Spied: 2011 Ford Explorer…October 13, 2009
For the better part of a year, our spies have seen Explorer mules wearing Taurus X and Flex body panels running all over the country. After months of hunting, they’ve finally caught up with the real thing – and we have the first, exclusive photos.
Code-named “U502,” this all-new Ford Explorer is in for a big change. While Ford’s iconic SUV has always ridden on a body-on-frame chassis, the 2011 model will switch to the D4 unibody platform. Ford’s D4 platform, a moderately updated version of the D3, currently underpins the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT. Ford is hoping for a significant weight drop, and in turn, 20-25 percent better fuel mileage, by switching the Explorer to a unibody setup.
The two powertrains we have confirmed for the Explorer are the 2.0 litre four-cylinder Ecoboost and the 3.5 litre, twin turbo V6 Ecoboost. The possibility remains that a naturally-aspirated V6 may find its way into the lineup. Judging from the exhaust on this particular Explorer prototype, a setup we’ve seen on many Ecoboost mules, we’d guess this particular mule is sporting the twin-turbo V6.
Under the camouflage, we can see three large bars running across the grill that are very reminiscent of the facelifted Ford Edge we’ve spied before. You also get a tiny peak and what looks to be a pair of jeweled headlights and trick set of LED taillights.
Watch for production to start in the second half of 2010 at Chicago’s Torrence Avenue assembly plant. The Explorer will likely make its debut late in the upcoming new car show season, possibly at the New York auto show.