Thanks to the introduction of the all-new Ford Explorer King Ranch edition today, one of the industry’s most competitive segments — midsize SUVs — market just got a little testier.
Ford basically created the segment with the introduction of the Explorer nearly three decades ago, and now it is basically a Battle Royale for consumer dollars. The King Ranch variant gives the automaker an entry in the most expensive end of the price range.
It’s also a response to customers who called for a higher-end version of the Explorer, said Lee Newcombe, Ford Explorer marketing manager. Ford engages with owners to constantly innovate Explorer and the result is the first-ever King Ranch edition for the Explorer.
Buyers want a luxury
Explorer King Ranch comes with premium soft touch materials and fabrics. The new ute also enjoys the unmistakable mahogany-colored Mesa Del Rio leather seats with perforated front and second rows with the King Ranch Running W logo so identifiable with the trim level.
The center console is also crafted with a Mesa Del Rio leather armrest and King Ranch logo insert, Newcombe noted.
The refinement continues in the cockpit with leather door trim rollovers, a leather-wrapped and stitched instrument panel combined with Sapele wood appliqués as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel with Norias stitching and a Sapele wood insert.
Complementing the refined interior is an available Premium Technology Package featuring multi-contour seats with active motion massaging functionality as well as an easily read and used 10.1-inch touchscreen and a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system.
Capability is also king
The standard 3.0-liter EcoBoost under the hood produces 365 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque with four-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive configurations offered, combined with a 10-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift capability. A standard Class III Trailer Tow Package enables towing capability of up to 5,600 pounds.
In addition to Ford Co-Pilot360 technology standard on all Explorer models, Explorer King Ranch comes standard with Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+, featuring Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go and Lane Centering, Evasive Steering Assist, a voice-activated touch screen navigation system with pinch-to-zoom capability, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link and Speed Sign Recognition.
Ford moves to stay on top of midsize SUV market
Adding the King Ranch shows Ford’s serious about being a force in the segment, which it needs to be now that the only car it produces in high volume is the Mustang.
According to the website Carsalesbase.com, in 2020 sales of midsized SUVs in the United States continue to outperform the overall car market with sales down 6% in 2020 although up 7% in the last quarter of the year.
A total of just over 2.5 million units sold gives these family haulers a share of 17.3% of total car sales in the U.S., up from 15.8% the previous year. The arrival of new models has expanded the class to 46 nameplates, including offerings like the Toyota Highlander, which outsold the Explorer in Q4 and passed the Jeep Grand Cherokee for second place.
The Explorer and Highlander will be fighting for the top spot in 2021, as the Grand Cherokee is due for a redesign at the end of the year. Jeep will launch a 3-row version called Grand Cherokee L in the second quarter, giving it finally a long-awaited 7-seater option in this segment.
Defending its territory
Stephanie Brinley, principal analyst for IHS Markit, said it makes sense for Ford to defend its territory given both the importance of the midsize market to the company and the upcoming competition.
“The Ford Explorer has always been a top seller for the company and this new King Ranch is a matter of offering consumers additional choice in this market,” Brinley said.
“We are seeing manufacturers offering consumers more sub-brands. GM has been very successful with the Denali sub-brand. By offering premium trin levels on the Explorer, Ford is giving potential buyers a different look for a popular vehicle.”
The Explorer King Ranch edition will start at $52,350 MSRP for rear-wheel-drive configuration and $54,350 MSRP for four-wheel drive. It will be available in dealerships this spring.