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EXPLORING THE EXPLORER

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Oct 16, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

EXPLORING THE KING OF SALES By HARVEY SCHWARTZ

The Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle is the best-selling sport utility vehicle in the hotly contested mid-size segment. Even with the price of fuel increasing at an alarming rate, the Explorer continues to lead SUV sales - now going into its 14th straight top sales title. For many consumers looking for an SUV, it offers the best combination of styling, performance, handling, comfort, safety, versatility and price. There are six models of Explorers to choose: XLS, SLS Sport, XLT, XLT Sport, Eddie Bauer Edition and Limited Edition. There are twenty different ways to configure your Explorer to suit you needs, tastes and budget. Ford makes it easy. For 2005, Ford made AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control standard. This provides active stability enhancement using sensors to determine the vehicle's roll speed and roll angle. The system is unique because it also monitors the potential for rollover. If the system detects that one or more wheels are about to leave the ground, it triggers the Advance Trac stability system to reduce engine power and/or apply braking to necessary wheels to help settle the vehicle, allowing the driver to maintain control. This new system works alongside and enhances the traction control/stability control/ABS systems.

Key design elements of the Explorer include simple, rounded forms and sections with uncluttered body panels. A styling element for 2005 is a front grille that features the familiar egg-crate insert. The look is bold and rugged, yet refined and elegant. You can take the Explorer far off-road or to your most important on-road engagement. High-quality, durable materials and finishers are used in all aspects of the exterior and interior design. The Explorer leads the class in third-row headroom and legroom. In seven-passenger models, the second-row seat is split 40/20/40, offering easy access to the third row, as well as the ability to customize the cargo area for long or odd-sized cargo. There are two engines to choose - a 4.0-liter SOHC V6 generating 210 hp and 254 lb.ft. of torque, and a 4.6-liter SOHC V8 that makes 239 hp and 282 lb.ft. of torque to easily tow up to 7,000lbs. The Explorer does it all and does it well.

Mated to either engine is a standard five-speed, electronically controlled automatic transmission with a tow mode push-button located at the end of the column-mounted shifter. The tow mode cancels the OD gear that enhances downhill braking. The Control Trac 4x4 system is operated by push button. You are always in part-time 4x4, then can select 4x4 high or 4x4 low. The system works seamlessly and silently. A properly equipped Explorer 4x4 can take you far offroad with the best of the competition. The Explorer was the first mid-size sport utility to feature a fully independent suspension for outstanding handling control, and a more compliant ride over poorly paved road surfaces. Up front are short/long control arms, coil over shocks, and stabilizer bar. The rear also features short/long arms, coil over shocks, and a stabilizer bar. Precise control is assured with Explorer's power assisted rack and pinion steering system, also the first application in a mid-size sport utility vehicle. The turning circle is just 36.8ft. Quickly slowing the Explorer down are power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes with ABS. Up front are vented, 12-inch discs clamped with dual-piston calipers, and 11.9-inch solid discs, clamped with single piston calipers in the rear. These powerful brakes enhanced the fun I had behind the wheel of the new Explorer 4X4 XLT sport model that I tested. The Explorer 4X4 XLT Sport rides on big 17x7 aluminum alloy wheels wrapped with 245/65R17 all-terrain tires.

The interior cabin is one of the finest, with roomy front and rear sections. The leather surfaced front bucket seats were very comfortable and supportive. The instrument panel and dashboard are well laid out for easy use. The black with white lettering instrument cluster is easy to see with a big 120 mph speedometer, 7,000 rpm tachometer, and smaller gauges for fuel, oil pressure, engine coolant temperature and voltmeter. Bright LED readouts warn of system or safety failures. On the lower right side is a two-line readout where you can bring up information by pushing the Driver Information button located on the center stack. Other push buttons arranged around the center stack are for the Control Trac 4x4 system, part time 4x4, 4x4 high, and 4x4 low. All dials, buttons and switches are within easy reach and fully illuminated for safe nighttime driving. The tilting, four-spoke, leather wrapped steering wheel feels great in your hands, takes great advantage of the standard rack & pinion steering system, and contains controls for the audio system, cruise control and Driver Information computer. There's plenty of storage up front with slots in each door, a deep and wide center console arm rest, dual cupholders, storage bin at the bottom of the silver toned center stack and inside the glovebox. The second row seats get dual cupholders and air ducts on the floor and headliner that brings cool or heated air more efficiently into the rear section. Also available is an Entertainment System with DVD player and 4X7in. pull-down LCD screen. Standard features on the XLT Sport include front fog lamps, power side mirrors, with lamps underneath for safer and easier entry and exit at night, roof side rails, rear intermittent wiper, platinum gloss fender arches, step bar, cladding and bumpers, electrochromic rearview mirror, dual map lights and several other interior lights with theater dimming, grab handles on the passenger-side A-pillar and rear door B-pillars, thick pile carpeting and floor mats.

My Explorer model came optioned with the Audiophile AM-FM 6-CD in-dash player, seven-speaker audio system, safety canopy airbag system for front and rear seat outboard passengers, power adjustable pedals, reverse sensing system for parking, third row seating package, and auxiliary climate control for the rear seating sections, and a DVD entertainment system for the rear seating section. Standard safety features include dual stage airbags, three-point safety belts for all passengers with pretensioners and load limiters up front, tire pressure monitor, front/rear crush zones, steel beams in each door, securlock passive anti-theft, child seat tethers/anchors and remote keyless entry/lock. Whatever your needs or tastes, the Ford Explorer seems to have a model for you. Fourteen straight years at the Number One position tells you why.

© All text and photos supra by Harvey Schwartz SIDEBAR COMMENT: Although the Explorer continues to be the perennial SUV sales leader, sales of most mid-size and large SUVs have taken a hit as gas prices pass the $3.00 per gallon mark. Harvey tested a 2005 model, of which there are numerous examples still sitting in Ford showrooms. Paradoxically, now may be the best time to get a great buy on an Explorer - particularly if your daily commute is relatively short. One thing is certain: Ford is offering unprecedented sales incentives. You may just the person to take advantage of it. - Roy Nakano For more information on Ford products, go to www.fordvehicles.com. More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2005 Ford Explorer 4X4 XLT Sport Price: $38,995.00 Engine type: 4.6-liter, aluminum block/aluminum heads, SOHC, V8 Horsepower: 239 at 4,000 rpm Torque: 282 lb.ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/all-wheel-drive Transmission type: Five-speed electronically controlled automatic with Tow Mode Front suspension: Independent SLA with coil-over-shocks and stabilizer bar Rear suspension: Independent SLA with coil-over-shocks and stabilizer bar Wheels/tires: 17X7 aluminum wheels, 245/65R17 All-Terrain tires Brakes: Front: 12-inch vented discs, dual-piston calipers Rear: 11.9-inch solid discs, single-piston calipers ABS Overall length: 189.6 in. Overall width: 72.1 in. Overall height: 72.1 in. Curb weight: 4,301 for the 4x4, 4,309 for the 4x2 EPA mileage: 14mpg/city, 18mpg/highway

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