S-Class-level tech in a three-row Ford SUV
Mercedes introduces its latest/greatest tech in the S-Class; Ford rolls out its best and brightest features in top sellers like the Explorer (best-selling SUV of all time, with 7.7 million sold and 3.6 million still on the road) and F-150. Here are six of the best appearing on the new Explorer—some of which trump S-Class features.
Smartest Cruise Control
These days plenty of fancy cars offer speed-limit sign recognition with the ability to slow down or speed up to match a new limit, but Ford (at long bloody last) is first to allow you to specify an offset of up to 10 mph (16 km/h) above the limit. It’s only January, but we’re ready to name this Convenience Feature of the Year. Maybe of the decade. More cruisy smartness: The system can be set to standard or adaptive mode, and in the latter, it works down to a stop and will drive off again on its own if the vehicle ahead moves within 3 seconds. In that same have-it-your-way spirit, the lane keep assist system offers a choice of lane centering or departure prevention (aka pinball or drunken-sailor mode).
Active Park Assist 2.0
Many current Fords can handle all the steering in park-in/park-out parallel and perpendicular parking situations, but this 2.0 system takes over the onerous tasks of accelerating, braking, and shifting. You can just sit there—holding your finger on a button to prove you’re “in control”—and watch the car park itself. Sadly, there is no remote fob button control that allows you to watch the parking job from outside the car.
Braking in advance to help prevent a collision is an increasingly ubiquitous feature. Slamming on the brakes to help prevent the vehicle from hitting something else after a collision is a far less prevalent but extremely useful feature.
Rearview Camera Cleaner
Folks living on dirt roads or in the salty-road north during winter develop a habit of giving the little camera a wipe just before they climb aboard, but the Explorer gets a cleaning system that uses washer fluid to handle that messy task, keeping the view clear and your fingers (or gloves) clean.
Flagship Front Seats
They’re not just for S-Class sedans anymore: Top-dog Explorers come with eight-way adjustable heated and cooled seats that offer five massage programs.
Smart Rear Seat Belts
Those inflatable airbag rear chest belts always looked kinda funny, and now they’re unnecessary. That’s because the company has adapted its “digressive load-limiting” front seat belt pretensioners to work in the second row. They allow some slack to play out gradually, limiting chest loads and injury levels to what was previously accomplished with the optional inflatable belts. They reportedly reduce incidents of whiplash, as well. Oh, and the Explorer will now narc on specific rear seat occupants who have not fastened their seat belts.