24 August 2011

Driving Song

Every once in a while a song will catch me by surprise, first musically then lyrically. Tall Trees by Matt Mays and El Torpedo is one of those.

This was released about three years ago on the Terminal Romance album, the last album with El Torpedo as they have disbanded since. And, I'm not that much of a hipster that I won't admit I only discovered it a few weeks ago when I borrowed the CD from the Calgary Public Library. It's now on my list to buy.

I have other Matt Mays & El Torpedo's in my collection, they're good... and, Canadian to boot. I would classify most of their work as good driving music. Tall Trees, however, is in a class of it's own, this one is on par with Auberge by Chris Rea - the ultimate driving song in my books. (even though it's not included here)

Put yourself behind the wheel and give this one a listen.

Tall Trees
by Matt Mays & El Torpedo

Young leaf from the seed that was sewn,
Two hundred years in the ground
Tall trees hangin' over the road
Feels like... they're starin' me down

It's in the way that they sway
It's the feeling I get
They just don't want me around
Tall trees hangin' over the road
Feels like... they're starin' me down

Who's gonna love you when I'm gone?
Said the leaves to the limb
I'll get over you in a while
And find... somebody new in the spring
When the sun melts snow
And the water runs down
To where the long river flows
Can I lay with you, Jesse
In the grass tonight
And watch him grow

Think of the way things might have been
Gimme a ride downtown
Tall trees hangin' over the road
Feels like... they're starin' me down
Tall trees hangin' over the road
Feels like... they're starin' me down
Tall trees hangin' over the road
Feels like... they're starin' me down
They're starin' me down
They're starin' me down

Here's the official video.

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23 August 2011

Family Vacation 5, sponsored by Ford

So, the verdict. After spending about 10 days with the Ford Explorer, what was my impression?

Keep in mind, I'm not an automotive writer for Road & Track and I'm not a Top Gear television host. Heck, I'm not even a professional reviewer. So, don't expect fancy, descriptive things describing things about stuff, OK? I'm just a blogger who happens to drive, was going on vacation at the time that a vehicle at Ford became available for review and nobody more qualified was available, so here it is, my review of the new Explorer.

Vehicle: Ford Explorer 2011
Hours: 51 hours driving (12 hours in a row was the longest stretch)
Distance: 3682 kilometers
Fuel Usage: Filled up 7 times at about $80 per fill (sorry, I never calculate fuel consumption... what's the point? ...you fill up, you use, you fill up, you use, why aggravate yourself by learning how much you're going through?)
Price as Tested: $50,300 including GST, as priced out at Ford

Things I liked:

Let me say that there was actually a lot that I liked, the items below were the highlights.

Drove nice - the ride was smooth and easy to handle, often times, I forgot I was driving a big truck. That says a lot when you look at miles of winding mountain roads we took this on over the past week. I would go so far as to say, that I'm not even sure how it handles on a straight away - we drove highway 99 in BC, a road that makes the journey to Tofino seem like a ride in Saskatchewan. The Explorer ate it up, like it was meant for these roads exclusively.

Air Conditioned Seats! - why the hell is this not standard on every vehicle in the world??? Well, it's not, so you'll have to buy the Explorer to get it (Lincolns do to). This simple little feature made my travels around Vancouver Island in 30 degree weather not only bearable, but enjoyable.

It's Silver - the Explorer we got was silver, this colour made it look clean even when it wasn't... I was quite amazed as we went down gravel roads, dirt roads and some rain - it looked like a shiny new vehicle all the time. Great curb appeal.

Roomy - we fit 5 people easily, along with 5 suitcases, 3 pillows, a brief case and some duffel bags. A 6th person would have meant a drastic reduction in luggage, the extra seat folded down to allow more cargo room. There is plenty of room for all passengers, the front compartment is immense - sitting in the driver seat I could nearly swing my left arm in a full circle - loads of space for the driver.

Decent power - I'm a guy, but I'm not one of them guys that has to look under the hood. In fact, the times when I do, I'm just checking for cleanliness. I don't know what I'm looking at, not any more, not since the engine compartment started filling up with computers. So, when I say the V6 had juice, I am assuming it was a V6 - it had a decent amount of power, it passed cars with not too much trouble at all. There is a hitch on the Explorer, but other than a tent trailer or a boat, I'm not sure how effective it would be with a large trailer - not on the inclines of highway 99 that is. If you're not looking to tow a 20+ foot trailer, this has plenty of punch for any driver.

