2006 Ford Explorer

An Exercise in Secret Rebellion

By Robert Farago

The days when you bought a big burly SUV and pretended to be a rugged outdoorsy type– even as you struggled to squeeze out of the behemoth without losing your dignity– are officially gone.  According to the straight press, high gas prices have convinced American motorists to drop-kick their SUV through the goal posts of life.  But c’mon, you and I know better.  SUV’s were dead a long time ago.  They’re more ‘80’s than A Flock of Seagulls.  And I raaaaaaannnnnn… Ran and bought a Ford Explorer.

OK, I didn’t.  I’m so backwards on my Porsche Cayenne I put it into reverse to go forwards.  Anyway, hear me out.  If you want to be way ahead of the automotive fashion curve, get behind it.  In other words, the perfect time to buy a gas guzzler like the new Ford Explorer is when the genre is as socially acceptable as a drag queen in a fundamentalist gospel quartet.  Maybe it’s because I’ve learned to find liberation in revulsion, or perhaps I’m just hiding my ethnic imperative to get the world’s largest new car discount, but I reckon there’s nothing quite as chic as driving a machine that everyone else hates.

OK; this is where it gets a bit tricky.  While the new Ford Explorer earns its enmity by dint of its horrific fuel consumption, traveling just 12 real urban warfare miles per gallon of gas, it’s pretty much invisible.  From a design standpoint, a Bic razor has more personality.  Ed Bagley Jr. (Prius-driving loon that he is) has more charisma.  Dunkin’ Donuts has more panache.  An Explorer may be less politically correct than smoking a Cuban cigar in a pediatric hospital, but you’re the only one who’ll notice.  Driving one is an exercise in secret rebellion.  And who amongst us can’t relate to that?

Fortunately, gas cash is the only sacrifice required.  The Blue Oval Boys have done a remarkable job transforming the Explorer from a cheap and nasty crash-bang-wallop truck to a suave and sophisticated luxury-car-on-stilts.  Sure, the Explorer can still climb every mountain and follow every rainbow, but it’s now a suitable carriage for nature-aversive prima donnas.  Credit the Explorer’s kinkily christened, tube-through-tube chassis for its wonderfully solid yet compliant ride. 

The Explorer also benefits from a new, more powerful V8, married to a six-speed autobox so smooth you’d swear it was churning moisturizer rather than swapping cogs.  The disc brakes are also superb; they’re amongst the most powerful and communicative stoppers I’ve ever had the pleasure of pressing.  

The Explorer’s interior is modern, bright and cheery: the automotive equivalent of a mid-town Manhattan sushi restaurant.  It’s also all very hush-hush, thanks to the deployment of enough sound deadening material to kill disco (finally!).  And the SUV’s push-button, tippy-up third row fits genuine adults– great for those times when you’re the designated dandy.

So can you see yourself behind the wheel of a non-descript, gas-guzzling, Ford SUV?  Before you answer that question, answer this: what would Jesus drive?  ‘Nuff said?

Model Tested: Explorer Eddie Bauer Edition

Engine: 4.6-liter SOHC V8, with 3 valves per cylinder, variable camshaft timing

Horsepower: 292 hp @ 5,750 rpm

Torque: 300 ft.-lbs. @ 3,950 rpm

Drive Type:  four-wheel-drive

Price as Tested: $34,845

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