Chicago Auto Show Blog

Exploring Familiar Territory

Posted by: Mark Bilek

2011 Ford ExplorerUnless you live under a rock, you heard something about a new Ford Explorer yesterday. Ford pulled out all of the stops and introduced the 2011 model simultaneously in nine cities across North America. The media splash went from New York to Chicago to LA. While the events were flashy, they didn't feature a lot of substance (other than the Chicago event, where Ford announced the new Explorer would add 1500 jobs to the Torrence Avenue Assembly plant.

Ford added the meat to the potatoes today at an exclusive media luncheon with the Explorer Chief Nameplate Engineer, Jim Holland.

Despite its slippery new styling and all-wheel-drive system, the first thing Jim pointed out was that Explorer is still an SUV at heart. It has standard seating for seven and can tow up to 5000 pounds. Not only is the 2011 Explorer sleeker, it's also three inches longer and five inches wider than the model it replaces.

Another change is the switch from rear- or four-wheel drive with a transfer case to front- or all-wheel drive. Holland explained that traditional Explorer drivers value traction over extreme off-road capability. The switch to a front-drive-based system not only made Explorer lighter but opened up additional room for passenger and cargo space.

Standard on all all-wheel drive models is hill descent control and a terrain management system that varies throttle, shift-point, and traction settings depending on driver selected surface settings. For example, there's a setting for mud that keeps the tires from spinning too much at startup but then allows some slip as speeds increase to fling excess mud off of the tire.

If there are two things Ford would want everyone to know about the new Explorer is that it's the first vehicle to have inflatable seatbelts and boasts up to 30% better fuel economy than the previous model.

The optional inflatable belts are in the outboard second-row seats and act as mini-airbags to reduce forward impact forces and better distribute forces to reduce belt-related injuries. They complement the standard dual-front, front-side, and three-row curtain-side airbags.

Fuel economy claims are impressive and due, in part to two new engines. Standard is a 3.5-liter V6 that, when combined with the new six-speed automatic, 100-pound weight reduction, and slippery silhouette, is 20% more fuel efficient than the current V6 Explorer. That likely means a jump from 20 mpg highway to 24 mpg highway.

Even more substantial are the claims Ford is making about the fuel economy of the available EcoBoost four-cylinder engine. Ford claims that it will increase fuel economy by as much as 30% over the current V6 model.

Ford hasn't announced complete pricing, but the 2001 Explorer will come in three flavors. The base will list for $28,900, which is $1000 less than the current model. Next up is the XLT, which lists for $31,900. The line topping Limited will have a sticker of $37,900. All of these prices are for V6 models with front-wheel drive.

The only downside? The new Explorer isn't slated to go on sale until late December or early January. In the meantime, you can build your own at Ford's Explorer microsite.

« Last Post Next Post »

View all Posts from this Blog

Follow Us Socially Using #CAS16



Friday, November, 13, 2015

Ford Edge Night Out

Ford’s Edge Unstoppable tour recently paid a visit to Chicago for an #EdgeNightOut. The event featured some ...

Tuesday, November, 10, 2015

Tacoma Comes Out to Play

Toyota’s corporate manager for truck operations, Rick LoFaso, shared details on the all-new Tacoma during the ...

Saturday, November, 07, 2015

Truly Grand Opening!

Usually when a dealership holds a grand opening, it's celebrating a new building or a new location, but in the ...

Tuesday, October, 20, 2015

Mazda Drive for Good Program Returns

Now through Oct. 28, Mazda and NBCUniversal are encouraging people to nominate an organization or individual who is ...

Monday, October, 19, 2015

BMW takes Uber Users for a Ride in the Forthcoming BMW 7 Series

Today only, BMW and Uber are giving Chicagoans the ride of a lifetime – to be among the first to experience ...

Tuesday, October, 13, 2015

Fall Rally Picks: MAMA Family Vehicle of the Year

Each year during the Chicago Auto Show Media Preview, the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) hosts a ...

