• Jan 6, 2008
click above for 50 high-res images of the Ford Explorer America Concept

For more than a decade the Ford Explorer was the top-selling SUV in the US with annual sales topping 400,000 units for many years. The best days of the body-on-frame SUV are clearly behind it, though, as the market has shifted toward crossovers like the smaller Escape and Honda CR-V, as well as larger vehicles like the Ford Edge. Ford has seen the light and the next generation Explorer is finally abandoning the traditional setup in favor of a new unit body design.

The new Explorer America concept that Ford is debuting at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show is the first public hint of where the Explorer is going in the coming years. When the Explorer is replaced around the end of this decade, the new model is expected to look much like this concept. The basic proportions and size are very close to the current Explorer, but the styling is a more modern look for this Ford stalwart. The combination of rising fuel costs and new fuel economy rules is pushing Ford to increase the efficiency of all their vehicles including the next generation Explorer.

[Source: Ford]


With an emphasis on cost-effective ways of reducing fuel consumption, Ford is focusing on trimming vehicle weight as one means to that end. Ford's holistic approach to weight savings involves looking at all the systems in the vehicle. For example, the new SUV will drop the current engine lineup of the old 4.0L V6 and 4.6L V8 in favor of new EcoBoost gasoline turbocharged direct injection units (GTDI). The new lineup will consist of a 2.0L GTDI four cylinder with 275hp and 280lb-ft of torque and a 3.5L V6 with 340hp and 340lb-ft. In both cases the engines offer more power than the current units and fuel efficiency improvements of 30 respectively.

The V6 version of the new concept also weighs in at 150lbs less than the current V-8 model, which helps both the vehicle dynamics and overall fuel efficiency. What Ford is now calling the EcoBoost engines first appeared at last year's show in the Lincoln MKR concept as the TwinForce V6. That name has been retired in order to put the emphasis on the fuel efficiency-boosting potential of the technology. More gains come courtesy of the smoother body which, combined with reductions in parasitic losses from systems like the electric power assist, gives a five percent mileage boost.



On this concept, Ford is also trying out some interior packaging innovations as well. The first and second row seats are mounted on arms cantilevered from a rail mounted on the side of the center tunnel. With no seat mounting mechanism attached to the floor, a switch allows the second row seats to motor forward and stack beneath the front seats, providing easy access to the back row.

The sliding door on the passenger side and absent B-pillar are probably concept-only features that will never get to production. The integrated, matte finished three bar grille does look like an sensible evolution of the corporate face for a new decade. The concept has a bit of a chopped look to the roof profile giving a more aggressive look to the whole vehicle. Now that the Explorer will have a unibody layout with a lower floor, such a roof profile is certainly feasible without sacrificing interior volume.

Overall, the concept is an attractive update of a traditional shape with a lot of neat features and a fantastic new drivetrain. The base four-cylinder EcoBoost engine provides an additional 75hp and 25lb-ft of torque (with a much fatter, flatter torque curve to boot) with a 5mpg improvement over the current truck's base engine. The sooner Ford puts the old Explorer out to pasture the better. The new Explorer should turn up before the end of the decade. It better get here before there's no one left who wants to buy one.


PRESS RELEASE:

FORD TO REVEAL NEW FUEL-SAVING CONCEPT IN DETROIT

The Ford Explorer America concept showcases a new kind of utility for the vehicle customers have known and loved for years: even better fuel efficiency.

"Customers are smart. They value vehicles – the more efficient, the better," said Jim Farley, Ford group vice president of Marketing and Communications. "Ford gets it.

"Innovative technologies can transform people's favorite vehicles. Look at SYNC, the Ford system that connects people and their favorite portable devices, including media players and Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones, while in their vehicles."

Technologies and engineering innovations help Explorer America concept deliver an approximately 20 to 30 percent fuel-economy improvement, depending on engine selection, while providing room for six and their gear as well as moderate towing and off-roading capabilities.

This smarter utility concept simplifies Ford Motor Company's systems approach for delivering sustainable vehicles, specifically demonstrating:
  • A powertrain lineup that includes a 4-cylinder 2-liter engine with EcoBoost technology delivering 275 hp and 280 lb.-ft. of torque or, as a premium engine, a 3.5-liter V-6 delivering about 340 hp. Depending on engine selection, fuel-efficiency will improve by 20 to 30 percent versus today's V-6 Explorer
  • Migration from current body-on-frame to unibody construction, reducing weight and delivering superior driving dynamics
  • A fuel-efficient 6-speed transmission with auto shift control, allowing the driver to select and hold a lower gear with just the turn of a dial when conditions warrant it
  • A weight reduction of 150 pounds for the V-6 version thanks to its downsized – yet superior performing – engine, as well as more lightweight materials, suspension and chassis components
  • Fuel-saving electric power assisted steering (EPAS) and other engine actions that deliver a fuel savings benefit of about 5 percent. Between 80 to 90 percent of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles will have EPAS by 2012

In addition to its fuel-efficient powertrain and technologies, the Explorer America concept addresses how the SUV market has changed in the past 15 years.

In the 1990s, customers were drawn by SUVs aligned with people's adventurous, more rugged lifestyles. Today's consumers are more discerning, demanding products that are capable and flexible – but more intelligently executed.

The Explorer America concept looks the part, too, with a modern, muscular design language that belies its ability to harness today's active lifestyles. Its integrated three-bar grille, defined power dome hood, wrap-around rear glass panel window and sliding rear door give the appearance that this concept is ready for modern Lewis-and-Clark types to explore, from their own neighborhoods to the trail head.

