12 August 2011

Family Vacation, sponsored by Ford

It was with some pause that I agreed to accept a 2011 Ford Explorer for use on our family vacation. You see, my wife just got a Mercedes diesel crossover that I was really looking forward to touring in. But, saving 3500 kms on our new vehicle was a pretty good incentive. So, I accepted and was asked to be honest in my evaluation. I will be.

I should point out that I have been a Ford man since I was a kid. You see, my grandfather worked for Ford and was the top seller in Canada for a few years, selling a car a day on average for many years in a row. My first car was a 1968 Mercury Cougar and I've always been partial to the stylings of Ford, both inside and out. We got to pick up the Explorer from Universal Ford in Calgary - the dealership my grandfather worked for in the 60's, 70's and 80's. I might also point out that in 1989 or 1990, when the Explorer came out, I drooled over the brochure I picked up from the local Ford dealership for this new 'SUV' type vehicle as it really appealed to my lifestyle at that time.

So, although I am clearly biased in Ford's favour, my only comparison would be to my wife's car as it has a similar size and purpose. Both are 6 passenger and both are silver. It's kind of an apples and oranges comparison, so I'll try to keep that in mind to keep it fair.

First impressions.

The new exterior styling of the Explorer is bold and a bit boxy. Some feel it looks a bit Range Roverish, but there's no question in my mind, it's a Ford (that's a good thing in my books). The rear windows are designed to look like a wrap-around glass feature which really works to make the vehicle look sleek and reduces the curb presence... by today's American car standards, it's not a big vehicle, but to me, it's a big vehicle. You won't find many of these on British roadways, they won't fit. Overall, it's a nicely styled vehicle - it's a design that will sell very well.

Sitting inside the drivers seat of the Explorer, I feel as though the vehicle was designed for a much bigger frame than I have - I can't lean my arm on the door sill as I do on my car and my wife's crossover. In fact, I can almost swing my left arm, by my side, back and forth without hitting anything. There is a lot of room, and I like roominess, but this seems a bit wasted. The seats are very comfortable, in fact I would say that they are more comfortable than the Mercedes - having spent 8 hours in each vehicle over the past two weeks thanks to accidents and construction projects on our local highways.

THE FORD EXPLORER HAS AIR CONDITIONED SEATS!!!

Keep in mind, if you buy the vehicle, they will walk you through the options and you are likely to read the manual. We didn't. So, I'm not certain of the amount of options that the Explorer has, too many from a quick scan of the screens and amount of buttons available to the driver. I'll comment more on the buttons, touch screens and steering buttons later, after a few more days of use, right now all I can say is that I'm really confused - the hazard button/sensor switch will require a read in the manual to figure out how it works (I'm not even kidding).

THE FORD EXPLORER HAS AIR CONDITIONED SEATS!!!

Driving the Explorer is nice and easy, it's solid and capable. Going from diesel to gas I was expecting the engine to be quieter - which it is until you giv'er, then it's much noisier. The bark is worse than the bite though. Don't get me wrong, it's got enough power, but there's a lot of weight to move on this vehicle, it's not a sports car. What I'm saying is there's no worry of going 40km over by mistake in this vehicle (which would result in having your vehicle impounded for a few days in British Columbia and a couple thousand dollar fine) a genuine worry in my wife's ride.

THE FORD EXPLORER HAS AIR CONDITIONED SEATS!!!

The cruise control has a built in 'gap' feature which is designed to slow you down automatically so you don't creep in on the car in front of you. On the divided highway I really didn't like this feature as it slows you down automatically as you approach the car ahead of you. So, you don't keep your speed, you keep the speed of the car in front of you. This feature was really designed for single lane highways, and once i got used to it, I fell in love with it... but only on single lane highways. I know other vehicles have this but I was really impressed with how well it worked in the Explorer.

I'm not sure if I mentioned the air conditioned seats, but that is the greatest feature of all-time, my father and uncle both have Lincoln's which feature it as well - good on you Ford for extending this (I assume it's a simple feature) into your other models. If you are like me and like it cold, this is a must. They have the heated option too, but it's 30ÂșC so I'll go ahead and assume they work, without turning them on.

The kids really like the ride, there's plenty of room for them and loads of plug ins for their toys including a standard wall plug. This makes so much sense as every electronic device will plug into this without having to have an adaptor... this is another plus for Ford - an easy add-on and a smart one. I think there's a bit more storage in it than the Merc, it's very similar in cargo capacity.

It's a bit early to comment absolute on the Explorer, and I will probably change my tune on some of my comments above after driving it around over the next week. There are some things that I really like and others that I don't care for. These will change - at first I didn't like the turn signal, I still don't but I can see it was designed purposefully to do what it does the way that it does, so I'm willing to keep using it to find out if it's a better design than the previous version. There are many new design features like this - you can tell they were well thought out and I need a few days to figure them out to see if I really don't like them or if I just don't like change. Maybe I won't go back. A plus off the get go was the amber turn signals - these are proven to be safer than red signal lights, yet so many manufacturers cheap out on this simple safety feature, not Ford, well, not on this Explorer.

I'm looking forward to driving tomorrow, which I think speaks highly of the Explorer. I'll post more on our experience with it in a few days - so far, so good.

Bon voyage!

PS. it has A/C seats!

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