Recently, the ever-vigilant motorheads at Jalopnik managed to catch the 2011 Ford Explorer test mule attempting to anonymously cruise the streets of Michigan. Unlike spy photos that have surfaced of other “redesigned” future models from Ford (here’s to looking at you, 2010 Mustang), the 2011 Ford Explorer appears to be quite a drastic departure in design from the current generation – which is causing us faint digestive discomfort.
Truthfully, we can’t say that Ford didn’t warn us. When Ford announced their new “Global Ford” plan a few months back, they made it very clear that the Ford Explorer would be receiving a massive overhaul. Accordingly, the next-gen Ford Explorer would be built on a car-based platform and share the same underpinnings as the Ford Taurus X, thereby effectively abandoning its SUV classification in favor of the increasingly popular XUV (cross-over utility vehicle).
In today’s economy, its understandable that Ford would want to put as much distance between their product lineup and that filthy, three-letter acronym, “SUV” – there’s a lot of truth to the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Granted, the fuel-economy on the Explorer (as well as most SUVs in general) is an issue that could be addressed, but that doesn’t mean the entire concept of an SUV needs to be tossed. Contrary to popular belief, there are a large percentage of consumers out there who still buy a vehicle based on their personal wants and needs and really couldn’t care less about the current fashionable trend of “going green.”
Bottom line: If SUV customers want a buttery, car-like ride, they’ve already got the Edge, the Flex, and the Taurus X to sate their appetite. The Explorer could stand to increase its fuel-efficiency, but venturing into XUV territory could be a dangerous game. If Ford insists on messing around with the Explorer, they had better make sure the final product is as close to a Land Rover LR2 as you can get – no one’s going to buy an Explorer for its sedan-smooth highway performance unless it’s got some serious off-road cred to accompany it.
Update: Since this post was written in Novermber of 2008, the information isn’t current. For the latest of the 2011 Ford Explorer, go here.