Friday, October, 09, 2015

Jeep and Ram Blaze the Trail

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) took MAMA members on a wild ride this past week at the Midwest Automotive Media ...

Friday, October, 09, 2015

Mazda Likes the Power of 3

Mazda is one automaker that follows its own road. For years the Asian iconoclast has built cars that are fun to ...

Thursday, October, 08, 2015

Scion Gets Back to Its Roots

Toyota’s youth-oriented division recently launched two new small cars for 2016, the subcompact iA sedan and ...

Tuesday, September, 29, 2015

Honda, Not Your Average Car Company

In a recent ad campaign Honda has outdone itself. This ad stands out because it highlights Honda’s many ...


11/28/2015 1:23:04 PM

Already excited for The Chicago Auto Show! #resnickautogroup

11/26/2015 8:33:05 AM

Today is a day for giving thanks to those who matter most. So we'd like to thank all of the Chicago Auto Show fans and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! #HappyThanksgiving

11/25/2015 1:38:13 PM

This just in: #CAS16 ticket sales are NOW LIVE! Tag a friend you want to bring to the nation's largest auto show, the Chicago Auto Show (Feb. 13-21), and we'll select one winner each day this week to get free tickets! #TagAFriend

11/25/2015 1:09:38 PM

I really like the new website! Looks great

11/25/2015 9:30:18 AM

In light of #GivingTuesday approaching, if you're planning to donate to any of these 18 local charities this holiday season, consider purchasing a First Look for Charity ticket to get a first look of the nation's largest auto show amid opulence! Visit for more details. #FLFC16

11/23/2015 10:10:45 AM

We asked you to cast your votes for the look of the 2016 Chicago Auto Show, and the jury is in! The official poster this year will be #3

11/23/2015 8:03:04 AM

Starting today (through Jan. 4, 2016), Mazda will donate $150 to a local charity of your choice for every new car purchased or leased through its #MazdaDrive4Good program. Visit to find a dealership near you. To learn more, visit:

11/20/2015 9:30:03 PM

When do tickets go on sale online??? I know it says mid-November on the site...sorry if this has been answered

11/20/2015 8:28:06 AM

Flashback Friday! Did you know? Chicago’s Coliseum was home to the Chicago Auto Show from 1901-1935, where general admission for the public was just 50 cents per ticket

11/19/2015 8:28:03 AM

The struggle is no longer real now that Jaguar has invented a car key system that takes shape around your wrist. The 2017 F-Pace has created a wristband that is water and shockproof! The activity key will be ideal for adventurous consumers. #Jaguar #innovation


11/27/2015 2:03:54 PM

RT @zanymomintx: @ChiAutoShow So...when we get ice in Houston, it's important not to park your cars outside! #FuelCAS

11/26/2015 3:52:09 PM

@ChiAutoShow same here thanks

11/26/2015 3:21:58 PM

The Daily Hoon Twitter Recap is out! Stories via @ChiAutoShow @PrancingHorse27 @autosportnewsf1

11/26/2015 12:02:01 PM

We're encouraging teens to submit PSA ideas for distracted driving dangers; they could win $2K: #DriveSafeChicago

11/26/2015 9:43:27 AM

RT @ChiAutoShow: Today is about giving thanks to those who matter most. We'd like to thank all of the #CAS fans! #happythanksgiving https:/

11/26/2015 8:58:55 AM

RT @ChiAutoShow: Today is about giving thanks to those who matter most. We'd like to thank all of the #CAS fans! #happythanksgiving https:/

11/26/2015 8:33:02 AM

Today is about giving thanks to those who matter most. We'd like to thank all of the #CAS fans! #happythanksgiving

11/25/2015 5:53:54 PM

@nicolmaciata @ChiAutoShow ?? please? ??

11/25/2015 5:09:08 PM

RT @FordMustang: Guess who's going to be at the @ChiAutoShow? The all-new Shelby® GT350! #Ford #Mustang #FordCAS

11/25/2015 4:53:19 PM

@ChiAutoShow @Cameron5770 #CAS16