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The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
The Kings of the Big Family Haulers
Until the mid-1980s, those with large families usually bought station wagons with a who-cares-about-safety rearward facing third row of seats. But then the minivan was introduced and everything changed. For the next fifteen years, troops of kids were transported here and there in these pragmatic boxes on wheels. As is often the case though, consumer taste’s changed.
Today the three-row station wagons rival the mountain gorilla on the critically endangered species list while the minivan has become more passé than bridge clubs. Now there is a new king of big family transport – the three-row crossover utility vehicle (CUV).
And the Crossover Takes Over
After a brief foray with three-row body-on-frame SUVs in the early 2000s, the vast majority of auto manufacturers have settled on unibody crossovers to handle passenger duties of six or more. Last year, more than 1.7 million of these CUVs were sold in the U.S. compared to less than 525,000 minivans.
With nearly two million annual sales up for grabs, manufacturers are constantly tweaking their products to entice customers. Over the last year alone, all-new versions of the Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Highlander hit the market while the Kia Sorento and Dodge Durango received significant updates. To see which CUV is the best value for the money, we gathered these five crossovers along with three older models; the large Chevrolet Traverse, the best-selling Ford Explorer and the eight-passenger Honda Pilot. Which one emerged as the victor in this stacked field? Read on to find out.
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Two’s company but three’s a crowd. More may be merrier in certain situations but undoubtedly not in every circumstance. Sure, having more flavors of ice cream to choose from or more paid vacation time is like hitting the jackpot at your local Native American tribal casino. Bingo was indeed his name-o.
God blessed Texas with His own hand
Brought down angles from the Promised Land
Gave ‘em a place where they could dance
If you want to see heaven, brother, here’s your chance…
Since its founding in 1936, Consumer Reports has become the go-to source for shoppers. From new refrigerators to bottles of wine, Blue-ray players to homeowner’s insurance, if it’s on the market it’s likely the non-profit organization has scientifically tested it. Of course the consumer watchdog is probably most famous for its vehicle reliability ratings.
Driving a Ford Explorer Sideways has Never Been So Educational
“First thing I do when I get in my car is turn off the stability control and traction control”.
Many of us have heard someone, at some point, utter this. Or maybe we ourselves are the guilty party. When asked why it was turned it off, the typical response is along the lines of “’cause I’m a real driver,” or, “it gets in the way of driving”.
Ford started building police variants of the LTD Crown Victoria in 1979, by 1992 the company’s cars evolved from modified civilian sedans to law enforcement machines.
Agencies are looking for something more fuel efficient options than the aging Crown Victoria’s and the 14 mpg city and 21 mpg highway rating from its thirsty V8 as municipal budgets shrink with the rocky U.S. economy.
Ford says the the next generation Interceptors address that concern and offer significantly improved fuel efficiency. The Taurus-based Interceptor sedan gets 18 mpg city and 26 mpg highway, a 4.5 mpg average improvement over the previous Interceptor. During 10-hour shifts of Police duty, police cars idle for approximately 6.7 hours of the duration so Ford has made improvements on idle consumption as well. The latest Taurus Interceptor will also use 35 percent less fuel at idle thanks to its smaller displacement 3.5 liter V6 engine.
What’s more, the Explorer-based Interceptor SUV achieves an estimated 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway, a best-in-class figure for police spec utility vehicles.
Ford managed to keep performance intact, despite the improved efficiency. A 3.5-liter V6 is used for both vehicles, producing 288 hp. That translates to a 38-hp gain over the outgoing V8.
During 0-60 runs, results show that the V6 Ford Explorer Interceptor Utility can reach 60 mph one full second faster than the competing V8 Chevrolet Tahoe PPV.
An Eco-Boost turbocharged 3.5 liter V6 producing 365-hp is available as an option as well. Combined with all-wheel-drive, the powerful Ford police vehicle out-accelerates competitors from Dodge and Chevrolet.
The Chicago police department ordered and will soon take delivery of approximately 500 Ford Police Interceptors this year, making the city the first to field test Ford’s ne enforcement vehicles.
GALLERY: Ford Taurus, Ford Explorer Interceptor
For decades, we’ve known Ford crate engines to be huge V8 powerplants packing plenty of cubic inches and power. But Ford has been quietly offering a 2.0L inline-four from its old Focus for midget racers but very few even paid attention to that option.
Now Ford has added their new-generation 2.0L Focus engine and looks to add an EcoBoost variant in the future. Ford announced a pair of new V8 crate motors for 2012, adding a 347 pushrod motor based on the historic Boss 302 block. With 363-cubic inches, it packs 500-hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. The other new crate engine is a 427-cubic inch powerplant and is based on Ford’s Boss 351 engine block. With Ford Racing’s X-heads system, it makes 500-hp and 520 lb-ft of torque.
But the new addition of the 2.0L inline-four from the Focus is what’s making headlines, with its 160-hp and 145 lb-ft of torque. The naturally aspirated engine will be complemented by EcoBoost offerings which means turbocharged power for all. The 2.0L EcoBoost for example in the new Explorer makes 240-hp and 270 lb-ft of torque which suddenly becomes a very appealing engine for small race cars to mid-sized boats.
