See the new Ford Explorer and Lexus CT200h

| February 1, 2011

Ford Explorer Class: Midsize Crossover SUV: Drivetrain: Front & All Wheel Drive Starting price: about $28,000 Ford Explorer is totally transformed.

Ford Explorer

With the totally new Explorer, Ford has started over from scratch and opted for a unibody construction vehicle with front wheel drive that will even be offered with a 4 cylinder engine!

Traditionally, the Explorer was a truck base SUV with a burley body on a rugged frame. According to Ford’s market studies, consumers have been deterred from traditional SUV purchases primarily because of fuel costs. Traditional SUV’s have bad gas mileage and most of the public surveyed expects the price of fuel to rise again. So looking forward, the appetite for gas guzzling vehicles is down.

Still, many families need/want a vehicle with abundant interior space, which creates the paradox. Ford’s solution is the totally new Explorer.

The new Explorer is powered by either the standard 3.5 V-6 or the upcoming optional EcoBoost turbocharged 2.0 liter 4 cylinder engine. The power rating of the 2.0 is impressive because it delivers full torque from a low 1,750 rpm’s all the way up to 4,000 rpm’s. But the standard 3.5 V-6 actually offers more horsepower and torque and more towing capacity.   The marketing gamble that Ford is taking is the assumption that the public will pay extra for the smaller, less powerful and less capable Turbo 4 merely because it gets better fuel economy. The V-6 has an EPA 25 mpg highway rating and the Turbo 4 is somewhat higher than that.

The new Explorer is similar in size to a Honda Pilot or the Chevy Traverse. That means it’s a unibody 4-wheel independently suspended vehicle in the 4,500- pound range with three rows of seats and can haul up to seven people.

The interior is spacious and flexible.  The styling is very nice and great attention has been paid to fit, finish and detail.  Soft-touch materials abound and details like doors shutting with a solid authoritative “thud” are there. Interior niceties include navigation and the newest version of Ford’s SYNC driver interface. The accoutrement and materials project a decidedly upscale tone to this Ford’s interior. The vehicle has the same 8.4-inch road clearance as its predecessor, yet entry and exit is comfortable. This vehicle makes no claim to be a rock climbing off-roader but it is confident off-pavement. The 4WD version has four traction settings. The normal mode is a full time on-demand 4-wheel drive system. Even in normal mode, power is shifted front to back and side to side with a torque bias toward the front wheels. The other drive modes are for mud, snow or sand.

The new Explorer is very nicely styled and is a comfortable vehicle. Initial Quality Ratings from Ford have been improving steadily in recent years. The Explorer is a great vehicle for those needing or wanting a modern SUV in this class.

Lexus Ct200h Class: Luxury Compact Hatch Drivetrain: Front Wheel Drive Starting price: about $29,000 This Lexus is full luxury in a compact hybrid package.

Lexus CT200h

Lexus’ newest car, the CT200h, is the entry model in its lineup. It’s best described as a compact touring car with a hybrid drive similar to the one found in the Prius. The result is a pleasant, compact hatchback with Lexus trim that gets an overall 45 miles per gallon economy with virtually zero pollution. The starting price is also just below $30,000, making it affordable to a broader audience.

The CT has room for four and a useful area under the hatch. Rear cargo space measures 14.3 cubic feet, which is very large. The second row of seats also folds flat, yielding more than 32 cubic feet of total volume. The interior trim is deluxe and the seating is comfortable. Navigation is available along with ash, bamboo or metal inlays. A handy universal device holder for phones and music players is offered along with a 120 volt AC power receptacle to keep devices within easy reach and charged. The standard seating material is called NuLuxe, a man-made vinyl-like material that looks like leather. Real leather is an available option. Unfortunately, cooled seats are not offered in this entry-level Lexus.

The CT uses the current hybrid drive technology. This means it has a nickel metal hydride battery and no plug-in technology. This system has proven to be very reliable and delivers excellent fuel economy. Four driving modes are available in the CT. EV mode will run the vehicle in pure electrics for as long as the battery has power. ECO mode optimizes the driving experience to maximize fuel economy, meaning you should plan on slow driving. The Normal mode is the balance between the ECO and Sport mode and is what the car defaults to. The Sport mode gives max acceleration and improved handling. The suspension tightens up and delivers the sensation of more grip and control.

The CT is billed as a sporty car.  From a handling standpoint, that is true but it is not a fast car. Maximum acceleration to 60 is a leisurely 9.8 seconds…yawn! It’s a great cruising car and will take a corner but it’s not going to win many acceleration races.

Not only does the CT excel in styling, interior, handling and quality, but it is also a safe vehicle. Available safety equipment includes Pre-Collision with Adaptive Cruise Control, eight air bags including driver and front passenger knee bags, whiplash injury system, anti lock brakes, brake assist, traction control and stability control. The CT also has a rigid body and the handling prowess to help drivers avoid collisions.

Bottom line is that for an affordable price you can own a Lexus that is luxurious, fun and entertaining to drive, and that also delivers killer fuel economy and zero emissions.

Visit for more information on these models.

Category: More Features, New Automobiles

Comments are closed.