2006 Ford Explorer Interior/Exterior

     Special Features

    2006 Ford Explorer Interior/Exterior


    Since its inception, Explorer’s balance of exterior size and interior package defined the mid-size sport utility vehicle (SUV) as a vehicle suited not just for hunting, fishing and camping, but also for carrying people. Its design also has defined the segment, with consistent cues throughout its 15-year history: the bold grille, body color C-pillars and black wrap around D-pillars, the integrated wheel lips and running boards, and the Eddie Bauer models with two-tone paint.

    “The Explorer really is an icon: If you think of an SUV, chances are you think of the Explorer,” says Chelsia Lau, Explorer chief designer. “In our latest research, customers first critiqued non-branded Explorers. When we added the Ford oval, customer responses were dramatically more positive — this is the instant perception that comes with 15 years of leadership.

    We really wanted to reinforce Explorer’s truck heritage, which from the beginning gave it strength and credibility. The design brief had ‘bold’ and ‘rugged’ all over it, a clear connection with the Built Ford Tough F-150. We were very particular about the preservation of its classic attributes as we injected a fresh, energetic touch, capturing the Explorer’s rugged spirit to make that classic look bolder and stronger.”

    The Explorer is leading Ford’s differentiation between crossover offerings and traditional SUVs. Customers view these vehicle segments differently, and their reasons for purchase are also different:

    “We define our target customers for Explorer as ‘sensation seekers,” says Chris Feuell, SUV group marketing manager. “They are goal-oriented, seeking to constantly challenge themselves and they are doers, as opposed to spectators. They want an SUV that looks the part and keeps pace with their busy and active lifestyle, whether for hiking, camping, taking roadtrips to the national parks or carrying pets. So we’ve redesigned the new Explorer, and realigned our series offerings, to fit buyer’s busy lives, while still enabling them to seek out excitement when the opportunity arises.”

    The 2006 Explorer is all new from the
    A-pillars forward, with a bolder character to fit its increased capability and SUV heritage.

    The 2006 Explorer features the same footprint, solid proportions and planted stance as the outgoing model. However, the new Explorer has a much larger presence, due to the all-new, bold front clip, the powerdome hood, the more pronounced wheel lips, the bumper overriders and the strong geometric graphics in the lamps. These changes visually communicate power, capability and durability, reinforcing Explorer’s authentic SUV roots.

    This emphasis on the Explorer’s rugged, truck-based character is for a large part inspired by the influx of crossovers in the segment.

    “The 2006 Explorer is really at the forefront of Ford’s positioning differentiation between traditional, more capable SUVs and crossovers,” says Feuell. “As the crossover market grows, it’s important to clearly differentiate between the two. The customers view them as different products, and their reasons for buying them are different as well. So you will see much more alignment with Ford’s traditional SUVs and pickups from a design standpoint, from a capability standpoint and to some extent from a communications standpoint.”

    Big, bold — and chrome — grilles inspired by F-Series pickups

    The 2006 Explorer’s most noticeable exterior statement is its all-new front end, from the base of the windshield forward. The new grilles, with three distinct styles wrapping the larger seven-inch Ford blue oval, make the strongest statement.

    “Since the introduction of the new F-150 in 2003,” says Lau, “we have used the F-Series’ grilles to communicate the toughness of Ford trucks and to serve as a differentiator among series. Now, we’re applying that same approach to the Explorer.”

    The 2006 Explorer accomplishes this by utilizing three grille themes:

    The chrome-finished, four-bar grille bracketed by aggressive nostrils is unique to the 2006 Explorer Eddie Bauer trim level.

    • XLS uses onyx grey for both its upper and lower grille openings. The upper carries four full-width horizontal bars while the lower grille is open. The horizontal bars establish a strong geometric flavor for Explorer’s new face.
    • XLT and Limited also feature four horizontal bars in the upper grille. In addition, the lower grille incorporates a single horizontal accent bar. For these two series both the upper and lower grilles are chrome.
    • Chrome also is used for the Eddie Bauer edition. In this case, the upper opening carries a bolder, three-bar grille bracketed by nostrils. This design was first seen on the Mighty
      F-350 Tonka concept truck in 2002, and now is used on production F-Series Super Duty models and certain trim levels of the F-150, such as the new 2005 F-150 King Ranch. “This grille,” says Lau, “perfectly fits the most rugged member of a rugged family.” The lower grille of the Eddie Bauer is also a unique single horizontal bar design.

    “Our ‘grille strategy’ asserts the toughness and truck capability of the sales leader,” said Patrick Schiavone, design director, Ford North America Truck, at the time the 2006 Explorer was being styled (Schiavone is now responsible for Ford car design). “We definitely wanted to move the excitement needle up a notch with the grille on the new Explorer. The result is a look that symbolizes Explorer’s strength but with an underlying tone of sophistication that really gives this truck aspirational qualities. We call it ‘tough luxury.'”

    Powerdome hood, geometric lights and tailored bumper complete
    “tough luxury”

    Complementing the “tough luxury” look of the Explorer’s new front end is a bumper that emphasizes the strength of the vehicle. To accommodate the longer dimensions of Explorer’s all-new, stouter frame

    “Ribbons” on the powerdome hood neatly connect edges of the central bumper overrider.

    (for improved protection in frontal impacts), the bumper features a central overrider section. Not only does this convey a tailored strength that is part of Explorer’s heritage, it also delivers a more aspirational appearance by lessening front overhang at the corners.

