Motoring: A bit of US excess

Roadtest: the Ford Explorer By James May

Hardly anyone really goes off-roading in the UK. Yet there is now a steady market for such vehicles, and a healthy enthusiasm for the American "sport utility" interpretation of the genre. Consider the success of Jeep in the UK: unashamedly American cars are selling well.

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.

Specifications

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

Rivals

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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Polish Speaking Buying Assistant

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Superb opportunity for a BUYING...

    Recruitment Genius: Support Worker

    £14560 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers personalise...

    Recruitment Genius: Key Account Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A really exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Multi Trade Operative

    £22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An established, family owned de...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project