Get more 2011 Ford Explorer Review - First Drive at AutoGuide.comFord reinvents its once-popular SUV, hoping to cross over into renewed success
Do you know what the difference between a crossover and an SUV is? Maybe not, but chances are that if you described what you're looking for in an every day utility vehicle, you'd actually be talking about a crossover.
The distinction between the two is actually quite simple, with an SUV using a truck chassis and a crossover underpinned by a car chassis. More importantly, however, is what this means to how a vehicle handles, drives, what kind of fuel economy it gets and its overall functionality.
The original Explorer was a tremendous success for Ford, delivering what the automaker perceived consumers wanted. But over time car shoppers either changed what they wanted or, more likely, realized what they really were looking for. And despite their love for the Ford SUV (buying 6 million of them), there were a few things they'd change if they could.
While off-road capability and towing are important, Ford canvassed Explorer owners and other new car shoppers to discover that top among the list of demands are things like ride quality, handling and fuel economy.
In the past, meshing these two conflicting lists has brought about 'soft-roaders,' first in the compact class and then in the mid-size segment, with a significant bias towards on-road use. The large vehicle segment, where the Explorer competes, is different and true utility is valued much higher. That being said, Ford did its research in transforming the Explorer from SUV to crossover, attempting to limit the compromises inherent in this change.
To find out just what kind of a job they did, we were invited to the launch of the all-new Explorer in San Diego to test the vehicle's varied capabilities.