Ford Explorer (2011) gains Land Rover style

Published: 26 March 2010

This is Ford's new 2011 Explorer – and we think you'll agree there's more than a dash of Land Rover about the Blue Oval's new SUV, codenamed U502.

It's a new unibody design geared up for on-road performance above mud-plugging. And that design is clear for all to see, after a 'gust of wind' apparently blew the covers off this test vehicle. We're always suspicious about such claims (a publicity stunt, cynics may ask?) but there's no disputing the result.

Yep, there's more than a hint of Land Rover Discovery/Freelander to it!

Perhaps Ford kept the secret potions and lotions from the Gaydon design studio when it sold Land Rover to Tata... There's certainly something boxy and architectural about the new 2011 Explorer. That front three-quarters shot looks a spitting image of the Freelander. And is that a hint of old-school Merc ML in the raked C-pillar?

The big news with the new Ford Explorer, which will be shown at a motor show in summer 2010 not in New York next week, is the switch from a ladder chassis to unitary construction. It's designed to trim fuel consumption by a claimed 25%, according to Ford insiders.

The D4 platform architecture is the same as the hardware underpinning the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT. Likely engines include a 230bhp 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine and a naturally aspirated 285bhp 3.5-litre V6 petrol.

Inside are three rows of seats, including occasional sixth and seventh pews. The rear seats will feature a world first: seatbelt airbags, to reduce the risk of injury in severe shunts and submarining. They inflate in the blink of an eye and share the crash energy over five times greater a body area to spread the load.

No Mercury or Lincoln derivatives of the Explorer are likely this time round. The new Ford Explorer will be built in the Chicago, US factory. It's a big launch for Ford; it's sold more than 6 million Explorers since launch in 1990 and has been America's best-selling mid-size SUV for 15 of the past 19 years.

And what's all this about a new Ford concept car?

That'll be the new show car being readied for the 2010 Beijing motor show in a month's time. On 25 April Ford will unveil its first car designed and developed especially for the Chinese car market – in a move mirroring GM's new EN-V concept car which it developed with its Chinese partner SAIC.

We're not sure yet what the new 2010 Ford concept car is, but hear it'll 'be of interest' to Europeans. A Fiesta derivative, perchance?

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

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