year of being able to order a 4-door and manual transmission). Trim lines were the base Sport Value, Sport Choice, XLS, Sport Premium, XLT, Eddie Bauer, and top Limited. AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control were standard for 2005 but an option from 2002 and on.

Beginning with the 2002 model year, Ford installed a fully independent rear suspension in the Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer (but not in the 2-door Explorer Sport). This replaced the non-independent ("live-axle") rear suspension used in previous model year Explorers. In the fully independent rear suspension each rear wheel connects to the rear differential via a half-shaft drive axle. The benefits of a fully independent rear suspension for ride comfort, handling, and vehicle stability have been known for many years, and many rear- or 4-wheel-drive vehicles (cars and SUVs) use this type of suspension; for example, the Hummer H1, and the Mercedes-Benz ML SUV. Ford installed the independent rear suspension in the Explorer beginning with the 2002 model year because of the well-publicized vehicle rollovers and resulting fatalities that occurred with previous-edition Ford Explorers. All of the Explorers involved in the rollovers had non-independent rear suspensions, and many of the vehicles had tires which Ford judged to be defective (see below).

All three SUVs use code U6 (for rear-wheel drive), U7 (for four-wheel drive), and U8 (for all-wheel drive) in the 5th, 6th, and 7th positions of the VIN.

When the Explorer was redesigned for 2002, the Explorer Sport continued unchanged for 1 more year. Due to the decline of 2-door SUVs, the 2-door Explorer Sport was discontinued in 2003.

Intake manifold defect

Certain 2002 V8 Explorers, using an all-composite intake manifold, are subject to coolant leaks. Late in 2005 Ford settled a US class action lawsuit.

Fourth generation (2006-2010)

The Explorer and the Mountaineer were updated for 2006 on a new frame, produced by Magna International rather than Tower Automotive. It was upsized, because the Ford Freestyle (now called Ford Taurus X), slotted between it and the Escape. Along with this new, stronger base were a new interior, redesigned rear suspension, and power-folding third-row seats. A tire-pressure monitoring system and electronic stability control are standard. Power running boards (like those on the Lincoln Navigator) that lower to allow easier to access for someone entering the vehicle and then later retract upon door closure are available. Unlike previous Explorers, there will be no right-hand drive version. The new Explorer is marketed in Japanmarker in a left-hand drive configuration, as LHD vehicles are considered prestigious there.

A 210 hp (157 kW) 4.0 L V6 is the base engine, with the 292 hp (218 kW) 24-valve V8, similar to the Mustang engine, as the top choice. A six-speed automatic transmission is available with this engine as well.

The Explorer was nominated for the North American Truck of the Year award for 2006.

A new Sport Trac was added to the Explorer line in early 2006 for the 2007 model year. Unlike its predecessor sold through 2005, it will feature the V8 engine as an option, and will be based on the new, larger Explorer platform. AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control will be standard in the Sport Trac.

A special 2007 SVT model called the Sport Trac Adrenalin was to use a supercharged version of the 4.6 L Modular V8, with 390 hp (291 kW) and featuring wheels. It was to be a successor to the F-Series Lightning pickup. However, it was cancelled in a cost-cutting move, as part of The Way Forward.

In 2008, Ford added side curtain airbags across the range. The satellite navigation system was upgraded with voice control. In 2009, the Explorer got trailer sway control standard and the naviation system got traffic flow monitoring and gas prices updated from nearby stations. For the 2010 model year, Ford's MyKey became a standard on all Explorer trims.

Fifth generation (2011-)

Fifth generation Ford Explorer America concept from the 2008 New York Auto Show
Ford has revealed in media press releases, along with a gallery of photographs, a new Explorer America concept vehicle, scheduled for public unveiling at the 2008 North American International Auto Show.

The Explorer America concept is built on a unibody platform to reduce weight and improve driveability, migrating from the body-on-frame platform of the current Explorer. It is designed for up to six passengers, and can tow , while improving fuel economy by 20 to 30 percent relative to the current V6 Explorer. The powertrain packages in the concept vehicle include a two-liter four cylinder turbocharged direct injection EcoBoost gas engine with and of torque, and a 3.5 liter V6 version EcoBoost with and up to of torque.

On March 31, 2009, Ford confirmed that the Explorer will make the switch to a car based platform starting in 2011 Spy shots have indicated the prototypes appear to be based on the Ford Taurus X In May 2009 Car & Driver announced that the fifth generation Explorer is scheduled to hit dealerships by the end of 2010 The 2011 Explorer is referred to as the U502 program internally at Ford.

