Hmm, maybe that title is in poor taste. Regardless and moving along, Ford hopes to avoid driving yet another one of its formerly hot-selling and once-proud brand names into the ground with the redesigned 2006 Ford Explorer. Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer sales have dropped about 20% this year, a notable number even among its competitor's less-than-outstanding numbers. In its favor, the new fascia looks nothing like a catfish. It also carries 50 more HP and an improvement of 1 MPG. Most important to buyers, however, might be the noise-reduction work that Ford put into the passenger compartments. There's certain SUVs out there that make it extremely difficult for people to communicate from row to row (to the extent that manufacturers have considered intercom systems), and if this is an improvement that shows up during test drives, then maybe Ford can regain some competitive advantage.

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