• Oct 23rd 2008 at 12:41PM
  • 44
Click above for high-res gallery of next-gen unibody Explorer spy shots

Our spy photographers have noticed a test mule running around Detroit, and we agree with their guess that it's the upcoming reinvention of the Ford Explorer on a unibody platform. Since its inception, the Explorer has been a true SUV built on a sturdy truck frame, but the market has turned its back on traditional SUVs, so Ford came up with the Explorer America concept that debuted at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show. The concept previews the vehicle you see here, though current mules for the production version are cobbled together with bits of Taurus X and Flex body panels.

The new Explorer will be ditching its truckish roots and climbing onboard a new car-based platform that's shared with the Flex. The new unibody structure will effectively make the next Explorer a large CUV rather than an SUV. The mules are wearing a Flex front end with a modified lower grille to allow more cooling air to reach the engine, but after the more steeply raked A-pillar we find the body of a Ford Taurus X. Our spies note that the wheelbase of these mules appears to be shorter than that of the Flex, though we expect the new Explorer to sport a third row of seats regardless. The mules also appear to be wider than a Taurus X or Flex, which is fitting with the SUV image the new Explorer must project. Click the gallery below for more spy shots of the next-gen Explorer, that should be arriving sometime in 2010.

[Source: KGP Photography]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Why this?

      Ford must like wasting billions to continue developing Flex's and Edge's ugly brothers.

      Taurus X, Explorer and Escape should be cancelled.

      Am I missing something?
      Why would I prefer a Taurus X ($27K) over an Edge ($25K)?
      And why would I prefer an Explorer ($27K) over a Flex ($28K)?

      At least, for an ugly box, the Escape is cheap.

      Oh, well.. when Ford will want to save some money, they'll have easy decisions to take.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @Arumage, @CityWok
        first, thank you for replying to my comment

        Well, since it sells... then it shoud be cancelled the day the Kuga arrives in America.

        Oops, my bad, I thought it was 5. I was missing something indeed.
        I don't really like the Flex's look, but I like the fact that it has a unique style, unlike the Explorer, Taurus X and Escape that just look like dumpsters on wheels.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Why would you want to cancel the Escape? It actually sells so it would cost them money to cancel it. They sold 127,000 through September of last year. I can understand cancelling the Taurus X and the Explorer though.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The Fairmont lives on! This is more proof that Ford's better idea initiative has run dry.
      • 6 Years Ago
      "In other news GM is announcing the new 2010 Hummer H2 based the the Chevy Cobalt." ;)
      • 6 Years Ago
      C'mon folks - it's a chassis mule. You know what you can tell from these pics? The look of it's ... wheelbase!

      I think it's a very cute wheelbase!

      • 6 Years Ago
      C'mon guys. That looks like a mid-year styling retrofit for the Taurus X or maybe a mule for a new powerplant. I HIGHLY doubt that is the Explorer's future. I would expect it to be less of a complete 180 from the concept.
      • 6 Years Ago
      For those complaining about the look: do you know the meaning of the word "mule" in the automotive universe, don't you??
      • 6 Years Ago
      Yuck, why do they have to create such UGLY vehicles. If I had to choose between something that looked like this, or something like the new Traverse, etc. there is NO way this would be selected. Apparently the 3 bar, FLEX grill, will be the new theme on all of their vehicles.
        • 6 Years Ago
        It's a MULE. Damn. It's not going to be the actual car you see here. They stuck on the front of the Flex with the body of a Taurus X, which tells me it will most likely have the same aerodynamics of the Flex/Taurus X. Taurus X is being killed next year, so now all we would have is the Flex, Edge, Escape, Explorer, and Expedition which will most likely be killed soon, too. Do you think Ford would be that careless as to just stick on a couple crossover parts and call it the explorer?

        Don't answer that.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I wouldn't mind a minivan, actually. I don't mind the Honda and the Town and Country's are just OK too. But I prefer something with a little nicer looks. But still, I'd take the Chevy, or the Acadia over this. Who's to say though, it is really the face of the Flex and the back end of a Taurus X/Freestyle pretty much, and the "real" explorer really may look nothing like this
        • 6 Years Ago
        The Flex doesn't make sense as a badge name. Ford should have made the Flex, the NEW EXPLORER and given you the choice of the V6, Ecotech V6 and V8.

        But, no matter what Ford makes, they'd better be sure to include telescoping steering wheels. The lack of which is the main reason I'd never buy a Flex.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The Traverse looks like an oversized bloated sumo wrestler, you should just get a minivan instead of tooling around in those fugly GM crossovers.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @ TJ: WTF is up with duplicate screen names? That is the most annoying thing EVER.
        • 6 Years Ago
        i hope you are all aware it will look nothing like this... when they create test mules they snatch parts off of anything that they can that is "roughly" the same dimension... which is why you see a Taurus X body, Flex front end, probably a current Explorer steering wheel, seats out of your grandma's Tempo... whatever... its purely a way to hide a new frame. you act like you've never seen test mules before.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Did any of you geniouses read the article? Here is a quote from it:

        "though current mules for the production version are cobbled together with bits of Taurus X and Flex body panels"

        Is it really that hard to understand?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Looks like Flex had a baby with Taurus X
        • 6 Years Ago

        "i hope you are all aware it will look nothing like this... when they create test mules they snatch parts off of anything that they can that is "roughly" the same dimension... which is why......"

        Well I'd agree with you 100% but what about the Aztek! It seemed to make it from Mule to production without a single change! :)

        Oh and if ANYONE gets on my case for bashing the Aztek.. I'll.... I'll...
      • 6 Years Ago
      Explorus X?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Flex, Edge, Taurus X, and now Explorer - c'mon Ford, how many crossovers do we need? Either keep the Explorer truck-based, or let it die with dignity.

      There are many reasons why the domestic auto industry is in trouble, but one that we rarely hear about is the waste of engineering budgets on four different vehicles that serve basically the same purpose.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Actually we hear it ALL the time
      • 6 Years Ago
      DON'T DO THIS FORD!!!!

      Your concept looked beautiful, this is trash. I know it's a mule, but it's leaving a really bad taste in my mouth. Please don't make the explorer look anything like this. PLEASE!
        • 6 Years Ago
        you're an idiot. Just like those that decided to post a comment even after they looked up the meaning of "mule." -- Environmentalist says "NO! domestic automotive industries, there is no need for anything that can carry 5+ people comfortably. We must have small things, that get 50 mpg +." Get real, there will always be an suv.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hey, That looks nothing like the Concept.
      Ford always gives us suc.....

      Oh wait! Its just a test mule. Never mind.
      • 6 Years Ago
      This piece of crap looks to me nothing more than a Taurus-X update with Flex elements.

      If Ford wants to turn it's back on truck based SUVs and go with unibody that's fine by me but please don't call that thing an Explorer. I have had explorers before and loved them, this is an insult to them and all those memories I have of them.

      Call this thing for what it is, a Taurus-Flex. Don't insult the Explorer's legacy
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