At the Detroit Motor Show back in January, Ford pulled the covers off their all-new Explorer SUV, replacing its predecessor after a rather successful run in production from 2011 to 2019, receiving numerous year-on-year updates in between. What the world saw last month was a vastly more advanced and thoroughly considered product, sporting a raft of new powertrains, a fresh platform, and uncommonly handsome looks.
There aren’t any plans as of yet to introduce the Explorer to right-hand drive markets, and that is a terrible shame to be honest as it might be the best car Ford makes (for most people), as was the iteration that came before strongly indicates.
Making the wound sting even more is the fact that Ford Performance have also been allowed to paw at every inch of the new Explorer prior to its unveil in Michigan, leading to the faster and sportier Explorer ST to debut alongside its other variants.
The manifestation of an ST-badged Explorer is also an inflection point for Ford Performance, who are now firmly embedded in the sports SUV game where just months prior were still tiptoeing around the idea with the Edge ST crossover.
On paper, a stylish and quick SUV that’s also practical and relatively economical seems to be a sweet spot that resonates with buyers far beyond the North American market alone. We’re sure Ford is very much aware of this but so far is publicly hesitant on the matter. Is it just a matter of time, then, until we see the Explorer (and specifically the ST) break into new markets?
As you’d expect, Ford leans heavily on its downsized turbocharged EcoBoost line of petrol engines for the Explorer, and the ST is no different, boasting a 3.0-litre bi-turbo V6 producing 400 horsepower (298kW) and 563Nm. It’s mated to the same high regarded 10-speed automatic used in the Mustang and F-150 as well as, more recently, the Ranger ute, spreading thrust across all four wheels.
Ford says the ST sheds roughly 90kg off the standard Explorer but has not disclosed sprints times yet, though an educated guess has it pegged at around 5 seconds to propel the over-2 tonne SUV from rest to 100km/h. However, they have revealed that the final car’s targeted top speed is 230km/h, albeit while de-limited on a track.
Dynamically, Ford Performance has not put a wheel wrong yet, managing to extract truly engaging drives from a variety of vehicles, from the Fiesta hot hatch to the GT supercar, leaving us optimistic that the same magic has been sprinkled on the Explorer ST’s chassis to overcome the vehicle’s mass and high centre of gravity to communicate meaningful amounts of enjoyment to the driver.
Should the Explorer ST be green lit for sale in regions such as Europe, Asia, and Australia, it should be met with no shortage of entrenched contenders, though perhaps from marques Ford isn’t accustomed to competing with head-on such as the BMW X5 xDrive50i, Mercedes-Benz GLE 450, or the Audi SQ7.
Then again, should that be the case, the appeal of the rakish Explorer ST will also extend to price and practicality, with the Ford product likely offering the average customer a significant advantage on both fronts along with admirable levels of comfort and refinement.
Ford are reportedly evaluating the all-new Explorer for right-hand drive markets, but in our opinion should have been developed with that in mind from the start. If even the Ford Edge, soon to be known on our roads as the Endura, managed to find modest success as a global model, surely the Explorer is ripe for that same treatment, possibly mirroring the 6th-generation Mustang’s meteoric rise in popularity since graduating to a global model. Fingers crossed.