Ford goes smaller with unibody Explorer

  • 31-Mar-2008 07:45 EDT
Explorer America.jpg
Ford Explorer America

Ford’s Explorer America is the automaker’s first glimpse of how it plans to move the Explorer nameplate onto a smaller, unibody, more fuel efficient crossover-utility (CUV) architecture beginning in 2010.

Its program designated U502, the new Explorer is being developed on Ford’s P2/D3 platform originated by Volvo and currently underpinning the Volvo S80, Ford Taurus, Taurus X, and the 2009 Flex. Ford aims to increase the bandwidth of the front- and all-wheel-drive platform, and thus gain manufacturing scale, by expanding P2/D3 to other nameplates including Lincoln models.

Riding on a 115.7-in (2939-mm) wheelbase, the six-passenger concept vehicle measures 191 in (4851 mm) in length. Height is 69.6 in (1768 mm), and front and rear track measure 68.4 and 69.8 in (1737 and 1773 mm), respectively.

Suspension is by MacPherson struts in front and an independent multi-link arrangement in the rear. The concept features electric-assist power steering. Overall the America presents a significantly more compact package than the current body-on-frame Explorer. It brings opportunities for reducing up to 150 lb (68 kg) compared with the current vehicle, said Strategic Design Director Freeman Thomas, whose advanced design team executed the America concept.

According to Derrick Kuzak, Group Vice President of Global Vehicle Development, new powertrains will help improve fuel efficiency by up to 30% compared with the current 4.0-L Explorer. Gasoline engines and transmissions being considered include EcoBoost turbocharged direct-inject 2.0-L inline four-cylinder and 3.5-L V6, the latter producing approximately 340 hp (253 kW).

Both engines will power a standard six-speed planetary automatic transmission. Ford engineers at the company’s pre-auto-show background event said a hybrid-electric version is also under development.

Thomas told AEI that he sees particular merit in the concept’s passenger-side sliding door, which brings minivan-like ingress/egress and cargo-loading utility to the CUV segment. Inside, the cabin is designed to offer flexibility. It features a seating system called STAC that allows the second-row seats to tilt forward and stack against the front seats with the single touch of a button. The interior also boasts a work table with built-in folding seats that deploys out of the rear of the vehicle.

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