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Steane Klose | Jan 7, 2008

Ford have released details and images of their new Explorer America concept prior to its 2008 Detroit Motor Show debut. It may be “just” a concept but this is the first real indication of where Ford’s Explorer SUV will be heading in the coming years and if the styling is anything to go by, then its all good.

The Ford Explorer used to reign supreme in America, where it ruled the roost for more than ten years as the top-selling SUV, with annual sales often passing 400,000 units per year. Built the old fashioned way, the Explorer is still built using a separate chassis design when many of its competitors (mainly Japanese) have long since embraced a monocoque (unit-body) platform structure. The glory days are well behind it as more modern and efficient alternatives have become available.

"Customers are smart. They value vehicles – the more efficient, the better," said Jim Farley, Ford group vice president of Marketing and Communications. "Ford gets it.

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The Explorer America suggests that Ford has got the message and the emphasis is now on reduced weight, efficiency and packaging. The introduction of a monocoque chassis will see weight drop and on-road driveability improve. A new range of lighter more efficient engines have been introduced, gone are the old 4.0-litre V6 and 4.6-litre V8 units and in their place are some EcoBoost turbocharged direct injection petrol engines which offer more power than the old units and impressive fuel efficiency improvements.

The EcoBoost line-up includes a 2.0-litre GTDI four-cylinder with 000Kw/275hp and a 3.5-litre V6 with 000kw/340hp. The four cylinder provides for a 30 percent increase in fuel efficiency over the current 4.0-litre V6 and the EcoBoost V6 offers a 20 percent efficiency increase over the 4.6-litre V8. The Explorer America concept is powered by the EcoBoost V6, which weighs some 150lbs less than the V8 it replaces.

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The concept features a passenger side opening augmented by the removal of the B-Pillar, which is unlikely to make it into production. Another unique feature are the first and second row seats which are mounted on arms that extend from the transmission tunnel, allowing them to be moved forward at the touch of a button and offer improved access to the back row.

New engines aside, perhaps the best feature of the Explorer America concept is the fact that it looks sensational. Modern and attractive, if this is the new face of Ford's volume SUV then bring it on... A new Explorer is expected by the end of the decade.

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PRESS RELEASE:

FORD TO REVEAL NEW FUEL-SAVING CONCEPT IN DETROIT

The Ford Explorer America concept showcases a new kind of utility for the vehicle customers have known and loved for years: even better fuel efficiency.

"Customers are smart. They value vehicles – the more efficient, the better," said Jim Farley, Ford group vice president of Marketing and Communications. "Ford gets it.

"Innovative technologies can transform people's favorite vehicles. Look at SYNC, the Ford system that connects people and their favorite portable devices, including media players and Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones, while in their vehicles."

Technologies and engineering innovations help Explorer America concept deliver an approximately 20 to 30 percent fuel-economy improvement, depending on engine selection, while providing room for six and their gear as well as moderate towing and off-roading capabilities.

This smarter utility concept simplifies Ford Motor Company's systems approach for delivering sustainable vehicles, specifically demonstrating:

• A powertrain lineup that includes a 4-cylinder 2-liter engine with EcoBoost technology delivering 275 hp and 280 lb.-ft. of torque or, as a premium engine, a 3.5-liter V-6 delivering about 340 hp. Depending on engine selection, fuel-efficiency will improve by 20 to 30 percent versus today's V-6 Explorer

• Migration from current body-on-frame to unibody construction, reducing weight and delivering superior driving dynamics

• A fuel-efficient 6-speed transmission with auto shift control, allowing the driver to select and hold a lower gear with just the turn of a dial when conditions warrant it

• A weight reduction of 150 pounds for the V-6 version thanks to its downsized – yet superior performing – engine, as well as more lightweight materials, suspension and chassis components

• Fuel-saving electric power assisted steering (EPAS) and other engine actions that deliver a fuel savings benefit of about 5 percent. Between 80 to 90 percent of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles will have EPAS by 2012

In addition to its fuel-efficient powertrain and technologies, the Explorer America concept addresses how the SUV market has changed in the past 15 years.

In the 1990s, customers were drawn by SUVs aligned with people's adventurous, more rugged lifestyles. Today's consumers are more discerning, demanding products that are capable and flexible – but more intelligently executed.

The Explorer America concept looks the part, too, with a modern, muscular design language that belies its ability to harness today's active lifestyles. Its integrated three-bar grille, defined power dome hood, wrap-around rear glass panel window and sliding rear door give the appearance that this concept is ready for modern Lewis-and-Clark types to explore, from their own neighborhoods to the trail head.

Inside, intelligent features abound, including: single-touch stackable, sliding seats that allow for convenient access to the second row; a work table with seats deploy from the tailgate; and a three-dimensional compass and navigation unit with a topographical map built right into the instrument panel.

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