The Fifth-generation Ford Explorer will be the first-ever vehicle to be equipped with inflatable seat belts in the rear seats. Air bags are sewn into the inside of the seat belts, and inflate with cold air to prevent burns. Ford claims it will be released as an option and to introduce inflatable seat belts on other Ford models eventually.

Explorer Sport variation

The Ford Explorer Sport was a 2-door version of the Ford Explorer, designed to take the place of the Bronco II in Ford's model line, and was produced from 1991 to 2003. The Sport began as a trim level of the Ford Explorer, but it eventually became its own model. It rode on a 10" shorter wheelbase. There was only one Sport, but there were several other trim levels of the Explorer that were available with 2-doors (edmunds trim levels), such as the XL (1991-1997), the Eddie Bauer (1991-1994), and the Expedition (1995). In 1998 the Explorer Sport became the only 2-door trim level of the Explorer, and in 2001 it became its own model, as the second generation Explorer moved on to a 4-door-only 3rd generation.

Image:1st-Ford-Explorer-Sport.jpg|1st-gen Explorer 2-doorImage:99-01 Ford Explorer Sport.jpg|1998-2000 Explorer SportImage:2003-05 Ford Explorer Sport.jpg|2001-2003 Explorer Sport

Explorer Special Service Package

NYPD Ford Explorer Special Service vehicle
To compete with other police SUVs that are sold by other automobile companies, Ford has made a special package for the Explorer that's only available to law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and EMS agencies. Ford calls it the Explorer Special Service Package. The only differences between the standard Explorer and the Special Service Package Explorer are provisions for emergency services related equipment such as radio, lightbars and siren. There are also options designated fleet only such as custom 2 tone paint arrangements that are available to the Explorer Special Service Package.

Mixed export sales success

With the introduction of the second generation Explorer in 1995, Ford attempted to market the Explorer in the UKmarker, similar to the Taurus Ghia, Ford's attempt to market the Taurus in Australia and New Zealandmarker. The Explorer was poorly received in the UK, apparently in large part because it was designed for comfortable city cruising, rather than off road capability. Many UK buyers only bought SUVs if they needed cargo flexibility or off-road capability, and they viewed large SUVs as less of a family car, as opposed to station wagons, which are more traditional British family haulers. That meant that UK SUV buyers largely stuck with Land Rovers or Jeeps. With the introduction of the all-new platform in 2002, Ford withdrew the Explorer from the UK market.

UK Models

In the UK the Ford Explorer was initially available as just one model, with the 4.0 litre engine and with a high specification - the only dealer options being leather interior. In 1998, a facelifted Explorer was available with minor cosmetic interior changes and a revised rear tail lift which centered the rear number plate. In 1999 the model range was revamped slightly, the base model becoming the XLT and a special edition North Face version marketed with a tie in to North Face outdoor clothing. The North Face version was available in a dark green or a silver, with body coloured bumpers, heated leather seats and a CD multichanger as standard. In 2000, the North Face was also in black, which is a very rare sight on UK roads.

The UK versions suffer from the same timing chain problems the US versions did, but were not subject to a recall. Its essential to maintain and monitor the timing chain tensioner if it is still the original plastic one.

Current exports

As of 2009, the Explorer is exported to Canada, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Israel, The Philippines, Russia, Iceland, the Middle East, and certain countries in South America and Africa.

Controversies

Rollover and Firestone Tire Controversy

Rollover risk is higher in many truck-based vehicles if they are driven unsafely, as modification for bulky 4 wheel drive hardware requires increases in height to avoid compromising ground clearance, and a short wheelbase can decrease stability relative to cars. The previous Bronco II had already been cited by Consumer Reports for rollover tendencies in turns- and as with the Explorer, it was cleared as being any more dangerous than any other truck when driven unsafely by the NHTSA. With a longer passenger compartment, the Explorer added 600 pounds, which was not considered to require revision of the suspension or tires to carry the bigger load. It used the same tires as the Ford Ranger with a relatively low rating for high temperatures. Lowering tire pressure recommendations softened the ride further and improved emergency stability through increased traction, but increased the chances of overheating tires. A 1995 redesign with a new suspension slightly raised the Explorer's center of gravity, but it was called inconsequential by a Ford spokesman. Memos by Ford engineers suggested lowering the engine height, but it would have increased cost of the new design.