Comfort - perhaps the most impressive attribute of the Explorer is the comfort, this was just plain comfortable to be in. I noticed little if any driver fatigue, and we had one 12 hour day on the road. The kids were behaved and quiet most of the journey, I suspect some of that was their comfort as well. Having been stuck on the highway for 4 hours, just a few weeks ago in my wife's Mercedes, I can attest that the Explorer has a much more comfortable drivers seat. In Canada, when many people have long commutes or do long distance driving, comfort is important.

Bright Lights - the hologen headlamps are really nice on the country roads at night, they are extremely bright and light up everything in their path. In fact, they are so good they make the high beams seem useless - there was little difference switching from the two, other than the height of the light stream. Very cool. I never turned on the fog lamps as we never experienced fog - I'm not one of those idiots that have fog lamps on all day long (I'm a different kind of idiot altogether, actually).

Rain Sensing Wipers - these worked great - I never had to touch a thing. Great feature.

Rear View Camera - OMG, this was a godsend. Typically, it takes time to get used to how a vehicle handles and it's size before you are really comfortable in backing up. The back up camera on the Explorer was absolutely amazing. It made backing into spots, getting out of tight places and clearing out of a parking lot seamless and effortless. A brilliant addition for the Explorer.

Aluminum Wheels - these are probably the best looking stock wheels that I have ever seen, they are very stylish and sleek and not just a giant logo - well done Ford.

Things I didn't like:

There was more that I liked than disliked, but the things that bugged me about this vehicle, bugged me a lot - most are electronic related.

Too big - it's not just Ford, it's every North American car manufacturer, they believe that building vehicles larger is better, the Explorer is guilty of this. If you strip away the gigantic body, you would be left with a relatively normal sized vehicle - it all seams so wasteful of materials and in excess. Sitting in the passenger seat, I feel as though the cockpit was designed specifically for the obese. Now, take that with a grain of salt, I'm a small car kinda guy.

Electric Seats - I can get that the passenger and driver have electric seats, but why do the two back rows? The addition of electric motors surely adds weight to the vehicle. In the case of the second row of seats, there was no advantage at all in having the seat slowly fold electrically over me pulling the lever and doing it manually - it was just a waste of parts in my mind. Don't get me started on the third row, I think the fact that this split seat was electric actually took away from the amount of cargo, and be careful putting in that cargo - I accidentally hit a button and crushed a bottle of water as there is no 'stop' button... yikes! I accidentally hit the buttons a few times and was thankful one of my children wasn't in the seats when they started performing furniture origami.

Mood lights (AKA Ambient Lighting) - the last part of our journey was driving at night, on came the interior mood lights - OMG. At night, the following lights come on: blue cup holder light rings, blue door handle lights, blue floor lights front and back. Aside from wondering why my feet need to be illuminated while I drive, I couldn't help but think this is was as cheesy as a muscle car on exhibition in some downtrodden shopping mall. This feature is cartoonish and amaturish, worst of all - how do you turn it off? At night, I like the inside of my vehicle dark, almost black, just a dimly lit speedo and I'm a happy guy - the inside of the Explorer at night looks like a Chuck E. Cheese in full swing. A 16 year old boy might think that it is cool, not sure if that's who they are targeting for purchase however.

Touch screens - who thought putting touch screens in a moving vehicle was a good idea? UGH!!! Ford used to have the best driver experience in their vehicles as far as I was concerned - buttons and knobs were designed well and you felt in control as you flipped switches and twisted dials. In fact, you didn't even have to look at them to know they were set right. The two display screens on either side of the speedo in combination with the main touch screen, steering column controls on both sides as well as the bottom touch screen are a mess and require you to take your eyes from the road every single time you adjust something. It's called Ford Touch and it's powered by Sync. Maybe it's just me, but I felt as though I was multi-tasking, not driving. It was like trying to manage Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Foursquare all at once. And, I know that Ford will say, use the voice activated feature... it's like calling Telus though, voice prompt after voice prompt... enough to make me want to veer into oncoming traffic. I'd don't want to talk to my car, I want to drive it. Put some buttons on the dash or something so I don't have to look down at the dashboard every time I want to change the speed of the air conditioning fan. I'd be curious as to the accident statistics for vehicles with this system in it - I felt it was too distracting. Luckily, my wife was right beside me, making sense of most of it and fixing the settings that I accidentally brushed against and changed.

