Wheelchair accessible vehicles are not new but very few passenger vehicles outside of minivans have been converted for the purpose. Ford is now taking the initiative in helping to adapt an SUV for wheelchair accessibility.
The reason vans have been the past vehicles of choice is naturally for design reasons, most notably the lower floor and large side door(s), which has made conversion quick and cost-effective. However, with utility vehicles increasingly in consumer demand, it seemed appropriate to create something that’s more up to modern consumer tastes. And besides, they’re called utility vehicles for a reason.
Ford has partnered up with BraunAbility, an Indiana-based company that has risen to become a world leader in converting vehicles for wheelchair accessibility, to turn the best-selling SUV in North America into the BraunAbility MXV – a vehicle that takes mobility to new levels of outdoor spirit and adventure.
“For our first-ever wheelchair-accessible SUV, it was important we worked with the best,” said Nick Gutwein, BraunAbility president and CEO. “We wanted to create a vehicle that personifies freedom and independence, and the Ford Explorer provides the ultimate base to achieve that.”
A concept unveiled early in 2015 was promised to paralyzed veteran Mike Delancey as he creates the Wounded Warrior’s Abilities Ranch and Park – a place for veterans of every conflict to recover and rehabilitate through exercise and recreation.
The production MXV is being built at BraunAbility’s 170,000 square-foot facility in Winamac, Indiana, and scheduled for delivery in fall 2015 to more than 200 authorized BraunAbility mobility dealers across North America.
Among its unique features are removable seats (which allow wheelchair bound users to drive or ride in the vehicle), a 54-inch high (1,371 mm) power sliding door and an in-floor 28-inch (711 mm) power ramp with integrated lighting for quick and easy access day or night. An integrated key-fob controls both door and ramp.
And it’s based on the Explorer, which brings with it a 3.5-litre V6 that allows it to tow up to 5,000 pounds and returns fuel economy estimated at 13.8 litres per 100 km in the city and 9.8 on the highway.
“The MXV is a revolutionary vehicle, and we’re thrilled with Explorer’s role in helping bring it to market,” said Craig Patterson, Ford utility vehicle marketing manager. “For 25 years, the Explorer name has symbolized freedom and adventure, and the BraunAbility MXV adds another chapter to that story.”