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.
* 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.