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A 2011 Ford Explorer prototype has begun making runs around Michigan, and although the camo is thick, we're getting out first glimpse of what Ford has in store for its unibody 'ute.

Built on the same platform that underpins the Ford Taurus, Lincoln MKS and – more importantly – Flex, the all-new seven-seater Explorer will trade a bit of off-road prowess and towing capacity for a smoother ride and increased fuel efficiency. Under the hood, expect a choice of Ford's newest EcoBoost engines – the 3.5-liter V6 and a new 2.0-liter inline-four – with the latter possibly mated to an all-new dual-clutch gearbox.

Although the camo obscures most of the design details, the A-pillars and greenhouse are reminiscent of the Flex, although the hatch appears canted slightly inward, with a set of LED taillamps mounted in back. The overall shape is sure to take cues from the Explorer America concept show at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, and we plan on getting our first look at the production model early next year before production begins at Ford's Louisville, Kentucky plant in late 2010.


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