Sync. The listening experience was anything but N'sync. I had a hunch that 'Powered by Microsoft' was a warning sticker and not a promotional badge. We connected the iPhone to Sync, only to have it unrecognized the second day and no way to re-boot the Bluetooth. So, we began using the USB plug in (hard to access BTW), this was great until the audio system did a scheduled maintenance and re-booted resulting in the USB no longer working. Luckily, the Bluetooth began working again - this happened a couple of times (back and forth from Bluetooth to USB) and was a pain to sort out before driving each time. It was not easy listening. It would have been easier to use my iPod. Maybe it works good with a Zune, but the rest of the world is using iPods, adapt. And, despite following the instructions, we were never able to upload the contact list to the system, making dialing by voice next to impossible unless we knew the number by heart.

Things I'm not sure about.

Keyless ignition - I don't get this at all, and it's not Ford or this vehicle per se - it's a lot of vehicles these days... it's not a convenient feature in my mind. The keyless entry is sometimes nice, having the car detect the keys on me and opening my door automatically was handy, but when everyone has to get in, you have to fumble for the key fob to allow access all around, which was most times for us. Keyless ignition is just awkward, and I know a lot of cars have this, it's nothing new - it bugs me on all cars... where do you put the key fob when you're driving? If you need it with you to start the car, where's the convenience? ...not having to turn a key?

Adaptive Cruise Control - the Explorer features cruise control that measures the gap between the car ahead of you and provides acceleration and applies breaks to maintain the distance. This is a neat feature and I quite liked it on two lane highways, it worked great in that instance. However, on four lane divided highways, just plain old cruise control would be preferred. This stopped working when our sensor was blocked while overtaking a car - we were made aware of this with many beeps and alarms, not what you want to hear as you approach oncoming traffic with a head of steam. The rain must have cleared the sensor because it began working again about an hour later.

Active Park Assist - I just don't understand this feature, if you can't park the vehicle yourself, perhaps driving ain't your thing, man.

Who should buy one?

Big families. Loading the kids up for soccer or hockey would be great in all conditions - waiting in the vehicle for practices to end would be comfortable as well. Big people. If you are a big person, you will be comfortable in this. I'm not small by any stretch, but I felt tiny driving the Explorer - more than enough room for the driver and passenger. Travelers. If you travel a great deal, eating up the nations roadways, you will be comfortable in this cruiser - it would serve you nicely all year round.

The bottomline.

This was a fun and comfortable vehicle to drive and I would even go so far as to recommend the Explorer to families as a reliable daily vehicle... a much better alternative to the minivan. If you are interested in test driving one, which I recommend you should - find the dealer nearest you and go drive it for yourself. Visit the Ford Explorer site here.

For me, there's a few too many gizmos to feel completely at home in the Explorer and it's a bit too big for my driveway, otherwise for the price, it's a lot of vehicle. Last summer, I drove a Vauxhall Insignia around the UK for three weeks putting some 4500 kms on it and I couldn't wait to ditch it at the airport, partly because I was heading home, but mostly because it was poorly made and had no power - a complete opposite to the Explorer.

In the first post, I mentioned that I was a Ford man... you may ask if I am still a Ford man? Absolutely, the Explorer is a quality truck and a great family vehicle, Ford will continue to be on the top of my list of vehicle manufacturers.

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Family Vacation 4, sponsored by Ford

So where did I leave off? I think it was mid-week last week... we've done a fair bit of travel since then. And, as I sit comfortably at my home computer, I can reflect back on the 51 hours I sat behind the wheel of the Ford Explorer as it guided me and my family some 3682 kilometers around British Columbia and Alberta.

We took good care of our Ford, showing it more pretty countryside in the last 10 days than some cars see in their entire lifetime. The Explorer got to travel on 4 ferries, visit 2 islands, 7 national parks in 2 provinces and 3 wineries. The journey was pretty smooth, I mean there were a few gravel roads, a dirt road and some wooden docks but for the most part, the highways were new and in great shape.

