Frank S. Washington, Sun, 08 Nov 2009 11:00:13 PST
Ford recently announced that it had sold 66,000 copies of Sync that allows drivers to operate their car's stereo, personal music device and mobile phone by voice. The system is available on 12 different Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles.
Still, despite the popularity of Sync the system has done little to boost the sale of Ford's venerable Explorer sport utility. Still, the best selling SUV on the market, the Ford Explorer has fallen victim to a couple of trends which will be hard to overcome. Sales were down more than 23 percent last year and the slide continues.
First, there's the price of gasoline. As it escalates, sales of truck-based SUVs and full-size pickup trucks continue downward. And as more and more car-based utility vehicles go on sale, people realize that they can get the high seating position of an SUV, along with the all-wheel-drive feature without the expense or the gas guzzling weight of the rugged go anywhere suspension of a truck based SUV.
We recently test drove an Eddie Bauer model of the Ford Explorer. It had automatic headlights; two-tone front and rear bumpers; chrome three-bar grille with nostrils; black roof rails; pueblo gold step bars; 17-inch, painted aluminum wheels with all-season tires; accent-color wheel lip moldings; and wood-grain interior accents;
There was also an overhead console; four-line message center; electrochromic auto-dimming rearview mirror; leather-trimmed, 10-way, power, low-back driver sport bucket seat; leather-trimmed, manual passenger seat; and keyless entry with keypad.
We found the Explorer to be awfully comfortable. Ford has done a lot to sophisticate the SUV. The two-tone materials were nicely done, the ride was almost car like and the engine was quiet and responsive.
Our test vehicle was equipped with the 292 horsepower V8. A 210 horsepower V6 is also available. Both engines are mated to six speed transmissions. We had a four-wheel-drive model with a tire pressure monitoring system.
Acceleration was good. The vehicle handled well. There was little body sway in the turns and while cornering. Some of our Explorer's other creature comforts were satellite radio, a reverse sensing system, power folding third row seats and adjustable pedals.
Ford says since its introduction, the Explorer has delivered confidence and customer-oriented design. It still leads the mid-size SUV segment in sales and it remains the first choice when looking for a vehicle that will serve family adventures well. For 2008, Explorer adds new technology and safety features while still meeting the needs of SUV customers with its generous interior and capable towing performance.
The Explorer also gives a nod to increasing customer demand for seamless connectivity, offering two new technologies voice-activated navigation and the industry-exclusive Ford Sync(TM) hands-free communications and entertainment system.
Explorer is available in XLT, Eddie Bauer and Limited trims.
The 2008 Ford Explorer will be the first to market with a capless fuel filling system. This technology not only eliminates the inconvenience of forgetting to put the gas cap back on after fueling, but also saves time during refueling by doing away with unscrewing and replacing a fuel filler cap.
The system could prove to benefit the environment as well. The capless fuel system provides a much better seal than a cap, as it isn't opened until the fuel pump nozzle is inserted. When capless fueling is completed, the nozzle is removed and the system seals shut automatically.
Ford has also added four new colors for 2008: Stone Green Clearcoat Metallic, Vapor Silver Clearcoat Metallic and White Suede Clearcoat Metallic.
The bottom line of it is that if you really need a rugged sport-utility, Ford's Explorer is still a good buy.