A Smart System for Tough Terrains
MAR
19

The Terrain Management System™ in the 2014 Ford Explorer came in handy for writer Jeff Wise during his four-day run up the Dalton. On more than one occasion he dialed in the engine, drivetrain and brakes to respond instantly to the volatile Alaskan conditions.

According to Jonathan Crocker, Vehicle Engineering Manager for the Ford Explorer, the genesis of the project was the feedback that some consumers did not understand the conventional four-wheel-drive low and high, and would also benefit from a system that was more integrated.

With the Explorer moving to a front-wheel drive platform in 2011, the idea was to not simply engage the rear axle in tough conditions, but to integrate and modify the response of different systems for intuitive and improved vehicle performance.

When dialed into the “Normal” setting, the Terrain Management System biases torque to the front wheels and shifts more torque to the rear only as needed. “It’s the most economical yet still allows 4WD function for optimal driving conditions,” says Scott Greca, a Ford all-wheel drive engineer who has been deeply involved in the continued development of the Terrain Management System. “It gets more interesting,” he points out, “when conditions get more extreme.” For instance, in the “Grass, gravel and snow” mode, where there is firm underlying terrain but the surface is slippery, more torque is transferred to the rear wheels, the transmission automatically upshifts into a higher gear and the engine slightly reduces its torque output at the current throttle condition. All this prevents the wheels from spinning and with electronic stability control assistance, keeps the vehicle going where the driver steers it. In “Mud/Ruts” mode, the system makes the throttle more aggressive and desensitizes stability control so the tires can spin as needed. The toughest assignment for the Terrain Management System is deep sand. In these conditions, the system automatically switches off traction control and is designed to deliver maximum torque to the wheels while keeping the transmission in low to power aggressively out of trouble.

Scott recalls his experience at a consumer clinic in New Jersey in the fall of 2012. The most fascinating aspect for those attending was how easily the system “shifts on the fly,” and though winter hadn’t arrived yet to provide a few extreme challenges, he says that those attending couldn’t wait to give the system a try.

Learn more about the Ford Explorer at ford.com.

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