• Sep 24th 2009 at 8:58AM
  • 34
Ford Explorer spy photos – Click above for high-res image gallery

Ford seems to really like crossover vehicles. The Blue Oval lineup already sports the Escape, Edge and Flex, and within a year or so a unibody version of the Explorer will join the car-based utility party. And now we have more spy photos of what appears to be a next-generation Explorer mule disguised as a Taurus X Flex science experiment – most notable common features being an unexplained missing bar in the grille and an ill-fitting tailgate.

Gmfan1111 over at FoMoCoNews s forums says he spotted the mule outside of Ford's proving grounds, and he snapped three pics before losing the cobbled-together tester due to bad weather. Like the previous photos we've seen, the mule has a Flex-derived front end and from the A-pillar back it looks like a Taurus X. The new mule photos show yet another missing bar on the Flex front grille. We have no idea why the bar is missing, but one of the commenters on the FoMoCo forums guessed that the missing bar could be for feeding more air into an EcoBoost engine. Works for us.

The Ford Explorer America concept unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show in 2008 looked wide and very SUV-like, and the large gaps on either side of the Taurus X tailgate shows that the new Explorer will likely be quite a bit wider. Click on the gallery below to get a closer look at these latest spy photos. Hat tip to Colby!




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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 34 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      great just what we need more unibody crap
      • 5 Years Ago
      What is the point of having the Exploder AND the Flex AND the Edge if the Exploder is going to be unibody?

      Ford does something stupid. Again.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Don't forget Ford's other decade old unibody - ESCAPE.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Brian, I also was wondering this. My 2 guesses are these:
        1. The Edge, which sells ok, but not fantastic, is going away for the new Explorer. The Explorer is traditionally bigger, but whatever.
        2. The Explorer will be added to the line as more of an off-roading unibody SUV. Like the Grand Cherokee or Suzuki Grand Vitara. It will have more clearance and electronic goodies to make it off-roadable, and more towing.

        So those are the best I can figure, hopefully the latter.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That was quick...

        Anyway, the reason I can think of (I'm not as good as you but here's a try) is different age groups. After all, they do differ in size.
        • 5 Years Ago
        who says they're going to continue with all three?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Ford isn't stupid to waste their money; there's always a reason. If you think you're such a good automobile analyst, why don't you look for a job or something? The world needs people like you. No offence but, you sound a lot like a Ford employee who've just been laid off, hence the hate...

        Oh shi-- "Never Feed The Troll"... yikes.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Great, so instead of the Lincoln Taurus we'll have a Lincoln Fusion. Great "thinking" Ford!
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Don't forget Ford's other decade old unibody - ESCAPE."

        yeah, but I'd expect that to get a bit smaller.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Great, so instead of the Lincoln Taurus we'll have a Lincoln Fusion. "

        Ever heard of the MKZ?
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ Jim: BAM!

        [/thread]
        • 5 Years Ago
        The platform the Flex sits on is shared by the Taurus, MKS, and MKT. The Taurus is going to a stretched Fusion platform in a few years and the MKS is either going with it or to a Falcon platform. That leaves just the Flex and MKT on this platform in a few years. The MKT is expected to be a 20-30K unit a year vehicle and the Flex is only about a 50K a year vehicle right now, and that just isn't enough to make money on them. The current Explorer sells a few thousand units a month better than the Flex. If this Explorer retains those customers and steals some sales away from other CUVs, It could add significant volume to this platform making it more likely to be profitable. It may end up being the Flex's demise.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Hey, remember that they're just opinions, just like every others. Nothing official. Just wait and watch like the rest of us.
        • 5 Years Ago
        okay .. why have a unibody Taurus when there is already a unibody Fusion, Focus, and Mustang?!?

        Same exact principle. It will still be the same size as the current explorer. It will offer more room than the edge, hence a 3rd row, and it will sit high up off the ground than the Flex.

        What is the big deal? It's going to be bigger than the Flex, most likely have a V8 as an option for those who want to tow more than 3,500 lbs!!!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Just rename the Edge - Explorer.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Looks like a Freestyle with new end caps.

        Maybe this is just a mule.
      • 5 Years Ago
      looks like a ford edge mixed with the ford flex
      • 5 Years Ago
      These things have been running around for quite a while now (I wanna say almost a year maybe but I could be wrong) and pics of these things are just being posted on AB?
      • 5 Years Ago
      The mule sheetmetal is an amalgam of the current Edge and recently departed Taurus X, which leads me to believe that this is the refreshed Edge, not a new unibody Explorer.
        • 5 Years Ago
        No it's not the refreshed Edge.

        The body is simply Taurus X with a Flex front end. These mules are being used for engine testing and other various components testing.

        Edge mules have been running around lately with heavy camo. They are obviously Edge mules because you can see the three bar grille and the obvious profile.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I highly doubt that is an Explorer. It looks like a hacked-up Taurus X, and if I had to guess I'd say that is just what it is. Wager it's a powertrain mule.

      Besides, if it was an Explorer, there's no way it would be out in public with no camouflage.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think that's exactly what the article is intending to say it is. Not the actual Explorer, but a development mule for it. When the Edge was being developed, we worked with both a hacked up Mazda MPV and a Ford Freestyles that were powertrain representatives of the Edge. Unfortunately, we didn't get that contract. But, this is the same sort of vehicle. I've seen far more Frankenstein like mule vehicles than this...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Good to see that the 4Runner will remain BOF. Maybe Ford should build a new Bronco.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Parts bin slut! I love it!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Thats what test mules are. They have to hide what it is some how, what better camo.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Truck based or Body On Frames are becoming an endangered species.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Who'd have imagined that the last B-O-F SUV standing may be the Kia Borrego?
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ ~D.

        unibody Yukon being cancelled? what planet are you living on?
        • 5 Years Ago
        BIG +1 on that, or at least I hope so.

        I was very disconcerted to see that GM is "cancelling" their unibody Yukon, which in addition to their killing-off of the G8 unibody ute truck shows me that GM is not making the bold steps in a key area of their business while it would still be somewhat ahead of the game. So what is their plan? Make body-on-frame as long as they can and try and augment it with soft-utes that won't sell in high volume? How is that change?!

        but big kudos to Ford on making the bold steps early...again. Now if they really want to pile dirt on GM's grave they should bring over the Falcon ute!
        • 5 Years Ago
        If you don't need body-on-frame, you don't need an SUV.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I wonder who this "Gmfan1111" is...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Body on frame SUVs are a dying breed and most are moving to unibody, even the large SUVs, so if you need to tow heavy, you'll need a F150 or SD truck.

      This is just a test mule for the EB drivetrain, 2.0 I4 making 250+ HP and 250+ ft-lbs as the upgrade engine, 3.7 V6 is base. Expect to see this new Explorer at Detroit auto show and from what I've heard, it is stunning!
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