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Explore the New Ford Explorer

When the Explorer first hit the road in 1991, it was a game-changer for Ford . The SUV (a now-common acronym that didn’t exist until then) was an immediate success with buyers. It combined luxury car amenities (leather seats, an upscale audio system with CD player, etc.) with a high driving position, some 81 cubic feet of cargo capacity and off-the-road toughness.

“It is simply a fantastic car,” says Dominic Franchella, owner of Stamford Ford Lincoln Mercury. He might be just a little biased, but the car speaks for itself.

Although its popularity has ebbed and flowed throughout the past 20 years, the Explorer has re-emerged for 2011 as a standout vehicle for aesthetics, gas mileage, ease of driving, and most importantly, safety. In fact the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently bestowed the honor of “Top Safety Pick” to the Explorer because its enhanced structural refinements allow extra protection to passengers in the event of a rollover crash.

But the car has so much more going for it than being a structural Sherman tank. “It's perfect for families, as it sits seven,” says Dominic. The cabin, which has a distinctively modern flavor, has been redesigned with more shoulder and hip-room for all passengers -- front and back. And as an extra bonus, Ford includes in the Explorer its latest technological treats, including Sync, MyTouch and MyKey . “Using touch controls and voice commands, the Explorer’s MyFord Touch provides intuitive, easy-to-use ways to access the vehicle’s systems,” says Dominic.

MyTouch is driver connect technology and MyKey is a teen safety feature that lets parents limit a (young) driver’s top speed. Additionally, according to Dominic, the Explorer is “wider and longer than the previous design, and has an aerodynamic shape for optimal fuel efficiency.”

Another feather in the Explorer’s safety cap is the inflatable second-row seatbelt airbag system (a first for the automotive industry), which promises to improve safety for smaller backseat occupants. Also new is Ford's Curve Control, which was designed to enhance braking if the car exhibits signs of excessive speed while turning.

The 2011 Ford Explorer drives well, offers good fuel economy and sports the versatility that drew people to SUVs some 20 years ago. If you’re thinking SUV, explore the Explorer.

Have you explored the Explorer yet? Are you an SUV-driver? What kind? Why do you like driving it? Let me know here.

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