Ford New Models 2004
Ford Motor Company: 2002 Ford Explorer
The 2002-model Ford Explorer is the next generation of the best-selling sport utility vehicle in the world. The new Explorer is redesigned from the ground up - with major improvements in package, suspension, powertrains and safety.
With a new independent rear suspension (IRS)_system and unique "porthole-in-frame" design - allowing for a lower step-in height and a third-row seat - Explorer is designed to offer an improved ride and a more comfortable, user-friendly package.
A sophisticated new all-aluminum V-8 engine brings 240 horsepower, an increase of 25 horsepower over the previous V-8.
Inside, Explorer's passengers have more room to spread out. The passenger compartment is two inches wider compared with the previous model and, for the first time, has an optional third row of seating - enough overall room to accommodate seven adults.
These benefits were made possible by Explorer's 2.5-inch wider track and efficient packaging of the new independent rear suspension. The second- and third-row seats also fold down to create a flat-surfaced cargo area. Additional storage is located beneath the rear cargo floor.
Explorer offers one of the most comprehensive safety and security packages available. This includes Ford's new industry-leading Safety Canopy, which includes side-curtain air bags (available at launch) and rollover protection (available later in 2001).
Package and Ergonomics
Access to Explorer's new third-row seat is made easier with one-handed controls that fold the second-row seat completely out of the way for entering or exiting the third row.
In seven-passenger models, the second-row seat is split 40/20/40. This configuration offers ease of access to the third row and the ability to customize the cargo area for long or odd-sized items.
In addition, small items easily can be loaded through a new rear liftglass, which has been designed to allow a liftover height that is virtually identical to that of a shopping cart for easier loading of groceries and cargo. The liftglass section no longer needs a handle to open. It opens with a touch of a dedicated button on the key fob, while leaving the passenger doors locked.
Ergonomics and functionality are at the heart of many of the vehicle's design features. For example, full-grip exterior door handles replace the former fingertip paddles - to aid ease of use for all passengers. Optional running boards are wider to provide a confident step-in point.
Inside, the most frequently used controls, such as radio buttons, are in the driver's line of sight. Likewise, the optional electronic message center is mounted high, for ease of use. Even the coat hooks have been redesigned to accommodate wider, plastic clothes hangers.
Explorer's new fully independent suspension and exceptionally stiff frame - 350-percent stiffer than the previous model without compromising safety - give it firm, responsive road manners.
In abrupt maneuvers, such as dodging a pothole or making a sudden lane change, Explorer is designed to track precisely, without excessive body roll. The independent rear suspension soaks up road imperfections better than traditional solid axle designs, to provide a comfortable, more car-like ride.
The rear-end differential in Explorer's independent rear suspension is mounted high in the frame rather than bolted below it. The suspension's upper and lower control arms also are mounted above and below the frame. The right and left rear half-shafts pass through a porthole in the frame rails - giving Explorer its "porthole-in-frame" design. Together, these solutions allowed engineers to add the new suspension system without raising the ride height while improving the vehicle's 4x4 ground clearance.
All four wheels are controlled by coil-over-shock assemblies that are isolated from side loads, and are engineered to reduce unsprung weight - for best response to steering input and road surface irregularities.
Off pavement, Explorer's optional Control Trac™ four-wheel-drive system has been refined with stand-alone electronic controls and enhanced software strategy that improve its ability to handle rough or loose surfaces, such as back trails, deep snow or sand. The system gives drivers the option of automatic four-wheel drive or push-button, switchable, four-wheel "high" and four-wheel "low" settings.
Explorer comes with a choice of two engines. The standard engine is an improved 4.0-liter SOHC V-6, which generates 210 horsepower and 250 foot-pounds of peak torque.
A more powerful 4.6-liter V-8, with all-aluminum construction and overhead-cam design, is optional. The sophisticated engine, with coil-on-plug design, offers 240 horsepower and 280 foot-pounds of torque - and is designed to go 100,000 miles before its first scheduled tune-up under normal driving conditions with routine fluid and filter changes.
Both engines meet Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) standards. Fuel economy has been held constant - even with a larger vehicle and one that can seat two more passengers than the prior model - thanks to several weight-saving innovations. An all-aluminum hood and V-8 engine block as well as a magnesium cross beam contributed to a 90-pound weight savings.
Later in 2001, Explorer will offer flexible fuel capability with the standard 4.0-liter V-6 engine and automatic transmission. The Explorer flexible fuel vehicle (FFV) can operate on gasoline or a blend of gasoline and ethanol. The use of E85 fuel reduces carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 20 percent, compared with gasoline.
Towing capability comes built-in. The standard receiver hitch, which is part of the rear frame, offers Class II towing capacity of up to 3,500 pounds, depending on engine and drivetrain.
A built-in hitch receiver offers towing capability right from the factory and can accept many accessories, such as a bicycle rack. An upgraded towing package, which includes a limited slip rear differential, provides Class III/IV towing capability of up to 7,300 pounds.
Safety, Security and Convenience
Explorer is Ford's first SUV with new side-curtain air bags. They deploy from the headliner across approximately 75 percent of the side glass area to help protect first- and second-row occupants in the outboard seating positions during a side-impact collision.
Electronic rollover sensors will be available later in 2001. They measure whether the vehicle is tilting, how fast the lean angle is changing, and whether the combination means the vehicle might roll over. If a rollover situation is determined by the system, it deploys the side-curtain air bags to help prevent passengers from being ejected from the side of the vehicle. The air bags remain inflated for up to 6 seconds - far longer than conventional air bags - to provide additional protection.