Unfortunately Ford hasn’t announced availability on the EcoBoost crate engines.
[Source: Automobile Mag]
In a country where everyone is a little bit lawsuit-happy, we take this story with a grain of salt. Margarita Salais claims that her 2006 Ford Explorer, purchased from Suburban Ford of Sterling Heights, once housed a dead body and is now suing for $25,000 plus court fees.
When she purchased the SUV back in March, she had no gripes with it at all. But as the temperatures outside got warmer, the car got smellier. She took the Explorer back to the dealership complaining about a horrible odor and the dealership claimed it was caused by a dead animal. Subsequently, Salais filed with State Farm, her insurance company, and Elite Trauma Clean-Up was hired to search and clean the vehicle. Salais’ lawyer claims that the company determined the odor was human in nature while a representative from Elite Trauma Clean-Up said the odor was only found to be from rotten meat, and not necessarily human in nature.
So now what? Salais’ lawsuit still stands since the dealership refuses to buy back the Explorer. State Farm also discovered that the Explorer was an ex-rental car that had been stolen three times. Of course the dealership didn’t bother mentioning that… maybe Margarita should have asked for a CarFax?
[Source: Left Lane News]
Ford brought four of its new Explorers to this year’s SEMA Show, each customized by some of the top builders in the nation. Galpin Auto Sports, Stitchcraft Interiors, Tjin Edition and DSO Eyewear put their spin on Ford’s “SUV” with each sharing the spotlight at Ford’s massive booth.
First up, Tjin Edition’s features 24-inch iForged wheels lowered on Eibach Springs while Baer Brakes gives the Explorer upgraded stopping power. Custom orange pinstripe accents the otherwise blue exterior while a Thule bike rack gives plenty of utility to the SUV.
Stitchcraft Interiors’ Business Edition Explorer sports a lowering kit from H&R set off by a custom set of 22-inch wheels. The two-tone exterior features charcoal with a contrasting orange while much of the focus was on the interior with UltraSuede and leather amenities. Extra horsepower is courtesy of a Nitrous Express system and a Magnaflow exhaust.
DSO Eyewear’s Explorer features an immaculate white exterior accented by 24-inch wheels from Niche. Inside, a Midnight Tuscany interior is set off by Raven Suede accents. Upgraded performance comes from a Gibson and K&N air filter.
Last but not least, Galpin Auto Sports flexed their Ford customization skills with a matte dark gray Explorer. Plenty of audio upgrades were done with JL Audio pumping out 2,000-watts of pure sound.
GALLERY: Tjin Edition Ford Explorer
GALLERY: Stitchcraft Interiors Ford Explorer
GALLERY: DSO Eyewear Ford Explorer
GALLERY: Galpin Auto Sports Ford Explorer
Our friends over at Tjin Edition gave us some teasers today on a pair of Ford vehicles that they’re currently building for the upcoming SEMA Show. This year, Tjin Edition has teamed up with Ford to build out a Mustang GT 5.0 and an Explorer, with the Mustang being a follow up to last year’s Ford Fiesta UTI Sweepstakes car. That means the 2012 Tjin Edition Ford Mustang will be built in collaboration with UTI and given away later next year.
The Tjin Edition 2012 Ford Explorer will feature a custom Dupont paint job by LR Auto Body, set off by a set of 24-inch iForged Concave wheels wrapped with Falken rubber. Eibach Suspension will give it a lower stance while bigger Baer brakes gives the Explorer improved braking performance and rotors that won’t look minuscule behind the massive 24-inch wheels. On the inside, Tjin Edition outfits the Explorer with black leather interior and a pair of Recaro child seats, while a Thule bike rack will sit up top.
The giveaway Mustang will also sport a bright orange Dupont paint job by LR Auto Body, 20-inch Forgestar wheels, Baer big brakes and a ton of extra performance thanks to a Paxton Supercharger. Needless to say the Mustang will also get a custom interior. More details on the Mustang’s giveaway will be released at SEMA.
Tjin Edition also teased to us that these aren’t the only two vehicles they’ll be working on for SEMA. Rumor has it there will be a couple of GM creations and a collaboration on a Honda project.
GALLERY: Tjin Edition Ford SEMA Vehicles
A Salt Lake City, Utah, rental car company had a bit of trouble recovering a 2009 Ford Explorer they’d loaned to 42 year old Jennifer Marshall Hansen of Sandy City, Utah, who failed to return the vehicle that was scheduled for September 1.
According to court papers, an Affordable Rent-A-Car employee used Facebook to “friend” Jennifer and then arranged a date to meet her. Jennifer agreed and drove to the meeting in the SUV she had loaned, effectively cooperating in her own capture.
Now, Jennifer Marshall Hansen faces a second-degree felony court of theft. If convicted, Hansen could get as much as 15 years behind bars. Quite a steep penalty for an overdue rental.
