For the past two weeks, Your Man in Abu Dhabi is now Your Man in Amman. Being the Best and Brightest, you already know Amman is in Jordan and in addition to being the capital, it is the most populous city is the country. It is also one of the oldest cities in the world. Jordan itself contains some of the oldest historical sites in the world; including a Roman coliseum, aqueducts and several biblical sites.
At my disposal is a rented 2006 Ford Explorer. So I elected to adopt the name my persona, for a least a day and embark on a mini-pilgrimage along the Dead Sea.
Every classic Mercedes enthusiast and their antique mother will brag about the longevity of their ride. Then you have the Camrys. The Accords. The Volvo 240/740/940 triplets. Silverados. F-150s. Crown Vics. Town Cars. And of course the VW TDI models.
They all will endure along with Cavalier cockroaches and the ever ready Rangers. But there is only one true ‘Exploder’ in the car business.
My wife is currently in the market for a new car. Our current garage consists of her 2008 Ford Explorer XLT Ironman Edition V8 that gets a dismal 16 MPG in mixed driving, and my beloved 2010 G37S 6MT that I love in every way, and gets a decent 22 MPG in mixed driving when I’m not laying into the throttle. The Explorer is paid for, and while I mentioned selling it to buy whatever she wants, she’s having none of it, as we do tow with it every now and then and she has an attachment to Explorers. This is her second Ex, RIP 2002 Explorer @ 210k miles. Currently we’re looking at a few cars. She needs room, so a hatch is preferred.
Mini Cooper S Countryman
Any suggestions? Price isn’t an issue and we plan to keep it for a while. Many Thanks. Bryant S
P.S. No, we don’t want a Panther :)
Sajeev and Steve,
I think it’s time to replace my wife’s 2005 Honda Odyssey EX-L. It’s got 48,000 on the clock and has developed a few problems over the years. Power side doors that get wonky on really cold days, a slow leak in the AC system, a leak somewhere around the windshield, and an intermittent airbag light most recently, to name a few. None of these things is that big a deal, but considering that my wife has held a grudge against me for convincing her to buy a minivan in the first place, they are just mounting evidence in her case to replace the Ody.
Should you be afraid of towing in a new Ford Explorer? Though the newly-unibody Explorer is rated for up to 5,000 pounds, Jack Baruth noted in his review that
My experience pulling my race car on an open trailer with my Flex indicates that the D4 chassis is more than up to the job, but that the transmission just feels delicate. Serious towing with a sideways gearbox frightens me, and it should frighten you, too.
And though you might well share Jack’s nervousness about towing in a new Explorer, the law of the land says it’s safe pulling up to 5,000 pounds. Even so, Consumer Reports found out the hard way that not everyone believes in the Explorer as a safe, effective towing machine. Namely the equipment rental company U-Haul appears to have some kind of problem with the Explorer, as CR’s Eric Evarts explains
I called U-Haul to see about renting their largest, 6×12-foot open trailer to drag the mulch home. “Come on down! $29.95 for the day,” the friendly attendant said.
Eager to finish that day and save $18 by delivering the mulch myself, I trundled off to the local U-Haul lot. As the workers started to fill out the paperwork inside, their faces went ashen the second I said, “Explorer.”
“Sorry, we won’t let any equipment out behind an Explorer,” they said, and began putting away their pencils.
Despite being on something of a roll product-wise, Ford has just experienced its second run-in with Consumer Reports, which failed to give Ford’s new Explorer a coveted “recommended” rating. Why? CR explains its decision in Automotive News [sub] thusly
“The engine is a little noisy, handling is secure but lacks agility, and the driving position is flawed,” the magazine says.
“The optional ‘MyFord Touch’ control interface is over-complicated and distracting,” the magazine says, echoing ongoing complaints about Ford’s family of in-vehicle communications systems.
But there’s more.
“The six-speed automatic is not the smoothest out there and wants to hold on to higher gears too long. It was sometimes slow to downshift and overly aggressive engine braking slowed the Explorer going down hills unless we gave the gas pedal a prod.
“An optional Terrain Management system for the all-wheel-drive system lets you dial in various terrain types such as snow and sand, and it alters throttle, brake and torque split between front and rear wheels accordingly.”
Finally, the latest Explorer is too new to be recommended, the magazine says.
But here’s the kicker: as our “Crossover Report” proves, the Explorer killed the competition last month, outselling every other midsized and large CUV on the market. So, is CR right to rate products like Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Ford Flex, Acura MDX, Volkswagen Touareg, Hyundai Veracruz, Subaru Tribeca, Kia Sorento and Mazda CX-9 higher than Explorer? Or is this yet another example of CR’s well-disguised but often-noted bias against American cars? Is CR right about the Explorer, or is the market?
