2006 Ford Explorer
By Bob Plunkett
Date Posted: 1/16/2006
SARANAC LAKE, N.Y. -- Curvy blacktop stretches along the ragged shore of Saranac
Lake in New York's scenic Adirondack Park, where we're testing the non-skid traction
capability of a luxurious new Eddie Bauer edition of Explorer, Ford's mid-size SUV
which scores a make-over for 2006.
Although a mist coming off the lake deposits a thin coat of water on the road to
create a slippery surface, Explorer's nubby all-terrain tires -- working through the
active Control Trac four-wheel-drive (4WD) traction mechanism -- stick with a
confidence-inspiring grip as the vehicle demonstrates its dexterity in zipping through
A robust new tube-through-tube frame that's stronger and far less flexible than the
previous chassis becomes a core ingredient for the 2006 Explorer, and it carries a
suspension system rarely found on a truck -- there are independent components
suspending the rear wheels as well as the front ones.
These structural changes to the chassis and suspension of Explorer dramatically
affect the wagon's ride and handling characteristics.
It's smooth and settled now like it's a part of the road and, when pitched into the
face of a hard corner, Explorer reacts with a flat stance to forge a stable track
through the curve without tossing the structure off-center or unsettling riders
The new issues of Explorer feature fresh styling outside and a revamped layout for a
cabin, with powerful new engine choices and more safety gear aboard.
Explorer looks muscular in the new design posed in tall stance with a bold face,
curvy bulges on the sides around wheelwells and large squarish headlamp clusters
on front corners flanking a big grille in the shape of an inverted trapezoid.
Overall, it's an eye-catching design of crisp angles and complex curves blending
together to provide a unique statement for one powerful SUV.
Explorer's name traces back to its inception in 1990 as the first sport-utility wagon to
provide cushy comforts and push-button conveniences of a conventional sedan.
A second generational design in 1995 introduced a short-and-long-arm (SLA)
independent front suspension to replace the original cumbersome twin I-beam
New designs for Explorer in 2002 brought a longer and wider chassis with the SLA
independent suspension applied to rear wheels in a concise mechanical scheme that
not only generated a smoother and more controlled ride quality but liberated
undercarriage space at the rear for the addition of an optional third-row bench seat
that folds into the floor of the cargo bay.
For the re-make of Explorer of 2006, however, Ford goes further by forging the rigid
new frame, adding precise mechanisms to improve ride and handling traits, packing
more insulation aboard for a quiet cabin environment, piling on more plush gear to
enhance passenger comfort and more safety systems to protect them, then
overhauling trim tiers and price points to deliver more SUV for less dollars.
There are two-wheel-drive (2WD) and 4WD versions with equipment increasing
through trim designations of XLS, XLT, Eddie Bauer and Limited.
Inside, the spacious cabin reveals new decorative trimwork, a revised instrument
panel with stylish gauges, plus firm bucket seats on the front row.
Seats configure three ways with a capacity of five or six or seven.
Explorer with five seats stocks a Row 2 bench split 60/40 with fold-down seatbacks.
Explorer with six seats shows twin buckets on Row 2 divided by a console and a
bench on Row 3 split 50/50 with fold-down seatbacks.
Explorer with seven seats gets the three-seat bench on Row 2 and the two-seat
bench on Row 3.
The optional PowerFold seat on Row 3 applies push-button controls to drop
seatbacks flat against the floor.
Issues of personal safety are addressed with strong structural elements and energy-
absorbing crush zones front and rear plus a variety of safety systems aboard.
All trim versions contain dual-stage frontal air bags for front riders plus side-impact
Explorer also offers roll-over protection via Ford's Safety Canopy curtain-style side
air bags for first and second rows that will deploy if on-board sensors detect roll-over
movement of the vehicle.
Gear promoting active safety includes a fast rack and pinion steering mechanism and
standard four-wheel disc brakes, an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic
brake force distribution (EBD) and Ford's AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control
(RSC) anti-skid equipment.
The optional 4WD Control Trac system also relates to safety, as the mechanism has
an automatic mode that monitors grip for all wheels and can selectively distribute
traction between front and rear wheels to maintain tire bite on slippery roads -- like
our route around Saranac Lake. Push-button controls allow the driver to lock the
system in high or low range of 4WD for off-road travel.
Powertrain upgrades apply to the 2006 Explorer.
The standard engine, a 4.0-liter single-cam V6, gets a new camshaft and variable
valve timing plus improved emission controls to achieve ULEV II status. It produces
210 hp at 5100 rpm with strong torque dispersed evenly across the range of engine
speeds up to 254 lb-ft at 3700 rpm.
Tied to the V6 is a five-speed automatic which uses adaptive shift logic through
The optional engine, a new aluminum V8 plant in single-cam design with 4.6-liter
displacement and three valves per cylinder, punches out 292 hp at 5750 rpm plus
big torque of 300 lb-ft at 3950 rpm.
The V8 mates exclusively with a new six-speed electronic automatic that improves
fuel economy figures and elevates Explorer's trailer towing capacity to 7300 pounds.
Explorer in base XLS trim carries ample equipment -- air conditioning and power
controls for windows and locks and mirrors, keyless entry and cruise control, a
message center, compass and thermometer, tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS)
and an audio system with AM/FM/CD-MP3.
Explorer XLT brings more gear, like chrome touches and foglamps plus power
controls for front buckets. Explorer Eddie Bauer adds running boards and roof rails,
leather and wood in the cabin and an optional luxury package with deluxe sound
system, although the Limited goes further with a monochromatic appearance
package, heated front seats and more.
Prices, pitched lower than for comparably equipped 2005 issues, begin at $26,530
for the Explorer XLS 2WD.
| Vehicle Specifications:
| 2006 FORD EXPLORER Specs
||Mid-size 4-door SUV
| Model Options:
||Mid-size 4-door SUV
| Overall Length:
| Engine Size:
||SOHC 4.0-L V6, SOHC 4.6-L V8
||V6: Auto/5, V8: Auto/6
||2WD/Rear, 4WD/Control Trac
||Power 4-disc, ABS/EBD/RSC/AdvanceTrac/TPMS
||2 (front), 2 (side), plus opt. 4 (side curtain)
| Towing Capacity:
||V8: 7300 pounds
| Gas Mileage:
||V8 2WD: 15/21 mpg, V8 4WD: 14/20 mpg
||$ 26,530 to $ 38,050