By on June 29, 2010

It’s been written at least a few times here at TTAC that crossovers are the methadone of SUV addiction, and Ford is proving the point, as it prepares to launch its 2011 Explorer. Once one of the most popular SUVs in America, the Explorer is going to a unibody chassis, and the reactions to teaser images on Facebook show that America is still struggling with its SUV addiction. Facebook reactions [in gallery below] show a mixed reaction to the Explorer’s new crossover-inspired look, including unfavorable comparisons to such “cute utes” as the Honda CR-V. Ford is reacting with a video [above] which describes the Explorer as a “21st Century SUV” that offers “do anything, go anywhere” capability. Which is funny, considering that the original Explorer was never exceptional at either off-road or on-road capability. But hey, who ever said that addiction was a logical choice?

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20 Comments on “2011 Explorer: Ford Dealing With SUV Withdrawal?...”

  • avatar

    Looks like Equinox meets M-class. But I’ll wait for actual reviews to see what is thought of it. If it does its intended mission well and meets its target market, then it should sell well.

  • avatar

    What about towing capacity? Won’t somebody please think of the towing capacity?

  • avatar

    I see a lot of the Taurus design theme there. Also a bit of the 9-4X in the rear window.

    Doesn’t looks that bad to me, although I don’t like it. Looks a bit more upscale. Ford is preparing for launch here.

    I rather get a 2011 Grand Cherokee. I don’t care much about the 3rd row of seats.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes it does at least appear to be a cohesive design, not like a few vehicles we’ve seen recently where it appears that diffrent parts of the vehicle were designed by different groups of people who never met.

    • 0 avatar

      And looks a lot like an SUV too. I’d like to see a complete profile to see if there is any trace of a FWD-like platform front end in it.

      If they subdued that, I think they’ll make it.

      You know what I don’t like, that the Atlas I-6 engine won’t have a “recipient” after the TrailBlazer is gone.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes I was hoping for the I6 as the base Chevy/GMC truck engine because of it’s inherent smoothness.

    • 0 avatar

      Stingray, the TrailBlazer and Envoy are already gone. The Atlas I6 is already an orphan.

  • avatar

    What about the blind spots on the C-pillar?

  • avatar

    Not doing well off-road is rather ambigious. No, it’s not a rock-crawler but they’ll get down unpaved and severly rutted trails just fine, maybe even while pulling a camper or boat too (never really over 4,000 lbs anyways). I know that doesn’t occur in many parts of the US, but in the mountain west/Rockies, people use vehicles like the Explorer, Pathfinder, Trailblazer, 4Runner, and the like quite often for those reasons. Yes, they commute with them as well since they’re comfortable enough to do so.

    Now, I can do pretty much anything those modern SUVs (and CUVs) can do, and sometimes better, in my Outback. Except towing, but our Coleman popup weighs 2000 lbs loaded doesn’t strain the little boxer too much. Geolander tires, locking diffs, long-travel suspension with 8.9 inches of clearance keep the wheels to the ground. Mainly, I just prefer driving a car versus a truck/SUV but don’t want to be limited to only pavement.

    I wouldn’t be too concerned about the Explorer moving to a unibody frame, especially considering my recent experience with a rental Traverse in muddy Montana this past month. It went through some pretty tough terrain and survived quite well, I still would have preferred Hertz give me an Xterra like they usually do. But the AWD system got through some bad mud even though the traction system (deactivated) tried to hinder progress. The vehicle handled well on I-90 through the Great Divide area, with snow I might add.

    The Lambda-triplets is what the Explorer is gunning for, while trying to capture a little more of the “outdoorsy” crowd that doesn’t need a true off-road SUV like the FJ or Xterra, or want a pickup truck. I think they’ll do quite well in this new-era Explorer. There was a time for change, and maybe a new name but then people would have lamented that Ford should have badged any new SUV/CUV as the Explorer.

  • avatar

    Edge, Flex, Escape, Explorer, Expedition… Ford sure has plenty of SUVs to go around.

    Personally I think the Flex needs sliding doors to make it more versatile (van-like), because otherwise it just complete SUV overkill with all those other similar models.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed, a few too many…just like Toyota is doing.