I thought the Ford Freestyle would sell well because it was so incredibly functional. It didn’t, even if I bought one myself (in updated Taurus X form). I thought the Ford Flex would sell well because it combined even more room and comfort (if inferior visibility) with the style of a MINI. It hasn’t done well, either. But Ford hasn’t given up. For the 2011 model year the Explorer, which ruled the SUV segment through the 1990s, has been transferred to the Volvo-derived platform that provided the basis for both the Freestyle and the Flex. Why might its fate be different?
In a word: styling.
Imagine, for a moment, you are a plant. Well, not just any plant. You are Robert Plant, and everywhere you go, people want you to sing “Stairway to Heaven”. I’d rather not, you tell them. Never liked that one much, to be honest. We’ve a much better song that I’d much rather sing. Called ‘Kashmir’, dontcha know. Much better, that one. For years, you refuse to perform the song. You cancel a proposed Led Zeppelin reunion because the promotion company insists, positively insists, that you play “Stairway”. You’d rather play “Kashmir”. And since you don’t really need the money, that’s the end of it.
I suspect the people who run Ford can sympathize a bit with Mr. Plant. Their “Stairway” is a four-door SUV called the Explorer. You might have heard of it. Sold a bunch, that Explorer, even though it was always kind of a hokey tune, a Ranger truck with a cap and a couple rows of plastic-leather seats, perched sky-high on underinflated Firestones.
The Explorer was never a truly outstanding answer to the family-wagon question, so a couple years back Ford created the Flex, which is an outstanding answer. It should have made the Explorer obsolete, but there were two problems. It wasn’t really an SUV, and it wasn’t an Explorer. And since Ford, unlike Zeppelin’s Golden God, needs the money…
Ford was ordered by a Mississippi jury to pay $131m to the family of a New York Mets prospect who died in a rollover crash in 2001. The ruling came despite Ford’s insistence that Brian Cole had been driving at 80 MPH and was not wearing a seatbelt when his Explorer went off the road. Ford maintains that the judge in the case barred key evidence that would have absolved it of responsibility, and a spokesperson tells Reuters that
This was a tragic accident and our sympathy goes out to the Cole family for their loss, but it was unfair of them to blame Ford
Ford settled with Cole’s family immediately following the $131m award, and the family’s lawyer explained that the damages in this case were higher than other rollover cases because Cole was a professional baseball player.
This week’s “Haggler” column in the Sunday New York Times was ripped from the pages of TTAC’s beloved Piston Slap series, with a Wendy Marek writing in to complain that
In July 2008, I made a huge mistake: I bought a Ford Explorer. It was a 2006 model with 40,000 miles, and it cost $17,000. At first I thought I got a great deal, but after a few weeks of driving, the radiator started leaking. Then the replacement radiator started leaking. Then the radiator that replaced the replacement started leaking. To date, six new radiators have been installed in this vehicle. Six.
After some research, The Haggler found that both carcomplaints.com and Consumer Reports showed a record of radiator problems in 2006 Explorers. Furthermore, Ford issued a TSB on 2006 Explorer radiators in 2009, which the automaker insists covers its liability. Since the Explorer in question is a used car, Ms Marek’s only real recourse would have been to file a breach of warranty claim, but the statue of limitations had already run out. Since so few protections exist for used-car buyers, one has to assume that the moral of the story is that buying used Explorers is a risky business… but is that the truth? Or is the outgoing Explorer a good value that’s getting a bum rap?
Last week, the big news coming out of Ford was that the new Lincoln MKZ would be available with a hybrid drivetrain as a no-cost option. With Mercury on its way out, and Lincoln struggling to carve out a niche in the luxury space, that move made a certain amount of sense at the time. What we didn’t know until today is that the “free” hybrid option on the MKZ was only Ford’s opening salvo on the status quo of automotive drivetrain option pricing. Today, with the 2011 Explorer dominating the news cycle, Ford has announced its latest head-scratcher: making the four-cylinder “Ecoboost” engine option more expensive than the more powerful standard V6. Yes, really.
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?
Ford’s relationship with hybrid technology has been an on-again-off-again affair, since Bill Ford first pledged to build 250k hybrids by 2010. And it’s probably a good thing the Blue Oval backed away from that promise, as the firm sold only 33,502 hybrids last year. Meanwhile, Ford still has yet to claim profitability on any of its hybrids (last disclaiming such an achievement (sort of) in 2008). Perhaps because Ford has paid dearly to tag along in the import-dominated hybrid segments, it’s getting a bit jaded about the power of high-cost, high-tech green halo cars to deliver real results. Or, perhaps Ford’s VP of powertrain engineering Barb Samardzich is simply channeling old Henry Ford, when she says:
We are focused on sustainable technology solutions that can be used not for hundreds or thousands of cars, but for millions of cars, because that’s how Ford will truly make a difference