NEW TECHNOLOGIES HELP MAKE 2006 EXPLORER THE BEST EXPLORER EVER
"In today's market, there is a tendency to use the term 'traditional' synonymously with 'old-fashioned,'" says Raj Nair, SUV and Body-on-Frame Vehicles executive director. "Traditional SUVs are associated with solid axles, pushrod engines, limited refinement and safety that relies on mass rather than elegant engineering. The 2006 Explorer dismisses that notion, with state-of-the-art safety technologies, a sophisticated chassis with independent suspension, advanced powertrains with overhead-cam engines and variable-cam timing, and one of the quietest interiors in its class."
In fact, the technology offered on the "traditional" 2006 Explorer is unrivaled among mid-sized, mid-priced SUVs, in both traditional and crossover segments:
Tradition of safety innovation continues
- Only Ford Explorer offers 10 standard advanced safety technologies, including four new adaptive technologies specifically designed using Ford's stringent internal safety targets
- Ford Explorer is one of only two mid-price, mid-size SUVs to offer the refinement and capability of an independent rear suspension
- Only Ford Explorer offers the power, efficiency and refinement of two overhead cam engines
- Only the Ford Explorer is available with the performance and efficiency of a six-speed automatic transmission
The 2006 Ford Explorer leads its class with 10 standard advanced safety technologies. Seven of these 10 standard features are new to the mid-size SUV class, including four new adaptive technologies specifically designed for Ford's stringent internal safety targets. The new Explorer provides the most active and passive safety features in its class.
Explorer offers the best array of active and passive safety features in its class.
"The 2006 Ford Explorer's suite of available safety features is unmatched in its class," says Sue Cischke, vice president, Environmental and Safety Engineering. "It offers active safety technology — including confidence-inspiring handling and braking combined with AdvanceTrac® with industry-exclusive Roll Stability Control (RSC®)- to help prevent accidents from occurring. In the case of an accident, the 2006 Explorer offers enhanced rollover and side-impact protection, and four new adaptive safety technologies that help tailor front-impact protection based crash severity, occupant size, and safety-belt usage."
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's 2005 model-year New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) data, the Explorer already provides one of the best impact-protection ratings among mid-sized SUVs. The new 2006 model is expected to improve on that rating.
To meet federal safety regulations and Ford's even more stringent internal safety guidelines, the 2006 Explorer offers the following advanced safety technologies as standard equipment:
"Simply put, all safety features help manage the forces on the occupants during an impact," says Jeff Laya, Explorer crash safety supervisor.
"Explorer's new adaptive safety features all work together to estimate the size of the occupant and impact severity, and are then tailored to best manage those forces. If you think of it in a slow-motion sequence, the safety belts absorb some of the energy, then the air bag absorbs more, and then the stroking steering column absorbs even more. We can provide enhanced protection for a wide variety of circumstances and tailor the protection to each individual event."
All-new frame and improved independent suspension raise the dynamics benchmark
The 2006 Ford Explorer also features a new chassis that features some of the latest manufacturing technologies.
The all-new ladder frame forgoes traditional flat joints — with the cross beams attached to the top of the frame rails — for box joints. Like the Ford F-150, the Explorer now has a tube-through-tube frame, where the cross beams pass through the frame-rails, creating an inherently stronger joint. These joints are then completely welded around the perimeter, creating a fully boxed seam.
As a result, the Explorer frame boasts a 55 percent increase in torsional stiffness, and a 63 percent increase in bending resistance — improving ride and handling as well as long-term customer satisfaction.
Explorer's new frame offers 63 percent more bending resistance.
Body and suspension mounts are also dramatically improved, with improvements in stiffness ranging from 97 to 593 percent. Rather than pre-drilling the holes before assembly, the brackets are now mounted to the frame and then the holes are pierced. This post-piercing technique enables dramatically more precision, decreasing critical manufacturing tolerances by as much as 50 percent.
The 2002 Ford Explorer was one of the first SUVs in the industry to offer an independent rear suspension (IRS), and is the only SUV to pass the halfshafts through the frame rail. This lowers the IRS assembly even further, providing a lower center of gravity for improved handling, and enabling Explorer's exemplary third-row accommodations.
For 2006, the short-/long-arm IRS is replaced by a trailing arm design. The new design is more robust than before to increase capacity, but also delivers better ride comfort. The front suspension also retains the short-/long-arm, coil-over-shock design, but with all-new stamped-steel upper and lower control arms for a lighter, stronger design. Both front and rear suspension assemblies incorporate new mono-tube shocks (replacing twin-tube shocks) tuned to deliver softer reaction to impacts while providing exemplary body control over larger road undulations and under cornering.
