Exploring Dubai: We Catch A Ride In Ford's 2011 Explorer Prototype

Rex Roy

Within seconds of opening the Raptor's door, the heat caused sweat to explode from my pores. Aside from Ford's contingent, there was not another living soul in sight. Go figure. The emptiness makes this a good spot for testing pre-production vehicles. (I had heard rumors that Ford was also testing their new Ranger in the area, but never laid eyes on the vehicle.) Because our pre-production 2011 Explorer had been in the country since before the model's public unveiling, it was still wearing mild camouflage. One never knows when a spy photographer will pose as a camel shepherd or a cart sailor.

Climbing in the prototype Explorer, and to what I hoped would be working air conditioning, the sedan-like interior is a far cry from the rough-and-tumble attitude exuded by the 2010 model. Chief Engineer Don Ufford cautioned me about getting tangled in the sets of wires strung across the cabin. The lines were holding sets of temperature sensors monitoring AC performance.

Ufford and company were excited about their fuel-saving variable-displacement AC compressor and how it was performing. Ufford said, "We've had to upsize some components to meet our cooling targets here, and we'll probably use the same hardware in every market." In other words, since the new Explorer's AC blows cold in Dubai, it should do just fine in Dubuque.

While I was glad to be in a climate controlled space, I was more interested in whether the new Explorer could manage this terrain. Ufford attempted to oblige. He put the gearbox in Drive and we went absolutely nowhere. During the few minutes we were talking, the Explorer had literally sunk axle-deep into the sand. Ufford said, "This stuff is so slick that it moves out from under your tires while you're sitting, just like quicksand."

I clambered out for a look-see. The heat radiated up through my shoes. One of the engineers mentioned that his shoes delaminated the day before because the glue melted.

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