2002 Ford Explorer:
Testing the Limits
The road no doubt would be a Mecca for bikers and Pike's Peak aspirants because of its multitude of switchbacks, twists, 20- and 15-mph curves of rapidly decreasing radius and - falling rocks. Add darkness to this, and the demand on the vehicle and the driver behind the wheel would be exaggerated.
The setting was to provide us with an abrupt and unexpected taste of what Ford's redesigned sport utility was capable of handling.
It was pitch dark when we drove around a 20-mph blind curve with a 7 percent grade on the inside lane, then came face to face with a boulder squarely in our path. It was taller than the hood of the vehicle.
A Matter of Choice
We had two instantaneous choices: Attempt to go around, which would have had to be a precision maneuver considering a 500- to 1,000- foot drop on the other side of the guard rail. Or stop.
John Hillery, a Reuters photographer and my driving partner for the event, was at the wheel. Instinct made him choose the latter. John braked aggressively, engaging ABS as the boulder loomed larger in our headlights and we both were convinced we were going to hit. I had visions of airbags going off, or worse. But to our complete surprise -- maybe shock -- we just stopped.
When we both got out to look, it was no exaggeration to say there was slightly more than the thickness of a sheet of paper between the rock and bumper. It was the kind of stop that a lesser vehicle never could have managed, a prospect neither of us wanted to think about.
Real World Test | Next
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