Explorer offers uncompromised powertrains
The 2006 Ford Explorer can be viewed as a case study for Ford Motor Company's powertrain strategy of employing technology to deliver improved capability and performance while also improving the environmental stewardship.
"Performance and fuel economy can go hand-in-hand if you invest in the right technologies," says Dave Szczupak, vice president, Powertrain Operations. "That's why Ford is investing in six-speed automatic transmissions, electronic throttles, variable cam timing and other advanced powertrain technologies."
The 2006 Explorer's standard powertrain is a 4.0-liter SOHC V-6 paired with a five-speed automatic. New camshafts and spark plugs improve idle quality by 50 percent, and help decrease emissions. In addition, the catalyst assemblies were moved closer to the engine's exhaust manifolds to better neutralizing NOx and other exhaust gasses.
The standard 4.0-liter, SOHC V-6 boasts a 74 percent decrease in emissions, yet still delivers 210 hp, and 254 ft.-lbs. of torque.
The air-fuel mixture of the V-6 was also recalibrated to stay in the catalyst systems' "sweet spot," with no loss of horsepower, torque or fuel economy.
"The new design reduces the complexity and cost of emissions controls while making a substantial cut in NOx emissions," says emissions system manager Joel Beltramo.
With these changes, the 4.0-liter V-6 is expected to qualify for Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle II status in states that have adopted California's air regulations. The new system cuts emissions of nitrous oxides to 3.6 pounds per 15,000 miles, from 14.2 pounds by its predecessor.
The 2006 Explorer is also available with an all-new, 4.6-liter V-8 with three valves per cylinder, and single overhead cams with variable-cam timing (VCT). The heads feature two intake valves and one exhaust valve, actuated by a single overhead cam and low-profile roller-finger followers. The VCT system is controlled by the powertrain control module, which directs solenoids to alter the oil flow in the hydraulic cam timing mechanism. Using a single-overhead cam provides all the benefits of full variable-valve timing — but creates far less complexity and adds less weight than double-overhead-cam engines with variable valve timing that actuate the intake and exhaust valves separately.
The available 4.6-liter, SOHC V-8 delivers 292 hp, and 300 ft.-lbs. of torque apportioned through a standard 6-speed automatic 6R transmission.
The 4.6-liter V-8 comes standard with a new, electronically controlled six-speed 6R automatic transmission. For the best possible shift quality, each 6R transmission is bench tested at Ford's Livonia (Mich.) Transmission Plant. There, each transmission is programmed with its own unique software to account for even the smallest manufacturing variances, producing smooth, precisely controlled shifts that improve durability and customer satisfaction.
The 6R's wide 6.04:1 gear-ratio span enables the 4.6-liter engine to spend to spend more time in the optimum powerband — either a peak power for acceleration, or at peak efficiency for more fuel economy. As such, the 4.6-liter delivers 22 percent more power than before (from 239 to 292 horsepower) and up to 10 percent better fuel economy for 4x4 models.
Comprehensive NVH improvements deliver best-in-class interior quietness, refinement
To deliver the quietest interior in its class, the 2006 Explorer engineering team focused on every aspect of the vehicle, including the exterior, interior, chassis, and powertrain to quell noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH). Measured in the first row at highway speeds, Explorer is:
More significantly, the Explorer is dramatically quieter when measured in the second- and third-row seats. Compared to its closest competitor, the 2005 Nissan Pathfinder, the 2006 Explorer shows a clear advantage in second row measurements. The advantage is even more significant in the third row, where the 2006 Explorer is almost five times quieter than the Pathfinder. Also, note that the 2006 Explorer's third row seat is as quiet as the front row in the TrailBlazer and Grand Cherokee, and significantly quieter than the front row of the 4Runner.
- 10 percent quieter than the 2005 Explorer
- 20 percent quieter than the 2005 Toyota 4Runner
- Six percent quieter than a 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee, or a 2005 Chevrolet TrailBlazer
- The 2006 Explorer is almost two percent quieter than Nissan Pathfinder
Explorer offers exemplary cabin audio balance, with the third row measurement besting the front row of TrailBlazer and Grand Cherokee.
All of these features help the 2006 Explorer receive a high score on the Articulation Index (AI) rating scale. AI recognizes that higher frequencies are more important for speech intelligibility. Based on frequencies measured throughout the cabin, the 2006 Explorer is very "friendly" to these frequencies and thus conducive to conversations among those in the front, middle or third row of sets — or all three.