After multiple facelifts and well over a million units sold, the fifth-generation Ford Explorer that’s been around since the 2011 model year is finally getting an all-new replacement. The sixth-generation, Chicago-built SUV will be unveiled in the Motor City on Jan. 9 ahead of the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.
The Explorer has been an important model for Ford ever since it replaced the Bronco II in the early 1990s. For the fifth-generation, it switched from a body-on-frame, rear- or four-wheel-drive construction to a more road-friendly unibody platform with front- or all-wheel-drive setup. It sounds like the fifth-gen model will be the only one with FWD because the Explorer is expected to switch back to a standard RWD layout with optional AWD just like the new 2020 Lincoln Aviator.
Speaking of the Aviator, the new Explorer is also expected to offer a plug-in hybrid option like the one in the Aviator Grand Touring. Assuming it’s the same setup, it will be a high-performance hybrid making 450 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque from a twin-turbo hybrid V6. Perhaps that will be our Explorer ST we’ve been promised?
As far as what the new SUV will look like, our guess is that it won't be a radical departure from what's already been produced. It will continue to be a rather tall SUV with the Ford design cues we’ve come to expect. The most official look we’ve gotten so far at the new Explorer is this teaser of the new Police Interceptor Utility.
With Ford’s bombshell announcement earlier this year that it was killing off all of its sedans in favor of trucks and SUVs, the Explorer becomes an even more important nameplate for the Blue Oval. If it ends up being half as promising as the new Aviator, we think Ford will have a winner on its hands.