In May 2000, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) contacted Ford and Firestone about a higher than normal incidence of tire failures on Ford Explorers, Mercury Mountaineers, and Mazda Navajos fitted with Firestone tires (later including Ford Ranger and Mazda B-Series pickup trucks). The failures all involved tread separation— in which the outer tread carcass would delaminate and cause a rapid loss of tire pressure. Ford investigated and found that several models of 15 in (381 mm) Firestone tires (ATX, ATX II, and Wilderness AT) had higher failure rates, especially those made at Firestone's Decatur, Illinoismarker plant.

Ford argued that Firestone was at fault. Ford's argument noted that its SUVs and pickups equipped with Firestone-competitor Goodyear tires experienced no rollover issues, even when inflated at low air pressure. Since most Explorer, Mountaineer, Ranger, B-Series, and Navajo tires have been replaced, the rollover reports have subsided, further lending credit to Ford's position that the design of its vehicles were not at fault. Although the Explorer having a manufacturer recommended inflation of only likely contributed to the tread separation problem by causing the tires to operate at higher than normal temperatures.

Part of the rollover issue was poor driver reaction to the tire blowout. When a tire blew, the driver experienced a large jerk and many drivers reacted by jerking the wheel in an attempt to regain control. This action causes a shift of the vehicle's weight, which results in the roll-over of the vehicle, especially when this occurs at higher speeds (many reports of roll-overs were of vehicles being driven at speeds of and above). Larry Webster, a test-driver for Car & Driver magazine was able, in a test simulating dozens of tire blowouts, repeatedly able to bring a 1994 Explorer to a stop without a single rollover, even at speeds of . According to Forbes magazine, car experts and NHTSA claim that the vast majority of crash accidents and deaths are caused not by the vehicle, but by the driver, by road conditions or some combination of the two.

In response to Firestone's allegations of Explorer's design defects, NHTSA undertook a preliminary investigation and reported that further action was not required. Its conclusion was that Explorer was no more prone to rollover than other SUVs given their high center of gravity. The subsequent introduction and proliferation of electronic stability control systems have essentially addressed and mitigated this shortcoming.

U-Haul trailers

On December 22, 2003, U-Haul, the largest North American equipment rental company, announced that they would prohibit their outlets from renting trailers to persons planning to tow behind Ford Explorers due to liability concerns. This however was completely baseless by that time as the problem had been corrected with the tire recall, and the corrected inflation recommendation. Further, U-Haul did not alter their policies regarding the renting of trailers to persons planning to tow behind the Mercury Mountaineer or Mazda Navajo, which are both mechanically identical to the Ford Explorer. As of November 24, 2009, Uhaul still does not allow Ford Explorers to tow their trailers.

Yearly American sales

Calendar Year Total American sales
1999 428,772
2000 445,157
2001
2002 433,847
2003 373,118
2004 339,333
2005 239,788
2006 179,229
2007 137,817
2008 138,439


See also



References

  1. http://www.edmunds.com/ford/explorer/2008/review.html
  2. http://www.edmunds.com/ford/explorer/2009/review.html
  3. Autospies.com - "Tags: 2010 Explorer" - 6 January 2008
  4. "Spy Shots: Next Gen Unibody Ford Explorer Mules Caught" from Autoblog (October 23, 2008)
  5. From Explorerx.com (April 1, 2009)
  6. From Explorerx.com (April 14, 2009)
  7. "Spy Shots: Are You The Future Unibody Ford Explorer?" from Autoblog.com (September 24, 2009)
  8. http://rumors.automobilemag.com/6574402/news/2011-ford-explorer-will-offer-inflatable-seatbelts-to-rear-seat-passengers/index.html
  9. "Bad Drivers, Good Credibility - car makers face uphill struggle against public perception", Ward's Auto World, April 2001
  10. Doron Levin column, Detroit Free Press, October 27, 2000
  11. Dan Ackman, "Ford, Firestone Face Off", Forbes, June 19, 2001
  12. NHTSA Denies Firestone Request For Ford Explorer Investigation
  13. http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/retail/2004-01-08-uhaul-ford_x.htm
  14. http://www.uhaul.com/trucks/faq.aspx#equipment
  15. http://www.theautochannel.com/news/press/date/20010103/press033466.html
  16. http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2004/01/05/175829.html
  17. http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2006/01/04/204860.html
  18. http://media.ford.com/article_download.cfm?article_id=27379
  19. http://media.ford.com/images/10031/dec08sales.pdf


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