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2011 Ford Explorer Caught Wearing Ugly Car Coat

Posted in 4x4, Car Photography, Car Tech, Cars, Design, Ford, Fuel, New Cars, Off-Roading, SUV, XUV by Dustin Driver | November 4th, 2008 | 32 Responses |

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.

Source: Jalopnik

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32 Responses

  1. Robert says:


    Yeah, we all know that the Taurus X is going to be canned within a few days (Feb. 27th to be exact), but to have the Explorer succeed it is, I think a big mistake! They already have the Flex and the Edge. That’s enough CUVs! Come 2010-2011, the Explorer is going to be ruined unless it can prove to the consumers that even though it lost some of its SUV appeal, it still has a little bit of that legendary off-road appeal on board! The design itself better be a lot nicer than this, or we can all kiss the Explorer goodbye! Ford Motor Company…………DON’T BLOW IT!!!!!!!!

    -Robert Nardelli

  2. jay says:

    the explorer design went down hill from 2002. am still fumin that the 01 sport and sport trac didnt come in the conventional 4 dr SUV format.

    the best explorer years was 98 to 00.

  3. regalgsx says:

    I was excited when I saw the concept. But this is just plain hideous. I mean, it wasn’t just beaten by the ugly stick, it was kicked around by a street gang or something.

  4. Darell says:

    Please tell me that this isn’t a Ford Explorer!! If I wanted a Taurus X I’d buy one. What I want is an Explorer America! I don’t care what it’s fuel rating is, I’d still buy it. C’mon Ford, the domestic auto field is all yours now, and you can do better than this. I may be forced to re-engine my old Explorer and take it to a custom builder for a redesign!

  5. ger says:

    What happened?????
    We were shown that beautiful Xplorer America,,, then this!!!!!
    Really,,, Ford should stick with that concept America style.
    This boring design will not sell well.
    Ford,,,, We want that America design we were first shown!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. traceamar@hotmail.com says:

    I am a big fan of the Nissan Pathfinder. When I saw the Explorer America, I was almost ready to betray my Pathfinder….
    But this, is a JOKE….
    Ford you just lost a buyer… and trust me I am not sorry at all.

  7. jimmy jam says:

    Front end: 2009 Fusion
    Middle: X or 2009 Explorer
    Rear: X shoved on, thus the bulge in the roof!!!


  8. jimmy jam says:

    They SERIOUSLY jammed the rear end from a Taurus X on top of a bumper! The old Fusion front end?! Are you SERIOUS!? At least put the NEW front ends on this thing! A stretched out Taurus X… Gonna be a big fat “X” in sales too!!!

  9. Viko says:

    NO….REALLY…..I’m not surprised, instead I’m really disappointed about this….I think is clear why Ford and some other American car producers still in crisis and losing customers….and all of this is because of their really not- innovative designs and technologies. If you see deeply this is the same explorer as the 2001 one it just still being the same just with a different front ”I mean new plastics”, headlights and for sure their new instrument panel full of gadgets. The key word here is INNOVATION, they are stuck in the “wrong chrome age” flex, fusion, Taurus, edge…..and now this explorer……-I don’t know if they see that this kind of design is taking them deep and deep to the extinction.
    The only thing is left to say…..once I had 4 Ford vehicles now I don’t have any of them coz they are ugly, they lost quality and rice maintenance prices. Ford, I really wish you can live little bit longer!

  10. Brian alexander says:

    Its for the new Transformers movie. It’s an Explorer thats turning into a car.
    Look people, our needs as Americans are becoming less important everyday. The rest of the world is taking us down slowly but surley. Americans are still selling out… I mean buying cars from other countries. American automakers are designing and building cars for them and their markets, not ours. So we only have ourselves to blame for the way or cars are starting to look like tampon rappers. Stop crying and start buying American and putting our country back to work dummies. It’s not bad to have pride in yourself. God bless America in whatever religon you believe.

  11. Cameron says:

    Calm down folks, this is a test mule cobbled together to get the the mechanicals out on the street without giving the future design away: look at the gaps and transitions in the body work. If Ford slots a 6 passenger vehicle between the Flex and the Edge that gets 28mpg and doesn’t have mini van taint, they’ll need that ugly stick to beat customers back.