So, we went spelunking (that's caving for amateurs, folks) one day and found ourselves very far down the inside of a mountain. It was cool, both in temperature (8 degrees) and in it's awesomeness. We'd been in the White Scar Caves in England which are very impressive as they are much larger but they are very commercial and you follow a man made path the entire length of the well lit cave. In BC, you get a guide, a helmet with an LCD light and a waiver to sign. There's no trail other than the path that takes you to the entrance of this cave and that's 800 meters straight up.

The mouth of the cave has a large metal door that is bolted shut to keep out vandals. Right inside the door is a metal ladder that goes down some 20 feet, at which point you only have a small amount of natural light coming into the cave so it's lights on everybody. As we crawled over rocks we got to see some stalagmites, stalagtites, soda straws, cave bacon and all kinds of calcite formations - it was really neat to see these 'in the wild'. It didn't take more than a few steps before we could not see anything without the aid of our LCD lights - at one point the guide asked everyone to turn off their lights and wave their hands in front of their faces - it was completely black - a neat sensation. The province of BC has some of the best natural areas and I'm always impressed by their staff, our guide was from Pennsylvania and very knowledgeable - I'm not sure how BC finds these people, but keep up the good work.

The gravel road heading to Horne Lake where the caves were was no problem for the Explorer, it felt pretty natural.

We explored Vancouver Island, we saw a car show in Ladysmith, we saw a market and murals in Chemainus and we ventured over to Salt Spring Island for their market and to check out some properties... there are some beautiful places on the island(s).

Leaving our condo on Yellow Point road would have been sad if we had any time to reflect upon it - we had a ferry to catch, or miss as it were. Things are pretty relaxed on the island, "you miss this one, no worries, there's another one in just two hours...". Two hours in island time, if you're an islander, is like five minutes of our time. The are pretty relaxed, most don't reach the posted speed on the highways, they'll get there, eventually. What's the hurry?

So, we waited and waited until the ferry was ready for us to board. When we got to the mainland we headed up highway 99 to Whistler, where much of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games were held. Driving along the sunshine coast was interesting, a lot of tourists in rental cars unaccustomed to driving in North America make for an interesting switch from the island. Sure, they were slow, but they 'Stay to the right, except to pass'. A sign which is repeated every 3 kilometers or so, but get's ignored by nearly everyone. I have to say, islanders are actually pretty good drivers - on the mainland, as a whole, Canadians suck at driving. BC mainland drivers frustrate me to no end. They are consistently 10 kms under the speed limit until the passing lane comes up where they find the accelerator, making it nearly impossible to ever pass them in the short passing windows that get presented to you on windy mountain roads. Ugh.

Whistler is known for being expensive, but we actually experienced the opposite, our accommodation was under $100 (and really nice) and we got to see the Barenaked Ladies in the Olympic Plaza - a free concert! We stayed at the Listel Hotel, which boasts one of the top 10 restaurants in Canada... it's partway through a renovation, turning it into a boutique hotel - so far, so good.

The drive from Whistler to Cache Creek is absolutely breath-taking with gorgeous vistas at every turn, which there are a lot of (turns that is). There are some monster climbs that I expect would not be open during the winter months as they are hard very, very steep inclines and declines. The road goes up and down several times over quite a few passes. The Explorer handled it fine, but I wished I was driving it in my car with Deep Purple's Highway Star on repeat for 3 hours. If you ever get a chance to take highway 99 - do it. It was overcast today and rained off and on and it was still by far the prettiest road I have ever driven.

Whistler to Calgary. It's not a drive you want to do often, we were in the Explorer for about 12 hours. As I pointed out to my son, we could have flown to Europe. The ole Ford held it's end of the bargain and was solid mechanically, a smooth drive all the way. Electronically however, we had a few messages and errors appear as we drove...

