• Oct 13th 2009 at 2:58PM
  • 37
2011 Ford Explorer - Click above for high-res gallery

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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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Overlap with the Flex isn't a problem. Overlap with the Flex is a requirement - the Flex is a market dud that's being significantly outsold by the old BOF Explorer!

      Ford needs a large CUV to compete with the Lambda, Pilot, Highlander etc.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't mind the Explorer going to a unibody platform, as that seems the be where the future is going in smaller SUVs, so I'm not going to fight it.

      However, if it has less off-road ability and significantly less towing ability than the current Explorer, I could care less about it.

      My hope is that Ford got a good look at the 2011 Grand Cherokee concept. A unibody SUV, but with towing ability over 7,000lbs and a solid 4x4 system depending on how it's optioned.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think the biggest question is if this uses the F-150 or the Escape's 4x4 sytstem, I'm hoping for the former because I want to see someone shoehorn an Ecoboost 4cyl into the Ranger.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I forgot all about this thang.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Brian is a party pooper. I think this Explorer is rather exciting, even if it is a unibody vehicle.

      The Flex is in a class of its own, and that's a good thing.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree, I like the way that the explorer is shaping up, it certainly has better proportions than the mules we've been seeing as of late. It looks like it has just enough ground clearance to handle the "my suv can kinda go off road but probably never will" segment that is so important in the automotive market, and I'll bet it gets much better fuel economy than the extremely outdated explorer that we have now. And with an ecoboost v6 it will definitely tow more than 3,500 pounds.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Does seem like there is to much product overlap, Flex, Edge, Escape and now the Explorer. I would prefer they spent more money on Escape and made it more of a class leader in its market. They could also upgrade the Edge and put it on a diet to make it lighter and upgrade the engines in both. I do like the look of the Explore concept.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree with Jared, there is no overlap in the current ford CUV/SUV lineup and that will not change with the new unibody Explorer. I think Ford is gaining more customers by offering two distinct CUV/SUV styles in vehicles of similar size and underlying platform... because they are on a very similar platform, Ford will not be cannibalizing it's own sales because the money goes to the same platform; however, they attract many more people who want either a wagon-like touring CUV or a more traditional tall SUV.
        While I would get the Flex if I had a family and needed to haul more than myself and my GF... I would probably not look at the new Explorer or Traverse or any other big-and-tall CUV/SUV. It's all a matter of visual taste and driving style, although neither probably drive like a sports coupe anyway.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think this is quite the gamble on Ford's part. Maybe it will pay off.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Yeah, I too think that this is a logical move for the Explorer. But it isn't a logical move when you look at the rest of the Ford lineup.

      The Escape is the compact crossover/SUV. The Edge is the midsize 2-row model. The Flex is the full-size 3-row crossover. The Expedition is the full-size 3-row SUV with ground clearance.

      Do they really need a whole different midsize crossover on the same platform as the Edge (or Flex?), just to offer more ground clearance? If people need ground clearance on a regular basis, they'll probably need the additional robust-ness that a more truck-based BOF SUV would offer.

      Ford is never going to see 400,000 unit sales of the Explorer again. It seems to me that this has real potential to cannibalize sales and confuse customers.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Not really,

        I question whether the platform can be converted to RWD based AWD or 4X4. That will tell a little more as to what the plan is regarding it's place in the lineup. Though Honda didn't have issues making a full size pickup a FWD based vehicle so maybe Ford is steering Explorer that way.

        I do fully expect either way that this will fit in with the more traditional SUV crowd that has always bought Explorers and is currently buying Lambda based GM products, a bit more ground clearance and that bird's eye view that many still prefer, probably more towing capability than Flex too. I also hate to admit that there are a few who don't like Flex's styling, I do but I know others don't. This vehicle brings them into the fold for a fraction of the price of developing a new vehicle and gives people a choice. Also, this is obviously not as long as Flex, so it will be a smaller 7 passenger vehicle and more of a flexible SUV than a real people mover.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ford has too much brand equity in the Explorer, plus over 4 Million owners to abandon it, so here it is... 2-3 rows, 5-7 passanger...

      The really big question is - if it is on the D4 (Flex) platform, will it be FWD based AWD that might erode some of its "off-road" ability.

      POLL: Would you buy the Explorer if it is FWD based AWD (vs. RWD)?
        • 5 Years Ago
        I have no use for the Explorer, but I suspect if it can tow a good amount it's drivetrain setup will be irrelevant to the average consumer since they tend to buy AWD/4x4 for the comfort of knowing they have it in the winter. It's also not like a FWD sytem isn't capable Land Rover does use it in the Freelander/LR2 and Volvo use them for their entire lineup
        • 5 Years Ago
        As one of the few people who own an Escape and have actually taken it off-roading, I'd love to see the Explorer have the same FWD/AWD system as the Escape as long as it has the Auto/On switch like the early Escapes had.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Nice side mirrors.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ive waited for what feels like forever to see it!!

      Can't wait!!!

      ah!!!!! I love the Explorer

      Ex owner: 1996 & 2002 Explorers
      • 5 Years Ago
      this should be the Edges replacement
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