      The Flex is definitely a niche vehicle and is selling as such.

      The Edge is hard to justify, except that it is a midsize 5-seater only. Not quite sure what it does that the new Explorer can’t do, except be a little shorter.

      The Escape will soon be replaced, but with a similiar-sized vehicle…so nothing new there.

      The Expedition doesn’t sell as well anymore but still serves a purpose like the Suburban: big, holds alot, tows alot.

  • avatar

    I would argue that the original Explorers were pretty decent off road vehicles. The TTB front end allowed far more travel and were much tougher then the competing independent front suspension designs.

    The new Explorer being unibody is a non-issue, the Cherokee was unibody from day one. Will the new Explorer have a locking center differential is what I would like to know.

  • avatar

    I see hints of the popular 2nd gen model in the head light/turn signal integration.

    I also see they still haven’t figured out that a somewhat softer ride is nice. I love my 2nd gen, but it rides like an old school 4wd truck. The 3rd gen I last drove, didn’t ride any better considering it’s got coils all the way around and IRS, where mine has torsion bars and a leaf sprung soild axle rear end, that’s skittish as all get out. The ride has always been my biggest complaint with the Explorer, on smooth roads, it’s very comfortable, but the road gets a bit weathered, and it turns punishing quickly. (yes I’ve put tried all sorts of new shocks, and a new front end on mine)

    The Unibody aspect doesn’t bother me much unless they turn it into a FWD model. The design is generic SUV, much like the previous models, but I see they are caught up in the GM design of the swooping beltline from front to back, makes for hard to see visibility out the back (Rendezvous I’m looking at you). My box-square ’95 has excellent visibility due to the low beltline that does not sweep upwards.

  • avatar

    I like JMII’s idea of sliding doors on the Flex to make it more minivan-like. Otherwise, I think this new Explorer will make the Flex a redundant model in Ford’s line-up.

    • 0 avatar

      Flex helps amortize D3 platform development costs and serves as something for savy consumers who realize it’s really just a damn good Taurus wagon with optional AWD.

      Flex with sliding doors would be awesome but then give the vehicle the “minivan” stigma that many Americans irrationally have.

    • 0 avatar

      Ford is so paranoid regarding the ‘minivan’ moniker, that in the days of Aerostar/Windstar, these were called ‘wagons’ and nowadays, the term ‘people mover’ is used …

      A minivan by any other name, will still haul counter-trend soccer moms who are more interested in utility than style-related conformity.

  • avatar

    “We’ve designed a 21st century SUV”.

    Uh, wouldn’t it then offer a diesel or hybrid option? Her other babbling about going from sand to dirt couldn’t be further from the minds of the vast majority of the intended buyers. If someone wants an offroad vehicle, they’re buying a Jeep.

    I like Ford the company, but marketing speak like this makes them look as flat footed as GM. They ought to never allow someone like this on camera again.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually in defense of Julie:
      – I know and worked with her,
      – Talented engineer and fair manager.
      – Nice person too.

      Keep in mind that she is most likely speaking from talking points prepared by the program’s marketing team.

      BTW, I remember when the D3 was launched, the Chassis Engineering Manager, Ray Nicosa was quoted, in print, as saying something like his favourite characteristic on the car was its large trunk … those of us who knew him thought he would have spoken about chassis poise, isolation, crispness, etc., but instead, Large Trunk? We figured that in his not saying something about the parts and functions on the car that he was the stakeholder/owner of, and by talking about the trunk, he must have been put up to this by the marketing advertising spin boys … (we wondered if the Chief Trunk Engineer had been interviewed whether or not he would have talked about the wonderful ride and handling of the car.)

  • avatar

    Addicted, huh? I think the term you’re looking for is POPULAR.

  • avatar

    I think I’ll like it. I was interested in the flex as a gear-hauler, but 1) my wife hates the styling and 2) I’d like a little more ground clearance for rutted dirt roads and for snow.

    Looks like a winner, and the Explorer is finally optimized for what people actually use if for.

    It will crowd out the flex though. I saw put those sliding doors on, raise the rough a few inches and make it a minivan with style.

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