1. It's close to an oil change, so that alert began coming up today over and over.
2. While passing a car, one of our sensors got blocked (rain? mud? leaf?) and made a heck of a lot of noise - the result was our collision sensor was no longer available to us. Oh well, we'll just have to rely on our other senses to see if we're involved in a collision.
3. At this same time, perhaps the same sensor, knocked out our cruise control as the sensor that detects distance no longer functioned and the cruise control relies on the distance of the car in front of you to work properly. This sucked because I was using the cruise control. After about an hour, it cleared and everything worked again...
4. Tire Flat - the sensor for one of the tires told us we had a flat, I inspected all tires and couldn't even find a low one. This message cleared when we restarted the car. We found a restart changed a few things from time to time, like the USB and Bluetooth availability.

Having an option to use just a regular cruise control or to turn off the gap sensor would be nice - it's a bit scary that the sensor would quit on you - especially if you are using the device as a way of monitoring your speed as I had been doing. Oh well.

From Kamloops to Field it rained quite steadily, the raindrops sounded nice on the large glass sunroof, but some sounded like we were in sitting in a tin can and had a funny twang to them - definitely some funny sounds.

We stopped in Banff for dinner then made our way home. It was a long day, but happy to be home.

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17 August 2011

Family Vacation 3, sponsored by Ford

Driving around Vancouver Island with a large family is exactly what Ford had in mind when they designed the Ford Explorer. The narrow, winding roads seem to be built for this SUV, as you're driving it, you forget that you are not driving a car.

Today, we tested the automatic parking - I've never tried this in any car before, it was quite fun. Not sure if I did it all correctly, I did let it do all of the steering but I punched the breaks like I was startled by some prankster. If passersby weren't taken back by the car steering itself, I'm sure the look on my face was entertainment enough. Neat feature, although, I doubt I would use it. The back up cameras however, have become a staple in our travels.

On Monday we drove out to Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park - wow. This is truly a must see for anyone - the waves crashing into an all-natural beach that stretches for miles and miles and littered with driftwood, some the size of small cars. If it were situated in a warmer part of the world, it would be overrun with hotels and cheap souvenir shops. Tourist season does bring it's share of people to the region, in the thousands I'm sure, but it is so immense that you feel as though you are a discoverer from days gone by, finding it for the first time. The locals are a mix of naturalists, fishermen, hippies and surfers - all are friendly.

After beach combing and dipping our feet in the chilly waters, we headed inland to a Zip Line place. I'm not afraid to admit that I am a big yellow chicken when it comes to heights, so this was not an easy purchase. Well, I'm also cheap and zip lining is not exactly inexpensive when you've got a family of five. I sucked it up and we donned helmets and webbing, got onto an old logging bus and drove up the highway for a couple kilometers where we met our first platform.

If you've never zip lined before, it's not as bad as you might think it is. This one wasn't. I mean, we traveled over a narrow gorge with some 170 foot drops, covering 1.5 kilometers in the air in 6 zips. It took 2 hours and was amazing. My only regret was not filming some of it as the scenery and the gorges we went over were absolutely breath-taking. The kids ate it up and went flying down each zip upside down, without hands and giggling the entire way. Karen and I screamed and held on for our lives the entire way.

Tuesday we kicked back and relaxed at the condo, the kids played in the pool nearly all day and I attempted to tan my pasty white skin. At least the kids found success. In the late afternoon we headed up to Qualicum Beach to visit my cousin who is going to guitar building school there. We met up with him at the school, he gave us a tour of the workshop and explained how to build a guitar, it was quite fascinating.

We drove to Steve's house so he could get ready for dinner, at his place he showed us the two guitars he built - man, are they nice. You'd never know these were his first projects, they are flawless and play cleanly. We took him for dinner then walked along the beach as the sun set, it was a beautifully calm evening and the kids each found sand dollars.

Today, we went into Chemainus - a town famous for it's murals. Their weekly fair was on so we took advantage of the day to visit with local artisans and drop off some laundry. Some great shops in Chemainus, all owner operated and friendly to tourists.

We packed up our clean laundry into the Explorer and headed down to Cowichan Bay where we had ice cream and visited some more artists. It's not a Franco family vacation without a purchase of some art - we try to get a nice piece of original art from everywhere we go. This helps us remember our trips and keeps our closet void of t-shirts that we'll never wear.

Tomorrow we may journey to the Horne Lake Caves and do some spelunking.

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15 August 2011

Family Vacation 2, sponsored by Ford

We hit the road, and apart from partly learning all the gizmos of the 2011 Ford Explorer, it was pretty smooth sailing to Vernon, BC. Stayed at the same hotel we stayed at 13 years prior when we took our 1 year old son through on his first vacation.

