has been famous for V-8 engines since it introduced the country's first low-priced V-8 car in 1932.
But it seems as if it has taken the automaker ages to install a V-8 in its Explorer
truck, which is the world's top-selling sport/utility vehicle. The 1996 Explorer
finally gets a V-8, and I've found it makes the truck considerably smoother, quieter and faster.
The V-8 also gives the Explorer
an upscale image, and image is important to the growing number of luxury car owners who are switching to sport/utilities.
A V-8 sport/utility radiates status and power, while a V-6 model says economy and utility.
V-8 buyers will pay a minimum of $25,990 for this mid-size ``sport/ute.'' And it comes only with two-wheel drive until a four-wheel-drive model joins it next spring. Economy is a mediocre, EPA-estimated 14 m.p.g. in the city and 18 on highways--not that any mid-size or large sport/utility is known for economy. Ford
expects to sell 60,000 Explorer
V-8s this year, out of a total of approximately 400,000 Explorer
s. It felt no urgent need to put a V-8 in the Explorer
until fairly recently, when the popular Jeep Grand Cherokee V-8 began eating into Explorer
sales. Since its debut in March, 1990, the V-6 Explorer
has been a top seller.
The V-6 provides decent performance in town but just adequate acceleration on highways--especially when equipped with power-robbing four-wheel drive. But the Explorer
has been hot because it has been exceptionally roomy and attractive, both inside and out.
's friendly nature has led some buyers, who normally wouldn't consider purchasing a truck, to consider it a big station wagon.
But why not a V-8 for those who have felt the relatively small 4-liter, 160-horsepower V-6 hasn't provided enough power or torque for a heavy, 4,000-pound sport/utility?
For one thing, a V-8 wouldn't fit. For another, Ford
lacked sufficient production capacity to supply its sporty Mustang models with V-8s if the Explorer
also was offered with a V-8.
But the Explorer
got a much-improved new front suspension that allowed room for a V-8 when it got its first major redesign for the 1995 model year.
And installation of a modern 4.6-liter overhead-camshaft V-8 in 1996 Mustangs freed up production for the Explorer
of a modified version of the old-but-potent 5-liter Mustang V-8 at Ford
's Cleveland engine plant.
2000'' plan allowed the company to move quickly in installing the 210-horsepower pushrod V-8. The engine makes the new Explorer
V-8 competitive with the 220-horsepower Jeep Grand Cherokee pushrod V-8 model. Ford
couldn't just stick a V-8 in the Explorer
, despite the roomier engine compartment. To make things fit precisely, it rummaged through its corporate parts bins to come up with items such as new engine induction and exhaust systems.
V-8 is plenty quick, doing 0-to-60 m.p.h. in 8.5 seconds. But it isn't meant to be a hot-rod truck because buyers of V-8 sport/utilities are after things such as refinement, safe highway passing and good trailer towing abilities. Ford
tried a bunch of truck camshafts to get the right horsepower/torque relationship that would make those buyers happy.
With more than 200 horsepower and 280 foot-pounds of torque, the Explorer
V-8 provides quick 65-75 m.p.h. passing and can tow a whopping 6,700 pounds, which is the highest weight in its class.
The V-8 produces too much torque for the standard Explorer
automatic transmission, so the heavier-duty four-speed automatic from Ford
's Thunderbird was installed.
V-8 can be had only as a four-door XLT model with two-wheel drive. Explorer
V-8 models with four-wheel drive won't arrive until winter ends because Ford
didn't have time to develop a proper system to go with the V-8.
Base prices of Explorer
s range from $19,750 to $34,750. The XLT stickers at $23,705, but the lowest-priced Explorer
V-8 costs $25,990. That's because one must order the XLT with the $760 V-8, $945 automatic transmission, $350 trailer towing package and $230 all-terrain tires.
Still, the Explorer
V-8 is by far the best Explorer