Ford previews upcoming Explorer's intelligent 4WD system

Ford is giving us a glimpse of the upcoming Explorer by previewing its intelligent 4WD system, which they have called the Terrain Management System.

The Terrain Management System is similar to what you get on a Land Rover: you pick from several modes using a knob, with each mode designed for a different situation. The goal of this system was apparently to “demistify” 4WD, as many Explorer buyers didn’t understand the previous system. This system has clearly achieved its goal, with descriptive pictures representing each mode on the selection knob. The available modes are:

  • Normal: For driving under normal conditions
  • Snow: This limits the torque to the wheels for snowy and slippery conditions.
  • Sand: Sand mode optimizes torque for increased traction in deep sand and rutted conditions.
  • Mud: This mode will allow wheel spin for momentum to build in slippery and muddy conditions.

The knob also has a Hill Descent button in the middle. Press this button on a steep incline and the car will creep down without any driver input, apart from steering.

This system has allowed the car to become lighter, as it eliminated the need for a transfer case and various driveline components. This will help contribute to the next Explorer V6s fuel economy, which is estimated to be 25 percent better than the current model.

The new Explorer will go into production later this year. We’ll make sure you know when it’s revealed.

Note: Slight formatting issue with the picture in the press release, we can’t do anything about it. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Press Release


  • The all-new Ford Explorer features an intelligent four-wheel-drive (4WD) control system that optimizes vehicle capability to specific situations
  • The Ford terrain management system integrates powertrain and braking controls to provide appropriate traction for any driving conditions the roads and climate present
  • Terrain management is activated by a console-mounted, switchable knob, enabling 4WD control through an intuitive choice of settings for various conditions
  • Terrain management helps Explorer deliver increased fuel economy by eliminating heavy transfer case and driveline components, while making 4WD capabilities more accessible

DEARBORN, Mich., April 15, 2010 – When the all-new Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle goes in to production later this year, it will offer an advanced terrain management system that takes the mystery out of four-wheel drive by optimizing powertrain behavior for specific situations and road conditions.

“Talking with customers told us that flexibility and freedom to tackle any road, anytime is important to them,” said Explorer Chief Nameplate Engineer Jim Holland. “We saw the opportunity to eliminate a compromise by adding an intuitive and efficient terrain management system that can demystify four-wheel-drive control and enable the driver to properly match 4WD traction to the situations and road conditions they encounter.”

Anecdotal customer feedback indicated the potential for driver confusion with previous systems as to the best use of 4×4 high- and low-range engagement.

Ford Explorer with intelligent 4WD and terrain management eliminates guesswork, using simple icons to help drivers choose the correct setting at the simple turn of a dial for the climate or surface situation they may be driving. The icons depict the various settings to best suit driving conditions:

Snow: For snow and slippery conditions. Limits torque to wheels to prevent

Sand: For deep sand and
rutted conditions. Optimizes torque for increased traction

Mud: For slippery, muddy conditions. Allows wheel spin for momentum build

Hill Descent: For Creeping down steep inclines, without using the brake pedal

Normal: For all regular driving under normal road conditions.

“One of our goals with the new Explorer is to deliver four-wheel-drive capability with easier and intuitively operated control,” said Holland. “The selectable settings are contingent upon weather and conditions, so the system is easily operated and understood. Ford terrain management makes it easier for SUV veterans, while making confidence-building Explorer capability even more accessible to segment newcomers.”

Employment of intelligent 4WD with Ford terrain management allowed Explorer engineers to deliver the “any road, anytime” capabilities that SUV buyers expect, while eliminating weight.

Less driveline mass helps the new Explorer with V-6 power deliver an estimated 25 percent better fuel economy than the 2010 model.

“Intelligent 4WD with terrain management works by optimizing Explorer powertrain and braking systems to best suit a variety of situations, allowing vehicle behavior characteristics to provide appropriate traction and driver control,” said Holland. “We anticipate the system will really be a stress-reducer and confidence-builder, especially when driving in adverse conditions.”

The re-engineered Ford Explorer goes in to production later this year.

Source: Ford

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