An early start to day two lead us to Kelowna where we had a quick visit with my cousin Tony and his family. I wished we had more time to catch up - they have a beautiful spot with a yard that makes us city folk question city living. We couldn't even fit their pool into our tiny yard. It must be great for their kids to grow up with so much space. Kelowna is a beautiful city when it's not full of us tourists - traffic leaving was very much city like.

The Explorer handles nicely on the highway and the city, it's a bit larger than what I'm used to driving, but it's not hard to get used to - the back up camera makes parking pretty seamless too. Unfortunately, the Sync wasn't syncing, the Bluetooth that took so long to set up on day 1 was nowhere to be found on day 2 - we tried calling Ford, but the mountains made any call more than 3 minutes hard to complete so we used the handy USB ports to plug in the tunes, a fully charged device at the end of the drive was a nice reward. The lack of Bluetooth means we no longer have hands-free calling however. Not a problem on holidays though.

We got to Tsawwassen in good time and put the Explorer on it's first boat ride. The kids quickly dispersed amongst the decks of the ship and were located in time to depart about an hour later when we reached Victoria. A hotel was quickly located and Karen and the kids quickly got their swimming trunks on and headed to the lobby only to find out that there was no pool in the hotel - this was very funny. Everyone got dressed and we headed to downtown Victoria and wandered down the shopping streets, very reminiscent of London and many of the 'touristy' places we've seen in our travels.

Victoria is very British in many ways, heck, they even sell Pimms here. We found a late night spot for dinner, West Coast Waffles - we had dessert for dinner. It's vacation so why not?

Everyone got up a bit later on Day 3, and we headed back down to the shopping district so that Matthew could re-create a moment from 2 years ago - buying a tuxedo t-shirt from the exact same place as he found one before. He loves his tux shirt, not because it's ironic, but because he believes he's actually dressed up. This makes me smile to no end - we found a joke store and bought the boys some fake moustaches, they are pretty authentic and matched their hair colour pretty good - Matthew with his cop moustache and tux shirt and Parker with a nicely sculpted handlebar moustache were ready to go hit the streets. They had people in stitches as we walked down the shopping district, us too.

After a very nice Mexican lunch, we headed north to our cabin on Yellow Point Road in the Cedars, just East of Ladysmith and South of Nanaimo. It's a cool spot, a group of about 40 condo units with a pool that overhangs the ocean. The winding road through the trees is beautiful with nicely kept cottages and homes tucked into the cedars and Arbutus trees. There is some rain, a few drops really, falling sporadically on the ground around me as I type this posting from the porch of our unit. There is no wifi and barely a cell signal - this annoys me now, but I will come to like it, I'm sure.

This evening, my wife and I took a little drive up the road to get some much needed supplies (beer) and found an English style pub along the way. It's called the Crow and Gate and has gorgeous gardens surrounding it. Other than not allowing patrons under the age of 19 into it, the place is very much like an English pub - we enjoyed a quick pint in the garden then headed back to watch a movie with the kids.

We've had to fill up for gas twice so far, the Explorer seems to be pretty good on gas despite my lead foot. Tomorrow we're going to head to Long Beach and Tofino or Nanaimo, depending on the weather. I'm hoping for Tofino so that I can test the Explorer on the winding mountain roads heading through the island on the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Good night.

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12 August 2011

Family Vacation, sponsored by Ford

It was with some pause that I agreed to accept a 2011 Ford Explorer for use on our family vacation. You see, my wife just got a Mercedes diesel crossover that I was really looking forward to touring in. But, saving 3500 kms on our new vehicle was a pretty good incentive. So, I accepted and was asked to be honest in my evaluation. I will be.

I should point out that I have been a Ford man since I was a kid. You see, my grandfather worked for Ford and was the top seller in Canada for a few years, selling a car a day on average for many years in a row. My first car was a 1968 Mercury Cougar and I've always been partial to the stylings of Ford, both inside and out. We got to pick up the Explorer from Universal Ford in Calgary - the dealership my grandfather worked for in the 60's, 70's and 80's. I might also point out that in 1989 or 1990, when the Explorer came out, I drooled over the brochure I picked up from the local Ford dealership for this new 'SUV' type vehicle as it really appealed to my lifestyle at that time.

