Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Tackle the Rough Stuff with the Gutsy Explorer

Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Tackle the Rough Stuff with the Gutsy Explorer

Article excerpt

Ford Explorer is a large American 4WD from the old school.

A huge seller in its home market, it did moderately well in the sales race in Australia, until the arrival of the Ford Territory in 2004. The local design was much more to the tastes of Australian buyers, particularly in the way it handled and rode.

Whereas the Explorer was soft and almost sloppy in its on-road traits, Territory was a real driving machine in its class. However, Explorer received some Australia revisions to the suspension in 1998, then was imported in a significantly updated format from November 2001.

There is one major difference between the two Ford SUVs - the Territory doesn't pretend to be a serious off-road vehicle, while the Explorer features a more rugged build and has the torque multiplication advantages of a two-speed transfer case. So if you want a blue-oval badge and plan to push through some real rough stuff in the bush, Explorer will prove better than the softer Territory.

Explorer is distinctively American in its looks, with a bold front grille that comes with varying amounts of chrome.

The single overhead cam engine was optional in the Explorer XL and XLT and is the one to go for if you like a bit of urge under your right foot.

Standard transmission with the two lower-specification Explorers, and with the OHV engine, was a five-speed manual. The topline Explorer Limited had a five-speed automatic. Power is distributed via a reasonably sophisticated system with constant four-wheel drive. An electronically controlled clutch controls the power split between the front and rear wheels. A three-way switch on the dash lets the driver select 4WD auto, 4WD high or 4WD low. Off-road it can be surprisingly good, particularly in the hands of an experienced driver. As is often the way in this class, tyres can be what let you down.

Explorer is surprisingly easy to drive in traffic thanks to its low window line, and is also relatively easy to fit into tight parking spots. However, a drawback of the low-set windows is the lack of height in the rear load area.

The upmarket Explorer Limited is packed with luxury gear, including leather trim, climate-controlled air conditioning, a six-stack CD player, a power sunroof, fancier alloy wheels, and a good roof rack. …

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