When the ambient temperature is 48°C/119°F, tracking component temperatures is critical. Ufford wants the new Explorer to survive in any conditions, especially those people would consider worst case. Given that one of the Ford engineers had his shoes melt out from under his feet, Dubai's desert was looking pretty close to worst case. Factoring in the 50-percent humidity made for a heat index of 191° Fahrenheit. A dry heat it's not.
The lightly camouflaged Explorer in the accompanying photos is a pre-production prototype. (Bad duct tape stripes are nowhere on the 2011 Explorer optional features list.) The unit was outfitted with dozens of sensors and monitors to track the survival or failure of key systems and components in Dubai's skin-searing heat. Especially interesting were the guy-wires stretched laterally across the first and second row of seats. Small spirals of wires -- temperature-sensing thermo couples -- branched off the main stretches, feeding interior temperature data to the laptop mounted in the second row.
"Those sensors measure the temperature of the air at eye level, around your H-point and at the floor,” Ufford explained. “We need to make sure we've got good coverage in each zone. This kind of heat and humidity makes it really tough to hit our targets, and we've had to make some upgrades to our system in order to make sure the AC system works."
MT later learned that most of the cooling upgrades identified in Dubai would make it into U.S. vehicles, giving Stateside drivers the benefit of extra capacity developed for the Middle East market. But the AC isn't the only thing the team was checking.