Redesigned Ford Explorer To Get Terrain Management System

Just the Facts:

  • Ford’s redesigned Explorer will offer a new terrain management system.
  • The system will be standard on the four-wheel-drive version of the new Explorer, but won’t be offered on the two-wheel-drive model.
  • The new Ford Explorer is expected to officially debut sometime this summer.

DEARBORN, Michigan — Ford said it is trying to take the mystery out of four-wheel-drive controls on the redesigned Ford Explorer with a new terrain management system that debuted on Thursday for the popular SUV. The new system should help confused customers navigate snow, sand or mud with ease, but hard-core off-roaders may be put off by the significant changes in the upcoming Explorer.

The terrain management system “eliminates guesswork,” said Ford in a statement. Simple icons for snow, sand, mud and hill descent help drivers pick the correct setting with the turn of a dial. The system will be standard on the four-wheel-drive version of the new Explorer, which debuts later this year, and will not be offered on two-wheel-drive versions of the SUV.

Ford told Inside Line on Thursday that the Explorer will debut sometime this summer at an unspecified location. Company insiders say the automaker has not yet given the SUV a 2011 or 2012 designation. That will be determined by how late in the year the Explorer comes out.

The new Explorer is based on the automaker’s “D” architecture, which is also used for the Ford Flexand Ford Taurus. The Explorer is moving away from body-on-frame to unitized construction and hence will no longer get such off-road mainstays as a transfer case or locking differential, Ford spokesman Jay Ward confirmed on Thursday for Inside Line.

“You won’t go rock-crawling in the new Explorer the way you could in the old one,” Ward said, adding that two-thirds of Explorer owners never went off-road anyway.

Ward said the new terrain management system was designed because “there is confusion about which button to press” for the four-wheel-drive settings in the current Explorer.

“The vast majority of customers don’t know what 4 high or 4 low buttons do,” he said, adding that the new system is “more consumer-friendly.”

“The Ford terrain management system integrates powertrain and braking controls to provide appropriate traction for any driving conditions the roads and climate present,” said Ford in a statement. By pressing the sand icon, for example, the system optimizes torque for increased traction, Ford said. By pressing the mud icon, the system allows “wheelspin for momentum build,” said the automaker.

Ford said that terrain management will help the Explorer “deliver increased fuel economy by eliminating heavy transfer case and driveline components, while making 4WD capabilities more accessible.”

Inside Line says: Big changes for the upcoming Ford Explorer when it comes to off-road capability, with the automaker playing to the majority of customers who never venture into the wilderness. —Anita Lienert, Correspondent


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