I’ve been testing cars for a really long time. In 2010, I wrote about the future of cars for FoxNews.com and ever since I’ve tested vehicles in one way or another (although I took a year off to write a book). For quite a few years, I wrote a weekly car review for PC World’s site called TechHive.com, then TechRadar.com, and a short stint at Digital Trends.
In all of that time, I’ve rarely if ever seen a technology that is so practical and so useful in everyday driving, especially on a rainy day.
The 2022 Ford Explorer Timberline is already prepped and ready for anything. It’s an SUV that can behave like a truck when you need it to, especially in terms of hauling (with a towing capacity of 5,300 pounds) and just a general feel of road dominance. It’s not a pasty, fancy, light crossover made for trips to the local community center. Instead, the Explorer Timberline has a more rugged, ready for anything feel (even though it works fine for shopping trips).
I wanted to see what that was like, but I wasn’t expecting to discover a road-handling tech. I’ve certainly tested many makes and models in unusual circumstances; then an ice storm happened on a bright and sunny day. (You read that right.) The cloud broke and the sun was out, but then so did the rain showers at the same time.
I used the “slippery” mode on the Explorer, which is easy to find with a handy selector dial. You never know when you are in a slightly tense situation when the technology in a car will work, since as a journalist and car tester you can’t predict what will happen. I drove an Audi A8 in a blizzard once and it acted like it was a snowmobile (in a good way).
Imagine ice and rain coming at you from all directions, as the sun unveils itself and the clouds part. The Ford Explorer Timberline stayed glued to the road. What’s actually happening is interesting to me. The vehicle automatically adjusts the throttle and torque to make sure the tires don’t slip. The technical definition of this is the explorer can adjust the transmission “shift points: as Ford calls it, and that’s remarkable, because it all happens in real-time. I’m no engineer, but I could tell this was happening as I drove in the ice and rain.
Would I buy the Explorer just for this feature? You know, that’s a good debate to have. I own a BMW 3 and I’m glad I wasn’t driving that car. That day in the blizzard, I wanted to be the owner of an Audi A8. The world is a dangerous place. I liked being able to switch to a mode that could mitigate some of the danger. The Explorer Timberline starts at $48,320, and I wouldn’t say that’s unreasonable for a beefy SUV that has these driving modes. There’s also one for snow conditions, sand, muddy conditions, and a few others. Slippery mode worked wonders at making sure there was no tire slip and the car felt stable and secure on the road.
I’m a fan of any technology that doesn’t just add luxury or something that we would rarely need. When the tech is so practical that it is something you’d use routinely, like lane-keeping and adaptive cruise, you can easily justify the extra expense in order to stay safe.
Note: 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline shown in photo.