So, although I am clearly biased in Ford's favour, my only comparison would be to my wife's car as it has a similar size and purpose. Both are 6 passenger and both are silver. It's kind of an apples and oranges comparison, so I'll try to keep that in mind to keep it fair.

First impressions.

The new exterior styling of the Explorer is bold and a bit boxy. Some feel it looks a bit Range Roverish, but there's no question in my mind, it's a Ford (that's a good thing in my books). The rear windows are designed to look like a wrap-around glass feature which really works to make the vehicle look sleek and reduces the curb presence... by today's American car standards, it's not a big vehicle, but to me, it's a big vehicle. You won't find many of these on British roadways, they won't fit. Overall, it's a nicely styled vehicle - it's a design that will sell very well.

Sitting inside the drivers seat of the Explorer, I feel as though the vehicle was designed for a much bigger frame than I have - I can't lean my arm on the door sill as I do on my car and my wife's crossover. In fact, I can almost swing my left arm, by my side, back and forth without hitting anything. There is a lot of room, and I like roominess, but this seems a bit wasted. The seats are very comfortable, in fact I would say that they are more comfortable than the Mercedes - having spent 8 hours in each vehicle over the past two weeks thanks to accidents and construction projects on our local highways.


Keep in mind, if you buy the vehicle, they will walk you through the options and you are likely to read the manual. We didn't. So, I'm not certain of the amount of options that the Explorer has, too many from a quick scan of the screens and amount of buttons available to the driver. I'll comment more on the buttons, touch screens and steering buttons later, after a few more days of use, right now all I can say is that I'm really confused - the hazard button/sensor switch will require a read in the manual to figure out how it works (I'm not even kidding).


Driving the Explorer is nice and easy, it's solid and capable. Going from diesel to gas I was expecting the engine to be quieter - which it is until you giv'er, then it's much noisier. The bark is worse than the bite though. Don't get me wrong, it's got enough power, but there's a lot of weight to move on this vehicle, it's not a sports car. What I'm saying is there's no worry of going 40km over by mistake in this vehicle (which would result in having your vehicle impounded for a few days in British Columbia and a couple thousand dollar fine) a genuine worry in my wife's ride.


The cruise control has a built in 'gap' feature which is designed to slow you down automatically so you don't creep in on the car in front of you. On the divided highway I really didn't like this feature as it slows you down automatically as you approach the car ahead of you. So, you don't keep your speed, you keep the speed of the car in front of you. This feature was really designed for single lane highways, and once i got used to it, I fell in love with it... but only on single lane highways. I know other vehicles have this but I was really impressed with how well it worked in the Explorer.

I'm not sure if I mentioned the air conditioned seats, but that is the greatest feature of all-time, my father and uncle both have Lincoln's which feature it as well - good on you Ford for extending this (I assume it's a simple feature) into your other models. If you are like me and like it cold, this is a must. They have the heated option too, but it's 30ÂșC so I'll go ahead and assume they work, without turning them on.

The kids really like the ride, there's plenty of room for them and loads of plug ins for their toys including a standard wall plug. This makes so much sense as every electronic device will plug into this without having to have an adaptor... this is another plus for Ford - an easy add-on and a smart one. I think there's a bit more storage in it than the Merc, it's very similar in cargo capacity.

It's a bit early to comment absolute on the Explorer, and I will probably change my tune on some of my comments above after driving it around over the next week. There are some things that I really like and others that I don't care for. These will change - at first I didn't like the turn signal, I still don't but I can see it was designed purposefully to do what it does the way that it does, so I'm willing to keep using it to find out if it's a better design than the previous version. There are many new design features like this - you can tell they were well thought out and I need a few days to figure them out to see if I really don't like them or if I just don't like change. Maybe I won't go back. A plus off the get go was the amber turn signals - these are proven to be safer than red signal lights, yet so many manufacturers cheap out on this simple safety feature, not Ford, well, not on this Explorer.

I'm looking forward to driving tomorrow, which I think speaks highly of the Explorer. I'll post more on our experience with it in a few days - so far, so good.

Bon voyage!

PS. it has A/C seats!

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