Explorer and Mountaineer earn NHTSA's highest crash test ratings

The 2006 Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer, which were heavily revised this year, have earned five-star crash ratings in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s front and side impact crash tests for drivers and passengers. Each SUV features a package of 10 standard safety features from Ford, seven that are all new to the mid-size SUV class. (See after the jump for a list of all ten)

Many comments left on our current Autoblog Garage reviews (here and here) of the 2006 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer 4X4 focus on the SUVs dated looks compared with its competitors. We agree that the exterior redesign leaves a lot to be desired, like a modern and attractive appearance, but more and more we’re convinced the Explorer is the mid-size, body-on-frame SUV to beat when looks aren’t factored in.

[Source: Ford]

One safety feature that we find innovative is the Adaptive Stroking Steering Column that necessitated the relocation of the Explorer’s gear shift from the steering column to the center console. This new steering column is designed to collapse as force is brought to bear on the driver’s side air bag. The system can adjust its own resistance like a Bowflex fitness machine depending on the driver’s seating position. Read on for Ford's own description and this nifty pic of the three Adaptive Stroking Steering Columns in various states of resistance.

Adaptive Stroking Steering Column:
The 2006 Explorer features an energy-absorbing steering column that collapses as force is brought to bear on the driver's air bag. Additionally, the 2006 Explorer is unique in its class in featuring an adaptive "curl strap" that offers tailored energy management protection based on the driver's seating position. The curl strap deforms as force is applied, acting as a damper to slow the stroke of the steering column. For less resistance — or more "give" — a pyrotechnic pin is actuated, releasing the center section of the curl strap, requiring less force to activate the stroke of the steering column. When crash conditions call for a higher resistance, the pin remains in place, engaging the full curl strap for maximum resistance.

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