After serving for more than 30 years, the Ford Crown Victoria has established a sterling reputation as the police car of choice. Ford is ending production of the Crown Vic Police Interceptor at the company’s St. Thomas, Ontario, factory and despite stopping sales of Crown Vics to consumers in 2008, Ford continues to make them available to fleets.
Sales to law enforcement agencies have been increasing as Ford prepares to launch new police vehicles based on the Taurus and Explorer. Through the first seven months of the year, Crown Vic sales are up 64 percent to 35,203 units. The Crown Vic enjoyed widespread success due to its two bench, six passenger seating layout and gearshift mounted on the steering column. The vehicle was introduced in 1983 and was the top choice of law enforcement in 1996-2010. The Crown Vic’s death was further pushed by the federal government requiring automakers to boost their average fuel economy to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016 and to 54 mpg by 2025. The Crown Vic’s 16 mpg city mileage is not very appealing, nor efficient.
Currently, the Crown Vic makes up about 70 percent of the police vehicle market, but Ford’s new offerings aren’t being warmly received by police departments. One officer told the Detroit Free Press that he was stocking up on Crown Vic’s, as the new Ford offerings were inadequate for their needs. The officer stated that the Dodge Charger and Chevrolet Caprice were being looked at, something Ford does not want to happen.
[Source: Detroit Free Press]
Ford is about to launch an EcoBoost powered Explorer SUV. The new EcoBoost engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, with direct injection and a turbocharger and returns 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg highway.
The Ecoboost option will be limited to the front-wheel drive model only and have a maximum towing capacity of 2,000 pounds. The engine will produce 240-hp at 5,500 rpm and 270 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm. The engine will be mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and only requires 87-octane at the pumps. Ford said the Ecoboost Explorer will cost $995 more than the regular V6 model.
Ford is quite proud of this engine boasting that its technology bests the Honda Pilot and Jeep Grand Cherokee by five mpg highway, the Chevy Traverse by four mpg and the Toyota Highlander by 3 mpg. The EcoBoost Explorer is currently being launched, so expect to see models in the showroom very soon. Given Ford’s success with the Ecoboost F-150, and the 2011 Explorer’s strong sales numbers, the Explorer Ecoboost should be a hit.
At 20/28 MPG city and highway, Ford‘s Ecoboosted Explorer is the most efficient seven-passenger SUV on the market.
With 28 MPG on the highway that’s 3 more than a Highlander, 4 more than a Traverse, and 5 more than both the Highlander and Grand Cherokee. Not bad for a four-cylinder. Four pistons in an SUV, of course, still get the stigma of slowness, but the Explorer delivers 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. Thanks to the miracle of turbocharging, this is more torque than the 250 lb-ft found in the 3.5-liter V6.
And all on regular gas, too!
There are some drawbacks, however. Ford is saving the 2.0-liter Ecoboost for just the front-wheel-drive model. With that combination, towing capacity drops from 1979 Continental to Miata levels, or 5,000 to 2,000 lbs. And above all, the Boosted Explorer will feature a price premium of $995 over the V6, in a reversal of cylinder count posturing.
Will consumers accept the higher price and lower towing for better mileage? Either way, it’s nice to have the option.
Click here to read AutoGuide’s 2011 Ford Explorer Review or hit the jump to watch our video review:
Car enthusiasts may have lamented its switch from a truck to a car platform, and magazines like Motor Trend and Consumer Reports have slammed it, but consumers have really taken to the Ford Explorer.
While sales figures weren’t available at the time of publication, Ford reports that 43.5 percent of Explorer sales are conquests, and demand has remained strong despite high gas prices and an 18 mpg rating. Criticism has been leveled at the drivetrain, handling and the MyFordTouch information system, but customers are clearly voting with their wallets. We’d be interested to hear why consumers ended up choosing the Ford in light of such criticism.
[Source: Automotive News]
Finally, somebody in top brass gets it. When CEO Alan Mulally oversaw the development of the Explorer upon taking charge of Ford in 2006, he ordered engineers to cut weight and improve fuel economy, or kill the Explorer altogether.
“Alan told us we need to truly reinvent the Explorer,” said product development chief Derrick Kuzak. When he presented Mulally with the production-ready Explorer in 2009, he didn’t focus on anticipated sales figures or projected profits: he started with how the team had cut 100 pounds and raised fuel economy by 24 percent, the best in its class.
And by January, the dieting paid off–Explorer sales were up by 73%.
Automotive enthusiasts (and the part of Lotus’s marketing division that doesn’t keep Colin Chapman’s grave spinning at night) have championed this for years. Coming from Ford’s top man, however, puts a little more meaning behind those words. Mulally has ordered that all Fords introduced within the next 10 years must be 250-750 pounds lighter than their predecessors. And as a result, if any vehicle can’t have the best fuel economy in its class, it’s killed off.
“Weight is absolutely critical,” says Mulally, who views weight savings from a fuel economy standpoint. Already a version of the Explorer is being planned with the EcoBoost turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, which may get as much as 29MPG highway. And the Mustang will get the EcoBoost engine as well. So enthusiasts will appreciate this from a performance and handling mindset, but with such an aggressive weight-cutting proposal, everybody wins.