  12. Michael says:

    Yeah, it can’t be as hideous as these pics… if they turn it into a true sport CUV with the 6cyl ecoBoost 350HP and compete with the Infiniti’s FX35 and Porsche’s of the world without the price… it would sell on the high end – and then you still get the mom and pops that would by the 4cyl ecoBoost on the low end… not sure if Ford has a clue, we’ll see… they better do something pretty fast… their competition ain’t standin still waiting… release date better be soon. Taurus X, Flex, Edge are all dogs headed for the heap. Ford will have at most 2 CUV in 2 years – The explorer will be one, maybe a fusion/escape.

  13. Luis Reyes says:

    the fronts not going to look anything like that its just to throw people off

  14. sammy says:

    i dont mind buying current version with the new 3.7 v6 engine from 2011 mustang and with better plastics and textures from interior

  15. TJ says:

    Just to relieve some of the harsh comments of the upcomming 2011 Explorer. Those test mules are just that. The real design IS GOING TO BE closely of the explorer america. Those test mules are just using the new powerplants of the 2011 explorer. Ford is not driving the new design just to keep it under wraps!

  16. Mush says:

    OMG! This is a Taurus X slightly modified! I’ve been rooting for Ford to succeed, but this, this is not good. What’s the difference between these photos and the Taurus X? My neighbor has one, and as soon as these photos of the Explorer test mule displayed, I thought it was my neighbor’s Taurus X! The Flex seems to be giving people something they don’t want and aren’t asking for, and I’m afraid this is more of the same philosophy that created the Flex & Taurus X.

  17. Robert Bell says:

    I beg to differ. These are mommy-cars that are sold to young families that want to haul their kids around. “Serious Off-Road Cred” whatever that is, is the last thing on their list. No one “off-roads” an Explorer, unless they’ve lost their mind. (And BTW, the same is true for Land Rovers sold in the US).

    The SUV is just a butched-up minivan (or station wagon), and what people want is a minivan without the perceived “lameness” of the minivan (or station wagon). So they buy these SUVs and pretend they will go off-road someday.

    Of course, they never do. Since most of the Explorers never leave pavement, why not put them on a cheaper-to-build and better-to-drive car platform? Smart move for Ford.

    And let’s face it, your average Explorer buyer (who is brain-dead anyway) won’t even realize what “platform” the car is based on. They’ll count the cupholders and number of Flat-screen TV’s for the kids. If it has an engine or something under the hood, they’re all good with that.

    And gas mileage is no passing fad. Gas will stabilize at $4 a gallon in the next year or so. (Summer is just around the corner). Miles per gallon is the new horsepower. If you aren’t getting 20 mpg with your SUV or at least 30 with your sedan, you might as well get out of the auto business.

    Ford has stayed alive over the last year by offering cars with better MPG. GM and Chrysler followed your advice and continued to offer truck-based overweight and overwrought SUVs and ended up bankrupt.

    It is a good thing Ford didn’t follow your advice! The Michigan-centric view of things is a recipe for disaster. Most car sales occur outside of that State.

    People in the rest of the USA are just tired of driving cars designed in Midwest America. That’s why the Japanese and Germans have done so well.

    Your article illustrates how the incestuous American car business still just doesn’t get it. The folks in the US car business talk only to themselves and validate their own ideas: 6,000 lb 10 mpg SUVs are great, and the rest of the world is wrong.

    We went that way when I worked at GM back in the 1980’s: “When are you people in California going to get with it and stop buying those funny little Japanese cars?”

    You may recall how that worked out. I think we had a 60% market share at the time. Those were the days!

  18. Relax, I’ve seen the new Explorer at the Design Center in Dearborn. I’ve sat in it and it’s not this pictured vehicle. It was, in a word, beautiful. By far and away, the best looking fill size SUV I’ve ever seen. The reaction from our group of about 55 people was unanimous. We all loved it.

  19. doug says:

    This is a hoax. It’s a Ford Freestyle with Flex front end. Probably from two salvaged cars. Notice how the front fenders do not match. The Ford Explorer will look much nicer.

  20. jalopy says:

    bring back the bronco!!

  21. Lionel says:

    What in the name that is all sacred is FORD doing? They’re copying cars like the Acura MDX, Lexus RX350 or Caddy SRX, etc. The new Explorer must have a little off road capability and the ride height from the drivers seat better be about the same as the old Explorers or you are going to have people sway over to the 4Runners or other cars in that class.

