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2011 Ford Explorer (Ford Ford)
2011 Ford Explorer (Ford Ford)

What Car?

Should I sign on Ford's dotted line? Add to ...

Hello Michael and Jeremy:

I was right on the verge of signing for a new Explorer. I've had my present one for eight years and mostly love it, but repairs bills are getting me down. I was about to sign on the dotted line for a new 2010 at an amazing price when I saw in the newspaper today that there's a brand-new one with 30 per cent improvement in fuel economy. I don't remember the salesman telling me that.

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So my question is this: Do I buy the 2010 at a deep, deep discount or wait for the new one with a 30 per cent improvement in fuel economy?

Russell

Cato: Russell, you love your Explorers, don't you? Lately, you've been in a small and shrinking club. Ford Canada once sold 20,000 Explorers a year; now it's 4,000 or so. Ford USA once sold 400,000-plus Explorers, now that is more like 50,000.

With those numbers in plain sight, Ford has gone through a philosophical shift - the new model is the city-fied Explorer based on the Taurus car platform. As Ford spokesperson Said Deep says, "Will it rock-crawl? If you want to rock-crawl, there is another brand for that."

2010 Toyota Highlander

Vaughan: Cato, long-winded as usual, is now a philosopher. Let's end this dissertation right now: Russell, buy the old one and beat that salesman into the ground. Whatever he's offered - take 10 per cent off.

Cato: Vaughan, my cheapskate, Luddite friend, you're totally insensitive to technological change - and how Ford is using it to print money these days. Did you see Ford's second-quarter profits? We're talking $2.6-billion (U.S.).

The old Ford Explorer was a money-making work of genius - a Ranger pickup truck with a car body on top of it. In the golden years, every Explorer was worth $10,000 in profits. Ford used those profits to buy Land Rover and Volvo and beef up Jaguar and fund a Premier Automotive Group strategy and generally throw money into the ditch.

Nonetheless, today, 20 years later and six million sold, Ford has figured out the need for a new corporate paradigm - fuel economy and user-friendly technology at the forefront, along with high quality. The Explorer goes down that path.

2010 Mazda CX-9

Vaughan: Eeesh. Now it's a paradigm. Cato, listen. Rusty's all pumped up about a 30 per cent improvement in fuel economy. But it's 30 per cent off a horrible base. Those old Explorers were guzzlers extraordinaire. That's why they've gone the way of the dinosaurs.

And another thing - you get the 30 per cent improvement only if you buy the four-cylinder Explorer. Yes, it's a direct-injection, turbocharged four-banger - which I'm totally in favour of - but what it costs to purchase I have no idea; they haven't told us. Ford trumpets the 30 per cent but they don't tell you what it costs. Russell, I repeat, buy the old one at a deep discount.

Cato: Wrong. There is more to this story than Vaughan's obsession with the bottom line. The new Explorer is lighter, more aerodynamic, has a better power-to-weight ratio and is absolutely loaded with new technology. Take those inflatable seat belts for the kids in the back. And what about all those voice-activated commands with the Sync system.

Vaughan: Now he loves technology. Cato is the one who couldn't figure out BMW's iDrive, although it had been successfully beta-tested on chimpanzees.

Cato: You, my banana-chomping friend, are one chimp who was completely flummoxed by iDrive.

Back to the Explorer where we belong: it has Curve Control, an automatic stability control system. Yes, before you jump in, this exists because of the Explorer's rollover problem a decade ago.

Russell, Vaughan is a penny-pincher and always focuses on the purchase price - not the intrinsic value.

Vaughan: Cato, next to you I'm the second coming of Benjamin Graham. I look for mispriced assets - not the next, newest, greatest whatever.

The old, actually current, Explorer might be last year's fashion, but it's still the most popular SUV ever and Ford - having drunk the Kool-Aid just like you - is practically giving them away to clear them out. Rusty, it would take you years to make up the difference in higher purchase price through lower fuel costs.

Cato: At long last, let's get to some facts. The standard model comes with a 290-horsepower, 3.5-litre V-6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The 237-hp, turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder will be available only with front-wheel drive, not with the optional four-wheel-drive system. All Explorers have power windows, locks and mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control, air conditioning and that Curve Control that I mentioned.

Vaughan: Cato is superb at making lists. Now Rusty, if you're shopping around, and it doesn't sound like you are, check out the Toyota Highlander and Mazda CX-9.

Cato: Those are two car-based crossover, just like the new Explorer.

Vaughan: Well, Rusty can also look at the Toyota 4Runner if you wants a super-rugged SUV.

Cato: One more important point, Russell.

The new Explorer won't be available until some time this winter. Here I find myself agreeing with Vaughan - AAHHHH!!!

Russ, don't sign on the dotted line yet. Think about it and let that anxious salesman think about it, too. The great deals on the current Explorer might get even better.

Vaughan: Touché.

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 2 p.m. on CTV.

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HOW THEY COMPARE



2011 Ford Explorer EcoBoost

2010 Toyota Highlander FWD base

2010 Mazda CX-9 G5 FWD

Wheelbase (mm)

2,860

2,790

2,875

Length (mm)

5,006

4,785

5,101

Width (mm)

2,291

1,920

1,936

Height (mm)

1,788

1,730

1,728

Engine

2.0-litre, four-cylinder, EdoBoost turbocharging

2.7-litre, four-cylinder

3.7-litre V-6

Output (hp)

(torque)

237 hp

250 lb-ft

187 hp

186 lb-ft

273 hp

250 lb-ft

Drive system

Front-wheel

Front-wheel

Front-wheel

Transmission

Six-speed automatic

Six-speed automatic

Six-speed automatic

Fuel economy

(litres/100 km)

12.4 city

9.0 highway

10.4 city

7.3 highway



13.4 city

9.1 highway



Base price (MSRP)

$34,000 (estimated)

$33,250

$37,995

SOURCE: CAR MANUFACTURERS

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

 

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