A post questioning the 2011 Ford Explorer's nonexistent off-road capability was all it took to confirm what many of us have suspected — the Raptor notwithstanding, Ford is no longer interested in making a capable off-road vehicle.
Now keep in mind, our issues isn't with the Explorer per se. It was never really an off-roader. What we and off-road aficionado James Taylor are worried about is what this means for vehicles like the potential for a new Ford Bronco. Here's what Taylor posted to the Ford Explorer fan page:
"When is Ford going to build a truly capable SUV that you can drive on the road and off-road anywhere and I mean anywhere. The 2011 Ford Explorer is no where near as capable a vehicle as my slightly modified 1998 Explorer Sport or my wife's 2005 Ford Explorer 4x4 with Advance Trac. I am a trail guide and off-road driving instructor and I have taught people how to drive every kind of Jeeps, Land Rovers, Toyota trucks and SUV's, Lexus's, Hummers (Military) H2, and H3, Full size Ford, Chevy and Dodge trucks and SUV's. I have yet to see any Ford vehicle made recently that is a really capable off-road vehicle other than possibly a Ford Raptor and that is mostly desert racing bred and I have only seen them in the mall parking lot. Not one has been out to the Brazos Valley Off-Road Ranch located at 1650 HWY 47 in Bryan, Texas. See videos on you tube BVORR. I put forth this challenge to Ford that you bring your 2011 Ford Explorer to the Brazos Valley Off-Road Ranch and if it is able to complete just the mild trails then I will be impressed and support this vehicle. Otherwise go back to the drawing board, get rid of the greenie weenies and get someone who knows what the capabilities of a truly off-road capable vehicle should be. I would be glad to help in that department just to see Ford get back into the game."
And here is official response from someone named "Jay" at Ford:
"Just to be clear, what you do with your vehicle, whilst great fun, is done by a tiny minority of customers. It makes no sense for us to engineer a vehicle for such a small number of potential customers. We have to build a vehicle that attracts a much wider audience that care about things that may not be of such a concern to you such as fuel economy, on-road vehicle dynamics, ease of use for off-roading and towing as well as the latest technology and safety innovations. That means our audience is far wider and frankly, we will sell more vehicles.
The days of the body on frame mid-size SUV are almost over. As it becomes extinct, we have to move in to the 21st century and reinvent the SUV and that is what we have done with the new Explorer."
Sadly, it would appear for Ford, that yes, the days of the body-on-frame mid-size SUV are over. Heck, who knows, if this PR person is correct, maybe even the days of the amazingly capable Raptor are limited.
[Ford via Facebook]
Photo Credit: Bill Sanders / Four Wheeler Magazine