• Apr 15th 2010 at 12:28PM
  • 68
2011 Ford Explorer Terrain Management System – Click above for high-res image gallery

Ford has just announced that the next-generation Explorer will benefit from all-wheel drive coupled to a Land Rover-like terrain management system. According to Ford, the company's researchers found that Explorer owners were somewhat befuddled by when to use which four-wheel drive mode, and has since simplified the process significantly. Instead of having to decide whether two-high, four-high or four-low is best for the current trail conditions, owners will simply have to select from an easy to use console mounted knob.

Drivers simply pick between normal, mud, sand or snow modes and allow the Explorer's all-wheel drive setup to do the rest. The vehicle's software then uses various vehicle sensors to help provide the most traction possible. Each mode is also usable with a new hill-decent assist feature borrowed from the company's full-sized pickups. Push the button and the Explorer will automatically try to itself down any slope, no matter the condition.

Ford is hoping that by leaving the traditional transfer case behind, it can save a few pounds and up the model's efficiency at the same time. Coupled to the truck's new unibody construction (yes, the Explorer is going all crossover on us), Ford is estimating that the V6 model will benefit from a 25 percent increase in fuel-efficiency compared to current models. Hit the jump to see a video of the new all-wheel drive system in action.

[Source: Ford]

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* The all-new Ford Explorer features an intelligent four-wheel-drive (4WD) control system that optimizes vehicle capability to specific situations
* The Ford terrain management system integrates powertrain and braking controls to provide appropriate traction for any driving conditions the roads and climate present
* Terrain management is activated by a console-mounted, switchable knob, enabling 4WD control through an intuitive choice of settings for various conditions
* Terrain management helps Explorer deliver increased fuel economy by eliminating heavy transfer case and driveline components, while making 4WD capabilities more accessible
DEARBORN, Mich., April 15, 2010 – When the all-new Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle goes in to production later this year, it will offer an advanced terrain management system that takes the mystery out of four-wheel drive by optimizing powertrain behavior for specific situations and road conditions.

"Talking with customers told us that flexibility and freedom to tackle any road, anytime is important to them," said Explorer Chief Nameplate Engineer Jim Holland. "We saw the opportunity to eliminate a compromise by adding an intuitive and efficient terrain management system that can demystify four-wheel-drive control and enable the driver to properly match 4WD traction to the situations and road conditions they encounter."

Anecdotal customer feedback indicated the potential for driver confusion with previous systems as to the best use of 4x4 high- and low-range engagement.

Ford Explorer with intelligent 4WD and terrain management eliminates guesswork, using simple icons to help drivers choose the correct setting at the simple turn of a dial for the climate or surface situation they may be driving. The icons depict the various settings to best suit driving conditions:

"One of our goals with the new Explorer is to deliver four-wheel-drive capability with easier and intuitively operated control," said Holland. "The selectable settings are contingent upon weather and conditions, so the system is easily operated and understood. Ford terrain management makes it easier for SUV veterans, while making confidence-building Explorer capability even more accessible to segment newcomers."

Employment of intelligent 4WD with Ford terrain management allowed Explorer engineers to deliver the "any road, anytime" capabilities that SUV buyers expect, while eliminating weight.
Less driveline mass helps the new Explorer with V-6 power deliver an estimated 25 percent better fuel economy than the 2010 model.

"Intelligent 4WD with terrain management works by optimizing Explorer powertrain and braking systems to best suit a variety of situations, allowing vehicle behavior characteristics to provide appropriate traction and driver control," said Holland. "We anticipate the system will really be a stress-reducer and confidence-builder, especially when driving in adverse conditions."