    Why couldn’t Ford just put the Eco-boost engine in a new body on frame type designed Explorer? You need not undergo a total overhaul remake. Ford, it wasn’t too long ago when you decided to change the jelly bean shaped Taurus in 1996 with the new generation of Taurus and your Taurus following took a dive. I can just see the same thing happening to the Explorer. Why do we need another version of the Flex named Explorer?

    Personally FORD should have ask the Explorer public send in their concept of what a 2011 Explorer looked like. I think you’d gotten something very different then what you will release next year.

    I own a 1996 4.0L Explorer XLT and I’m in the market for another replacement. I wanted to get another Explorer but decided to wait for the 2011 model. I can tell you I’ll be comparing the new 2011 Explorer to the one I have. It’s going to be a hard sell but I’m ready to shift from my Ford loyalty to the 4 Runner or maybe look at the Land Rover LR2.

    Next time ask the people what they want not second guess them.

  22. Max says:

    Guys, calm down. The vehicle pictured is just a test mule, with a composite body made up of a Flex front end and a Taurus X body. Haven’t you ever seen disguised test mules before? This is not what the vehicle will look like at all. It is just to test the driving dynamics.

  23. rickey roma says:

    The engineers and suits always come in and totally ruin the coolness of the concept car….the new explorer concept pics looked like something I would have ran out and bought..the actual explorer is just another ho hum vehicle with a bunch of new plastic panels on it….

  24. Brian Danner says:

    Anyone who REALLY knows the Taurus X (future Explorer or by another name, a Ford 500 WAGON!)) will love this car. The key is the platform, as Robert Bell said in his comment. Look up the D3 Volvo. Its an S80 with available Haldex all wheel drive. Handles and rides like a dream. The Duratec engine is probably the most reliable one ever built and no timing belt to break. I also have this engine in a 98 Taurus wagon with 200K+ miiles on it using synthetic oil. Too bad, they stopped production in 09 on the Taurus X but I am glad someone at Ford finally saw the value in it. Granted, its not sporty. If you want that, buy an Edge or a Mustang. In 08, Mullaly made Ford fix the Freestyle with its rear brake problems, CVT, and weak horsepower, then failed to market the improved version at risk of losing sales of their E cars (SUVs). You cannot compare it to an MDX or Lexus. These are much more expensive and not without visits to the shop.. Just like Ford says, drive one! (a Taurus X, that is) and then you can sample the new Explorer ahead of time. It is a great all around safe family car with TONS of room and comfort.

  25. Jason says:

    i gotta say this looks like crap, i love the explorer i have and its from 1997, now that looks like an explorer not this piece of junk, i would change the way this car looks or no one will want it, bring back the 90’s versions

  26. James says:

    This is not the 2011 Explorer! There are real pictures elsewhere on the net…this is the 2011 Taurus X.

  27. Wendy says:

    Looks like a ford flex in the front and just UGLY in the back. I LOVE the old explorer and will miss it!!

  28. Cheryl says:

    I have one question…Does the 2011 Ford Explorer have the same transmission that is in the 2005? if so, good-bye to Ford. My family is a Ford family, currenly we own 3 (2 are Ford Explorers, 01 and 05) and we have had to have the transmission replace in both, the 05 has been replaced twice! This is a known problem to Ford and they have been using this transmission with this problem for years. I LOVE my 05 Explorer, but until this problem is fixed, NO WAY. I may have to look at Chevy.

  29. joey says:

    I was so happy when I convinced my neighbor to buy a ford f-150 over a chevy. I love fords and always will, but this is flat out ugly..

  30. asdasda says:

    çok iyi lan bu ::D

  31. Carshe says:

    I can’t believe Ford did this..what a big mistake! I will NEVER buy this version of Explorer nor will any of my diehard Ford Explorer fans..Can’t tell if this is a cross between a van, focus and Dodge Journey..YUK!!!

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      Carshe, realize that the article you’re commenting on is about two years old. Want more recent info on the Explorer? Try this article: http://www.ridelust.com/2011-ford-explorer-yes-it-goes-off-road-too/

      If you don’t like the styling, there isn’t much I can comment on there. If you’re concerned about the new Explorer’s ability to go off road, it will handle almost anything you can throw at it short of rock crawling or fording deep water. I’ve driven it off-road, and it works a lot better than I thought it would.

      As for diehard Explorer fans not buying the new Explorer, that’s not the case. In fact, it’s currently selling at about 2x the rate that Ford had originally projected.