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Ford debuts traction control

Published:Sunday | April 18, 2010 | 4:00 AM

Ford Motor Company says its 2011 Ford Explorer will have a control system that lets drivers select how much traction they want based on road conditions.

Using a dial in the centre of the console, drivers can select one of four modes: Normal roads, muddy or rutted roads, snowy roads or sand. The SUV then adjusts the engine, transmission, brakes, wheel rotation speed and other systems.

If a driver sets the dial to snow, for example, the Explorer will engage traction control, use more braking and slow down the wheels. In sand, it will do the opposite, since the wheels need to keep spinning.

The new system will come standard on all four-wheel-drive models of the 2011 Explorer, which goes on sale at the end of this year.

Drivers were confused by the current Explorer's Control Trac system, which allowed them to switch to high or low traction or stay in automatic, said Jim Holland, the 2011 Explorer's chief engineer.

The new system replaces Control Trac and brings together some functions that were previously separate. In the current Explorer, for example, drivers who wanted to go over sand could turn off their antilock brakes for a better ride, but most didn't know that. The new system does that automatically.

A similar system is already available in two Land Rovers, the LR2 and LR4, said Holland.

Ford helped develop the system before it sold Land Rover to Tata Motors Ltd in 2008. He said other manufacturers are working on similar traction controls.

Holland said Explorer drivers don't leave the road very often, but when they do, they don't want to adjust a lot of buttons.

"People ... want an SUV to have the capability to go off road, but because they don't do it a lot, they don't know how," Holland told The Associated Press in a recent interview. "We just want them to feel capable."

The switch will have all the options on one side so drivers don't have to twist their wrists very far to change modes. A screen in the instrument cluster will show which mode drivers are in.

In the middle of the dial, there will be a button to start a hill descent system, which applies the brakes and controls the engine. That system, borrowed from Ford's F-Series pickup, also is new to the Explorer.

Ford hasn't revealed fuel economy numbers for the 2011 Explorer, but has said that a four-wheel-drive model with a V-6 engine will have at least 25 per cent better fuel economy than the 2010 version.

The new system is smaller and has lighter gears, Holland said, making the SUV more efficient.

It's also built on a car instead of a truck frame, which improves fuel economy.

Around half of Explorer buyers now get the four-wheel-drive version, although demand varies by region, said Holland.

- AP