Inside, intelligent features abound, including: single-touch stackable, sliding seats that allow for convenient access to the second row; a work table with seats deploy from the tailgate; and a three-dimensional compass and navigation unit with a topographical map built right into the instrument panel.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 50 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Overall, I love it. This is really a step forward for Ford. The only complaints I have are the nose and the sliding door. And as long as it is RWD and retains most of its off-road capabilities, I want one.

      On a different note, I still think that Ford should have built that Bronco concept from a few years back (2004?).
      • 7 Years Ago
      Why does Ford need to make this AND the Flex (I assume the Taurus X dies)?
        Chris
        • 7 Years Ago
        If Ford does do away with the Taurus X it needs to be given to Mercury and they could call it the Meta-One that way Mercury could have a vehicle to call there own.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Silver paint, chrome rims, matte aluminum and matte grey trim pieces. Are the people picking these materials and colors effing blind?! Looks like crap in the front. Otherwise, I like how simple the interior is, and the car doesn't look half bad from the back, but again, silver in the tail light? It all contrasts really bad. Get some darker colors on there, and get rid of the chrome rims.
      carrinan
      • 7 Years Ago
      I think it is great vehicle, but I believe Ford will screw this up, just as it has in recent introductions, with the exception of the Edge.
      1. While the design isn't bad, like anything else it will age, and Ford takes too long to move from concept to driveway. By the time this is introduce a myriad of other designs will come, some of which will make this one seem dated at introduction (e.g. Focus, Five Hundred).
      2. This vehicle must maintain supply for any residual demand for "SUVs". It will be a tragic mistake by Ford to prematurely relinquish a market category, which they have dominated for such long time and have enjoyed unprecedented success. I believe there is still a considerable market for "SUVs". An SUV was, in my estimation, a way for the pickup truck guy to purchase a vehicle with primarily the attributes of the pickup truck, but that will haul the wife, and kids as well; a bonus was that the wife didn't complain too much about driving it either.
      In fact, women seem to have fully embrace SUV, and before the bust, made up a large part, largest by some estimations, of SUV drivers. So much so, that manufacturers have already started to cater to taste of women, resulting in the many CUVs on the road today.
      But what about the many men who do not want to return to pickup trucks, but also so not want to drive the CUV, with its rounded edges, and diminished off-road and towing capabilities (e.g. Honda Pilot, et al).
      Ford needs to remake this category, focusing on three central tenants 1) greatly increased fuel economy in which case diesels may assist greatly and even possibly hybrids; 2) maintain the strong, aggressive, tough attributes that transferred when SUVs evolved from pickup trucks; 3) Of course, the major problem with all Ford product which is the lack of product differentiation between brands. Make this the best SUV possible from the beginning and not leave anything for future upgrades or up-market brand differentiation.
      Ford must plan long-range, execute short range, and remain flexible, quickly updating and reengineering this product as the market dictates. If they play their cards correctly, they may again be a trendsetter rather than the mindless and talentless follower they have become. Ford cannot allow this to be yet another category of vehicle they abandon prematurely, along with minivans, small cars, and almost medium and full size cars as well. A company of its size must compete in every major category of vehicle, if it is to remain in business.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I love it. This looks like a cross between a Ford SYNus concept and a Ford Airstream concept. I think the grill looks good.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I wouldn't mind owning something like. Just change the face a little.
      Of course it would have to stay RWD.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The exterior is great, but the interior needs work.
      Ford desperatly needs to update the Expedition and Explorer. Both models look like antique.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Expedition was just redesigned for 2007, how often should it be updated?

        The GM full sized SUVs got all the attention, but the Expedition is more than compedative with them. Ford needs to advertise it more. I saw a few ads this past summer showing the advantages Expedition (and EL) have over Tahoe/Suburban, and I'd like to see more.
      Supat Muangyot
      • 6 Months Ago
      I am one of people in Thailand who like this model , it was very cool designed car. Does it is planed to sell in Asia or Thailand Market ?
      • 7 Years Ago
      This isnt 1984, the SVO has been gone for decades. Hell, why not say its no good simply because of the Pinto?

      This is a concept vehicle, guys/gals. Not everything its equippped with (including the magic ball they barrowed from the NCC 1701) will see the light of production.

      This new technology they're using (EcoBoost...which sounds too much like a cross between GM's EcoTec and Boost diet drinks LOL) is viable and is more realistic that hybrids, IMO. Despite the fact that Prius sold better than expected, not everybody is willing to put up with the negatives of owning a hybrid.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I've always liked the Explorer, but can someone please explain to me how this new Explorer will be different from the Edge, the Taurus X, and the Flex? All are unibody CUVs.

      Why does Ford need all of these?!
        • 7 Years Ago
        I have seen the Flex production vehicle and its not the size of an explorer
        • 7 Years Ago
        I would assume this one is still RWD, and may even be the shared successor to the Australian Ford Territory.
        • 7 Years Ago
        From what I've seen, the Flex is going to be bigger than the Explorer. The Taurus X is probably going to be put to sleep here in the next few years.
      • 7 Years Ago
      as much as i really would never ever buy an suv, this looks cool.

      it looks so futuristic, like the master chief from halo will open the door and get in with some other halo guys
      • 7 Years Ago

      So does this mean no more Mercury Mountaineer?
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