San Francisco: While
its basic, boxy shape is unchanged, the front end of Ford's all-new
Explorer is slightly more aggressive. It's an example of how the
Explorer is evolving into a more refined, less truck-like vehicle over
time. Ford's top-selling SUV gets a major makeover for 2006 and now the
Explorer is better than ever.
Consider the Ford Explorer. It started out a
tiny step above the old Bronco II, which itself was a tiny step above
the original Bronco that could hardly remain upright. It was, by today's
standards, a piece of junk that rode so rough it would grind your spinal
cord to a column of white powder.
Today, though, if you blindfolded someone
and drove around in a 2006 Explorer, they'd probably think they were in
a Lexus. It's incredible. To put it in biological terms, it's like
Einstein evolving from a tadpole in just 15 years.
Better materials and construction are nice
to see in the 2006 Ford Explorer's interior. Ford focused on making the
cabin significantly quieter for this year. No matter how close to
perfection vehicles come, it's amazing how much they improve as the
years go by.
Despite its familiar profile, the Explorer
was totally redesigned for this year to make it quieter and more refined
than ever. It feels remarkably like a luxury SUV and drives like a car,
which is eerie considering it has the same old Explorer name plastered
on the side and offers the same truck-like towing performance it always
A big part of the refinement comes from a
new drivetrain. Ford coupled a 4.6-liter, 292-horsepower V8 engine with
a six-speed automatic transmission, a combination that makes 53 more
horsepower than last year's V8 while getting up to 10 percent better gas
mileage. That's a serious feat of engineering.
Equally impressive is how smooth this V8 is.
When you rev up an average V8, it shakes the whole car and belches out a
raucous roar from beneath the hood, but this one merely purrs. As it
nears redline, it whirrs with a smooth, turbine-like whoosh and doesn't
transfer a hint of vibration into the cabin, which is a sensation you
usually only find in luxury cars.
This luxurious feel is reinforced by silence
in the cabin. Ford made sure its Explorer was quieter than all its
competitors by using new sound-deadening materials, tweaking the intake
and exhaust systems, quieting the climate control vents and improving
aerodynamics to reduce wind noise.
The Explorer's guts are new, too, including
the front and rear independent suspensions, brakes, steering and frame.
These changes make it a much more responsive vehicle overall and are the
reasons it's easier to drive than ever before.
While it offers the same basic layout as
last year's model - two or three rows of seats that can easily fold flat
- the overall look and feel of the cabin is improved. Materials are
better and construction is tighter, making the passenger area look like
a trendy, fashionable place to spend time in the top-of-the-line models.
On the outside, the Explorer has the same
basic shape with a slightly bolder look. The front end, in particular,
is more attention getting, but it still looks like a traditional SUV
with square corners and a boxy body. There's nothing revolutionary here.
In fact, Ford clearly picked evolution over
revolution for this redesign, which is a smart move considering the
Explorer has been the world's top selling SUV for 15 years running.
Pricing starts at $27,175 for a
rear-wheel-drive model with a V6 engine and climbs all the way to
$33,160 for the Limited model. Believe it or not, that's actually an
average of $1,750 less than the 2005 Explorer that doesn't benefit from
all the improvements. In any case, it's a great SUV at a very fair
What was tested: a 2006 Ford Explorer
Limited 4x4 with a base price of $35,490. Options: Safety canopy
($560), trailer tow package ($150), navigation system ($1,995), 18-inch
chromed wheels ($450), auxiliary climate control ($650), reverse sensing
system ($255), power folding third-row seat ($1,340), ultimate
convenience group ($350). MSRP Price as tested: $41,690.
Perhaps we'll look back 15 years from now
and think about what a piece of junk that 2006 Explorer was, but it's
the best traditional SUV on the road for now.
Why buy it?
It's the best SUV in its class when it comes to overall refinement. A
fantastic engine & transmission combination that offers more horsepower
from less fuel, and the cabin is nearly silent.
James E. Bryson © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Ford Home Page
Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©
new Explorer is better than ever
2006 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
2006 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
Ford Internet Media
2006 - 01
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