    As with all Explorers since the 2002 model year, the bumper on the 2006 Explorer is set at a level compatible with many passenger cars. This safety feature is designed to help to reduce damage to cars in common slow-speed incidents and to allow lower vehicles’ energy-absorbing bumpers to do their work.

    Adding to the grille’s prominence is a chiseled chamfer, or “ribbon,” that runs along either side new aluminum hood’s powerdome. The ribbon begins near the base of the windshield and runs forward, following the power bulge as it cascades to meet the grille. On its downward run, the ribbon flanks the grille opening until reaching the top of the bumper. The hood is a great indicator of the new, more-powerful, 292-horsepower V-8 engine.

    The new headlights feature geometric details, such as sharp horizontal lines in the lenses and jeweled reflectors.

    Also flanking the grille are new dual-beam headlights. The rounded areas for each beam’s reflectors continue the geometric theme of the grille. Another geometric touch is the way the inside edge of the clear portion of the headlight lens parallels the grille’s outer edge.

    The new headlights also incorporate the side-marker lights and turn signals. A geometric layout is apparent here as well. This area of the lens sports numerous crisp horizontal lines that add an extra dimension and help emphasize the strong stance of the 2006 Ford Explorer.

    Below the bumper face and flanking the lower grille opening on each side are rectangular areas that echo the geometric shape of the headlights. On XLT, Eddie Bauer and Limited trim levels, these areas are fitted with standard fog lamps.

    Integrated running boards and available 18-inch wheels create a cleaner,
    stronger profile

    “Subtle but significant changes to the Eddie Bauer model’s side profile reveal a new approach in cladding treatment,” says Lau. “The wheel lips and running boards, enhanced by the Pueblo Gold paint, are neatly integrated, creating a clean connection from the front to the rear.”

    The look of the running boards (step bars for XLS) and wheel lip moldings is keyed to the appearance of the all-new roof side rails used on each trim level:

    • XLT features black running boards with molded-in color to coordinate with its black roof side rails
    • Eddie Bauer versions sport running boards painted with Pueblo Gold to go along with its silver-painted roof side rails
    • Limited models use body-color painted running boards to play off the chrome roof rails

    The 2006 Ford Explorer profile is defined by wrap-under doors, neatly integrated running boards and roof rails, and available 18-inch wheels.

    The section height of the roof rail is larger for a stronger appearance. The center and end mounting-rail brackets are heftier than before. The end brackets also serve as caps that give the rails a stout yet tailored appearance and echo the shape of the ends of the running boards and step bars.

    The running boards remain functional yet unobtrusive. As with the previous Explorer, the outer edge of the running board does not project much beyond the outermost point of the Explorer’s sheet metal. Nonetheless, there is still plenty of room to step on the running boards because the door bottoms and rocker panels tuck inward toward the center of the vehicle.

    This inward tuck also helps keep passengers’ pant legs clean when entering or leaving an Explorer that’s recently made a run down a muddy two-track.

    New, chrome-finished 18-inch wheels are a perfect accent to the chrome grilles offered on Eddie Bauer (shown) and Limited models.

    The profile is completed by one of six available sets of wheels. The XLS is standard with 16-inch, five-spoke steel wheels. The XLT comes standard with 16-inch, machined-aluminum six-spoke wheels, or available 17-inch, machined-aluminum five-spoke wheels. A unique, 17-inch, painted-aluminum split-five-spoke wheel is standard on Eddie Bauer models. A strong, five-spoke, chromed 17-inch wheel is included on Limited models.

    However, the designers’ choice is the optional 18-inch, split-six-spoke chromed wheels optional on the Eddie Bauer and Limited models. These are the first 18-inch wheels offered on Explorer.

    “The 18-inch wheels really make the truck stand out,” says Lau. “The larger wheels and strong spoke design completes the bolder, more rugged, more capable appearance of the 2006 Explorer. And the chrome finish sets off the monochromatic finish of the Limited models, while it complements the chromed grille of Eddie Bauer models.”

    New taillamps and liftgate echo the strong lines of the front end.

    Like the front of the 2006 Explorer, the rear infuses the classic look with a new bold attitude.

    The rear design of the 2006 Ford Explorer echoes the strong styling of the front, with geometric taillamps bracketing a larger,
    9-inch Ford blue oval.

    As with the previous model, the 2006 Explorer front and rear bumpers help differentiate the series: The XLS and XLT models feature molded-in color bumper clips. The Eddie Bauer models are finished in a new Pueblo Gold color. The Limited model features a monochromatic finish that helps distinguish the top-of-the-line model.

    Most noticeable are the new taillights with their strong geometric theme, echoing the front end. Sharp round and horizontal linear shapes grace the red lenses. And the perimeter shape mirrors that of the headlamps.

    Between these lenses, Explorer retains the two-piece liftgate, a feature that is much appreciated by consumers for its practicality and ease of use. For 2006, the rear liftgate has a simplified, more modern design execution. A chrome strip appliqué gives the rear emphasis and coordinates with the same element on the front end. Finally, the revised tailgate also has a more prominent, nine-inch Ford blue oval.

    Side mirrors designed for sight and sound, part of NVH improvements

    Some changes made to Explorer’s outside can best be appreciated inside. For example, new roof beads, revised side mirrors and a new moonroof deflector are just three of the comprehensive changes to every aspect of the Explorer — including chassis, powertrain and interior — to quell noise, vibration and harshness. The result is the quietest interior in its class.