Explorer also is Ford's first SUV with AdvanceTrac™ interactive vehicle dynamics (available later in 2001). AdvanceTrac™ is a computer driven system that uses a series of sensors to measure whether the vehicle has begun to slide, then applies braking selectively to whichever wheel will bring it back under control. The idea is to prevent accidents before they happen.
AdvanceTrac™ is completely integrated into the vehicle's antilock braking system (ABS) and electronic brake force distribution (EBD). This means that Explorer's control system will be just as effective off-road as it is on the pavement.
Explorer will have ABS and EBD from the start of production. The fully integrated AdvanceTrac™ system will be available later in 2001.
Second-generation front air bags also are standard for the driver and passenger, and Ford's Personal Safety System will be available later in 2001. The Personal Safety System uses dual-stage driver and front passenger air bags that deploy differently based on several factors, including the severity of the crash, front seat occupant safety belt usage and the driver's seat position.
Front row occupants also benefit from safety belts with pretensioners that tighten the safety belts in the first moments of a crash and an energy management system that slowly pays out safety belt webbing during an incident - to help prevent injuries. Anchors in all second- and third-row passenger positions offer secure attachments for child safety seat tethers.
These active protection systems augment Explorer's robust fully boxed frame, which was designed with energy-absorbing crush zones in the front rails. Steel bars inside the doors enhance protection in side impacts. Head restraints in all seating positions help reduce the risk of neck injuries.
At the same time, the design team made Explorer more friendly to other vehicles on the road by lowering its bumper beam height 65 millimeters - more than 2 inches - to be on par with most passenger cars.
Security features include Ford's SecuriLock™ passive antitheft system. Only users with the vehicle's authentic key - which contains a computer chip embedded in it - can start the vehicle.
A battery saver feature automatically turns off interior, courtesy and cargo lights approximately 10 minutes after the ignition key is turned off and the last door is closed.
For better driver comfort - particularly for very tall or shorter stature drivers - power adjustable accelerator and brake pedals are available, while the Reverse Sensing System is available as a parking aid. Explorer's steering wheel tilts and telescopes, using a single control lever.
New dual-zone climate controls are available, as is an auxiliary climate control system for the rear seating area.
Vehicle serviceability also has been improved. Explorer's annual estimated service costs improve nearly $100 compared with the previous model.
To help reduce its impact on the environment, Explorer is an estimated 90-percent recyclable by weight. More than 10 percent of its plastic parts contain post-consumer recycled material. Explorer production will use an estimated 6.3 million pounds of recycled non-metallic parts inside the vehicles every year.
Explorer is designed to be rugged and contemporary to complement the Ford "Outfitters" SUV family. The SUV family includes the Ford Escape, Explorer Sport, Explorer Sport Trac, Expedition and Excursion. The new four-door Explorer has a clear, powerful vehicle stance and proportions enhanced by simple, rounded forms that build on the vehicle's classically popular design theme.
In many areas, form meets function. The exterior door handles are not only easier to use, they're rugged, big and strong. The available running boards are wide and substantial. The jewel-like complex reflector headlamps provide better lighting.
In the back, the rear bumper does not appear to be "bolted on" but is fully integrated into the body and has a full-width shelf for easier loading and unloading.
The exterior is designed to accentuate the vehicle's independent rear suspension and under-the-skin capabilities. The wider track is designed to give Explorer a more aggressive stance. The shorter front overhang helps make the vehicle look more nimble, while improving its approach angle in rough or steep terrain.
Explorer is available in four trim levels, including the popular Eddie Bauer, Limited, XLT and XLS.
Noise, Vibration and Harshness
Explorer's revised body shape, coupled with improved sealing and literally thousands of noise-control measures, result in a substantially quieter cabin for passengers. Key to the improved sound quality is Explorer's new, fully boxed frame, which improves rigidity, vehicle responsiveness and, in turn, noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels.
Explorer's frame is 350 percent torsionally stiffer and 26 percent improved in vertical and lateral bending - which contribute to the vehicle's improved NVH levels. In addition, Explorer has new micro-cellular body mounts, new door and hidden liftgate edges, new engine, transmission and exhaust mounts, a revised engine intake system, added insulation throughout the vehicle, a laminated steel dash with magnesium cross bar and a 50-percent reduction in air leakage - all of which add up to luxury-vehicle-like quietness and NVH levels.
The SUV market has shown the most significant growth of the decade in the automotive industry. In fact, since 1991, annual sales of sport utility vehicles in the U.S. have grown from 900,000 to 3.2 million units through the end of calendar year 1999. It is the only market segment that has experienced double-digit sales growth every year during this period.
The Ford Explorer has led that growth. The Explorer is the best-selling sport utility vehicle on the market and has been since its introduction in 1990 as a 1991 model. It also has been among the top-10 best-selling vehicles - car or truck - since it was introduced. In 1998 and 1999, the Explorer nameplate enjoyed record sales of more than 431,000 and 428,000 units respectively. It is well on its way to another record-setting sales year in 2000.
More than 3.6 million Ford Explorers have been sold since its introduction, so it is no surprise that there are more Explorers on the road today than any other sport utility vehicle. Explorer also ranks very high in customer satisfaction and loyalty.
As the sales leader, it attracts a broad range of consumers with varying demographics and interests - from single, young professionals to active retirees and empty nesters. They choose Explorer because it offers rugged, functional capabilities and sporty up-to-date styling and comfort.
Explorer often is considered the "pioneer" of the SUV market. While it was not the first SUV, it marked the transition of the utility vehicle from a specialized functional truck to a comfortable, versatile activity vehicle.
Available in dealerships beginning in early 2001, the 2002-model Explorer will be built at Ford Motor Company's Louisville, Ky., and St. Louis, Mo., assembly plants. Production begins in late 2000.
All pictures: Ford Motor Company