Ford Crosses Over With New Explorer

The Ford Explorer, an American sport utility icon, has gone through a transformation.

Citing the demands of car buyers and a changing market, Ford (Stock Quote: F) has made a drastic change to the popular vehicle’s design, giving up the more rugged stance, off-road capabilities and towing capacity of an SUV in favor of better fuel efficiency and an updated look, analysts say.

“The market has clearly spoken: [SUVs] are no longer ‘in’ for the mainstream consumer,” says Bernard Swiecki, senior project manager at the Center for Automotive Research.

Most car experts define an SUV as a vehicle that’s built on a full truck frame. The new Explorer, however, falls into the realm of the CUV, or crossover utility vehicle. It’s built on a Ford Taurus platform, notes The Detroit Free Press.

Since it will no longer be built with the structure of a truck, the new Explorer will be lower to the ground and is expected to have better gas mileage and a smoother ride, Swiecki says. And while it won’t be quite as rugged as previous versions, it should be just fine for your average suburban driver, he adds.

But while older Explorer enthusiasts may scoff at the fact that the car is built on a sedan platform, it’s technically not considered a station wagon.

While a crossover may have the same general shape of a wagon, a wagon is really just a sedan with a bigger trunk and a hatch in the back, Swiecki explains.

SUVs generally have a higher ground clearance, higher stance and better road visibility than a sedan or wagon, and a CUV basically has the same look, profile and silhouette as a traditional SUV but sits lower, explains Mike Jackson, director of North American vehicle forecasts at IHS Automotive. And automakers seem to have been doing well with the happy medium of the CUV, which includes models like the Ford Escape, the Honda CR-V (Stock Quote: HMC) and the Toyota Rav-4 (Stock Quote: TM).

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