Motoring: A bit of US excess
Roadtest: the Ford Explorer By James May
Saturday 01 February 1997
In its Explorer, Ford has a ready-made response. Conversion to right- hand drive and a bit of gentle Europeanising - mostsignificantly the switch from column to floor-mounted gear change - has been enough to modify a US best-seller for this market. And it remains obviously American: auto box only, a bit garish at the front, sitting on chromed wheels and kinda big all over.
In the States there is a V8 version; here we get a V6 heavily revised from a pushrod to overhead cam layout and delivering a healthy 206bhp. The gearbox is a five-speeder and the four-wheel drive hardware features a convincing, electronically controlled transfer box which automatically alters the torque split front-to-rear in its on-road setting. Should anyone want to venture into the mud, the off-roader can be locked to give a 50/50 split and high and low ratios. Even without a manual box and diff locks, it will tackle impressive terrain.
In its more natural road-going habitat, the Explorer is really quite impressive for a vehicle whose design requirements count against it. For an American car, the steering is refreshingly meaty, especially compared to the Jeep's - though the tall, weighty Explorer will still feel ponderous in fast bends. The engine is eager, if a bit noisy, and the auto-box shifts smoothly and intelligently, save for a reluctance to kick down from its overdrive top. This is best switched out on windy roads.
The interior is even more of a relief for anyone familiar with crunchy, oft-chromed American switch gear. It's big but toned in the best Ford tradition, and quite sober. The seats are very good indeed and rear accommodation is generous, but then it should be as this is a gigantic "car". Don't expect a limousine ride, though chunky tyres and the requirement for the suspension to cope with disused quarries and the like mean you will be gently pummelled.
In the role of a normal car the Explorer makes no more sense than any other big off-roader - which is not much, to be frank. But as a bit of American excess, it does nicely.
Ford Explorer pounds 25,375 SOHC 4.0-litre V6, 206bhp, five-speed automatic gearbox. Top speed 106mph, 0-60mph 10.9sec, average fuel consumption 20.6mpg
Jeep Grand Cherokee 4.0 Limited, pounds 28,995
Even more obviously American than the Ford: stealth bomber styling and a slightly un-European interior. With its smaller Cherokee sibling, the trend-setter for "sport utes" (utility vehicles) in the UK.
Mitsubishi Shogun 3.0 V6 5-door, pounds 27,059
Japan's attempt at a red-neck, and convincing at that. Chunky and glitzy on the outside, a bit clinical and Oriental within.
Land Rover Discovery 3.9 V8 S 5-door, pounds 24,475
The British stalwart. Compared with the American approach, this reveals its utilitarian roots: boxy styling and something of a hose-down interior. The engine - of distant American origin, ironically - is gutsy; the Discovery excels at real off-roading.
Life & Style blogs
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: 'Nine Britons, 23 Americans and 80 children' feared dead after Boeing passenger jet is 'shot down' near Ukraine-Russia border
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
- 1 Apple has installed security backdoors on 600m iPhones and iPads, claims security researcher
- 2 Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Pro-Russian rebel 'admits to shooting down plane'
- 4 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...
£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A unique and rare opport...
£35000 - £40000 Per Annum plus 23 days holiday and pension scheme: Clearwater ...
£260 - £325 per day: Progressive Recruitment: IT Trainer: E-Commerce Experienc...