The re-engineered Ford Explorer goes in to production later this year.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      I doubt the reason for this is because people couldn't figure out the old system. The real reason is more likely because the old system was part-time 4WD (auto/manually engaging) and the new one will be AWD (part time auto engaging). They don't work the same so you can't use the same controls.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Won't this be competing against the 4Runner and the New Grand Cherokee which likely will be far better off-road?
      Dennis Glanzer
      • 3 Years Ago
      the new inteleget terrain management system by ford ....i have the most expensive explorer ever made !!! it has all options dvd moon roof park assist lux seating group...everything thats the way i ordered it ...very nice car and i want to keep for a long time to enjoy my retirement.....new model.. first mistake ...lots of little probs andd one big one the new fancy 4x4 terrain management system don't work....and has not worked properly at all ...when we go off road and put it in 4x4 particularly gravel grass and snow mode...every time the 4x4 kicks in when there is slippage it makes lots of noise...screatching very loud binding up on the turns and slowing down IT DOES NOT WORK..... my so called suv has been in the shop more than out all 4x4 probs BUT ford says its normal operating noise. the 4x4, trac control and abs are not working together... loud screatching and no one knows anything about that system....you she make sure it works before you sell it on vehicles That expensive
      • 5 Years Ago
      Yeah, I think too many people are getting stuck on the "befuddled" comment. This is much more then just a switch from 4 hi to lo or whatnot. This changes how the traction and stability controls work and will smartly choose what gearing it should use. This mode is much more useful for general use, what most people use these explorers for. And I think most commenters saying this won't be in use probably have only live and only stay in southern California. In the rest of the country, where weather is a big deal, this will help tremendously.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I agree, why didnt they just put this on an "Edge Off Road" edition and call it a day. Or just switched the Edge name to Explorer.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The Edge doesn't have three rows of seating nor will it be as large and capacious as the upcoming Explorer.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Yes, now you can pretend you are in a Land Rover instead of a Taurus.
      • 5 Years Ago
      And none of this tech holds a candle to real 4WD with a 2-speed transfer case.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Eric: and that's why I won't be buying an Explorer. I prefer a two-speed transfer case, significant ground clearance, and a locking center diff.
        • 5 Years Ago
        And no 4WD system with 2-speed transfer case results in 25% increase in fuel efficiency.
        • 5 Years Ago
        No, it is the reduction of 500lbs of weight.
        and the improvement of aerodynamics.
        and the change from the 4.0 V6 to 3.5 V6.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Translation: Ford finds Explorer buyers need more dummy-ing down of the features.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is on a FWD platform?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Nothing bad can happen when the driver looks down to the console to try to decipher the pictographs while avoiding everything else in his way, can it?
      • 5 Years Ago
      go figure! another so-called suv that is all sport and no utility. i hope the people who buy it realize that their towing capacity will pretty much be like a minivan, which can tow about 3500 pounds! those who want to tow just lost another possibility!!!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Edge, Flex, Explorer...it seems that Ford is eager to repeat the mistake of too many similar products competing with each other in the minds of consumers and in development dollars. Yes, the Flex is larger, but still, add in the Mercury offerings (you know they're coming) and it just seems the USDMs will fight the same battle they're just crawling out from under. Ford should quit spending money on developing many products for the same niche and make one really good product instead of three mediocre ones.

        • 5 Years Ago
        @Nelly: That you called the RAV4 a high riding SUV proves you don't know what you're talking about. It's a small unibody crossover that doesn't belong off-road. And it gave birth to the segment in the US.
        • 5 Years Ago

        Lets compare

        Escape --> Rav4
        Edge --->Venza/Highlander
        Flex --> Sienna/Higherlander
        Explorer --> Highlander/4Runner
        Expedition --> Sequoia/Land Cruiser

        Errr... Ford seems to have 5 choices in a market that Toyota has 7 (IE Family/Off-Road)
        • 5 Years Ago
        @o'connell...just because Ford failed at making a decent minivan and Toyota succeeded doesn't mean you can lump the Sienna in with the Flex, which is advertised as a crossover.

        If you want to go out and count off the number of 2-box designs as CUV/SUV/Minivan/whatchimacallits then fine...but here Ford is selling three very similar products all in the same price range.

        I forgot the Venza in my list, forgive me, but I would not put the Sienna in there. So, I'll revise (Venza=Edge; Highlander = Flex/Explorer). Again, two products in one category is too much.
        • 5 Years Ago
        exactly... Toyota has lots of SUVs. With the new Explorer going unibody, Ford will have none besides the Expedition.
        The Touareg is at least RWD based and has low range as does the Grand Cherokee. This thing is more like an Edge with a 2" lift and some fancy traction control modes.

        + IMO the Flex is much more of a competitor to the Lambdas than the Explorer, especially if the 3rd row dimensions are anything close to the current Explorer.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Wrong O'Connell. the old Explorer went up against the 4Runner. Toyota has two CUVs: Rav4, Highlander.

        They have four off-roaders: FJ (super-niche), 4Runner (25-40k) and Sequoia ($35-45k), Land Cruiser ($55k+) all in significantly different price classes.

        Explorer/Edge/Flex ->>> Highlander. That's about it.
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