The 2011 Ford Explorer hasn't even been introduced yet, but Ford Motor Company has released a video and information detailing the vehicle's advanced Terrain Management System. Although it will be switching to a unibody platform shared with the Ford Taurus, the 2011 Ford Explorer should be an even more impressive off-road vehicle thanks to the multi-mode system that allows drivers to choose different computer-controlled modes based on specific road and traction conditions.
Ford says that it has received feedback from customers about confusion in regards to the use of conventional four-wheel drive systems with high and low transfer case gears, and it hopes the new Terrain Management System will help eliminate most or all of that confusion. All the driver has to do to get out of a sticky situation is choose one of the system modes that best fits the road conditions. Ford's new Terrain Management System will help drivers better tackle rugged, off-road terrain without needing to know when to engage 4HI or 4LO. The system will be paired up with an intelligent four-wheel drive system.
"One of our goals with the new Explorer is to deliver four-wheel-drive capability with easier and intuitively operated control," said Jim Holland, Explorer Chief Nameplate Engineer. "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."
Aside from the Normal mode used in everyday driving, there are three four-wheel drive modes from which to choose that each use the engine, transmission and brake systems together to give the new Explorer optimal traction in varying terrain conditions. The other three modes include Mud/Rut, Sand and Snow - each of which pose different challenges to both vehicle and driver when encountered. Another benefit of the system is the Hill Descent Control feature that helps maintain traction and control when driving down steep grades which, again, helps take the guess work out of off-road driving. All of the modes are controlled by a rotary dial located behind the gear selector on the center console. To engage or disengage Hill Descent Control, there is a push button located in the middle of this dial.
'Instead of having a one-size-fits-all, which people call electronic stability control or traction control, we have four different settings that you can use,' said Todd Hoevener, Explorer Vehicle Dynamics Manager. 'Bottom line: it is a safer, simpler, smarter solution for our traditional 4x4 systems.'
If this system sounds familiar, it's because Land Rover's Terrain Response System operates in a similar fashion and is currently available on the full range of Land Rover models from the Land Rover LR2 up to the Land Rover Range Rover. Land Rover's Andrew Polsinelli, General Manager of Product Planning, is quick to point out that Ford's new system mimics Land Rover's, he seems to forget that when Land Rover developed the Terrain Response System prior to 2005, it was wholly owned by Ford Motor Company as a part of its Premier Automotive Group that also included Aston Martin, Volvo and Jaguar.
In addition to the obvious benefits of easier four-wheel drive operation, Ford also claims that the Terrain Management System will help improve overall fuel economy by eliminating the need for bulky transfer case components. The 2011 Ford Explorer is already expected to get stellar fuel economy thanks to the weight-saving unibody construction as well as the first application of the 2.0-liter EcoBoost inline-4 engine that is expected to produce the power output similar to a V-6 with the fuel economy expected from a four-cylinder engine.
It is not clear if or when the Terrain Management System will be available in any other Ford, Lincoln or Mercury crossovers or SUVs, but judging by a video released by Ford, the new Explorer is able to tackle terrains most owners would never dare attempt.