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2011 Ford Explorer


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.

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?

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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."

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.

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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.

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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.

The parking lot: Where idiocy is king Welcome to the magical land where anything goes and rules are for fools, writes Andrew Clark


2011 Ford Explorer EcoBoost

2010 Toyota Highlander FWD base

2010 Mazda CX-9 G5 FWD

Wheelbase (mm)




Length (mm)




Width (mm)




Height (mm)





2.0-litre, four-cylinder, EdoBoost turbocharging

2.7-litre, four-cylinder

3.7-litre V-6

Output (hp)


237 hp

250 lb-ft

187 hp

186 lb-ft

273 hp

250 lb-ft

Drive system





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)




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About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More

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