UPDATE: The new 2011 Ford Explorer's been revealed. Take a look at the new crossover here. Times, they are a-changin' and the era of the body-on-frame Explorer is coming to an end. The 2011 Ford Explorer is going car-like, with a unibody frame and front-wheel bias. How do we know? A chatty Chicago assembly worker.
The 2011 Ford Explorer is going car-based, it was the worst kept secret in Detroit, especially after Ford started trotting out mule vehicles wearing stretched out Freestyle bodies, but now an anonymous line-worker talked to KickingTires giving more easy-to-believe details.
The new Explorer rides on the updated Freestyle/500 chassis underpinning the current Ford Taurus, Ford Flex and Lincoln MKS and MKT. It'll be sized and shaped like an over-sized, three-row Edge (isn't that where the Flex lives?) with the spoiler across the back and everything. Of course, it won't be wearing the garish nose from the concept car above, expect a more Edge-meets-Fusion-meets-F150 grill up front.
The motivation is probably the most interesting aspect of the new Explorer. Rumor has it the once-truck-based-expedition-ready Explorer will start with an EcoBoost inline-four driving the front wheels and getting around 30 MPG. The mid-range engine is said to be the recently upgraded 300 HP 3.7-liter V6 recently unveiled in the freshened Lincoln MKX and the top-range crossover will get the stonkin' twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 out of the SHO. We're assuming all levels will be available with the all-wheel-drive system found on the platform already, with the system coming standard on the top-level EcoBoost V6. All engines will come with a six-speed automatic transmission. There will be no V8 option. We'll write that again: There will be no V8 option. It's a brave new world.
What does all this mean? Well, for one thing you can toss any pretense of taking the thing into the woods for any exploring, there weren't many before, but those days are probably long gone. Second, the towing capacity will be much reduced, with the range estimated at 3,500-5,000 lbs. No more trips with the family camper, or it'll at least be downsized to a pop-top or teardrop style. All this boils down to a vehicle that's more a people mover than an SUV (or, really, the SUV that defined the segment for the better part of a decade). As such the interior will be wildly improved over the current generation in much the same way Taurus and Co. are improved. It'll probably have MyFord Touch as an option and no-doubt DVD players all over the place.
We'll be getting our first look at the tradition-abandoning and now questionably necessary (how many vehicles can Ford cram into nearly the same segment in their own showroom?) vehicle sometime in the near future.