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New Ford Explorer gets smart four-wheel drive

Ford announces the Terrain Management System in the new Ford Explorer.

Ford Explorer terrain knob
Drivers will be able to change the Ford Explorer's four wheel drive program with this knob.
Ford Explorer terrain knob
Drivers will be able to change the Ford Explorer's four -wheel-drive program with this knob. Ford

The new Ford Explorer takes a page from Land Rover with its new four-wheel-drive system. Ford showed off its new Terrain Management technology, which lets the driver select a program suitable for whatever sort of land the Explorer is traversing.

Similar to the system employed by Land Rover for the last couple of years, a knob in the car has icons that correspond to snow, sand, mud, and normal roads. If the Explorer is faced with a muddy dirt road, for example, the driver merely needs to turn the knob to the mud setting. The resulting program dials down the traction control, allowing some wheel slip so that the tires can try to gain some grip in the mud. The system also incorporates hill descent control.

It is no surprise that the Explorer's Terrain Management System uses the exact same icons as those found in Land Rover models; the technology was developed and implemented while Land Rover was a Ford brand.

Although the new Explorer enters production later this year, Ford has mostly kept it under wraps, without even an auto show launch to date. But a spy photo taken last month and published in Automotive News shows a very modern-looking SUV that seems to take styling cues from the Land Rover LR2.