The Explorer has been one of the anchors of the Ford Motor Co. product portfolio for three decades.
Now the automaker is making a bid to stretch the nameplate’s broad appeal a bit further by adding three new versions of the ute. First is a performance-oriented model, the Explorer Enthusiast ST. It’s joined by two new Platinum models: a rear-wheel drive version as well as a hybrid. The move follows the addition of the King Ranch model in February.
“The market continues to grow for performance SUVs, and the ST currently accounts for nearly 20 percent of sales,” said Craig Patterson, Ford SUV marketing manager, who noted the new offerings were developed due to customer feedback.
That feedback appears to result in cash in Ford coffers. 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.
Officials revealed the new Enthusiast ST is the new Standard Equipment Group within the ST model range. It looks and performs like the Explorer ST — but with a lower sticker price. The Enthusiast ST comes in at $48,750.
It uses the same specially tuned 3.0-liter EcoBoost engine making 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift capability and sport-tuned suspension. This combination results in a top track speed of 143 mph, and when paired witha standard Class III Trailer Tow Package, a towing capacity up to 5,600 pounds.
“With our new Explorer Enthusiast ST, we’ve made this Explorer performance SUV an even better value for more customers to enjoy, while maintaining the same exterior styling and performance – for an uncompromising, exciting ST driving experience.”
The Enthusiast’s interior features leather seating surfaces with Miko micro-perforated inserts and City Silver accent stitching with ST logo. There is also a 12.3-inch digital cluster and heated sport-style steering wheel featuring ST logo and paddle shifters. The exterior features quad chrome exhaust tips, 20-inch machined aluminum wheels with painted pockets, and sideview mirrors with ST projection lamps.
The Explorer Enthusiast ST also features standard Ford Co-Pilot360 technology including Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane-Keeping System, Hill Start Assist, a rearview camera with built-in lens washer, auto headlamps with auto high-beams, Pre-Collision Assist with automatic emergency braking with Pedestrian Detection, forward collision warning, dynamic brake support and post-impact braking, Patterson said.
While a superfast and less expensive SUV is definitely newsworthy, the company also expanded the Platinum line-up to include a hybrid powertrain, starting at $53,085. With Platinum Hybrid, the broadest Explorer lineup ever gets even broader – further expanding the hybrid-electric powertrain into the upper end of the Explorer series.
The new model uses the 3.3-liter V-6 hybrid from the Limited model and combines with all of the niceties of the Platinum trim level, such as door handles with satin aluminum insert, liftgate appliqué, lower bodyside cladding insert, roof-rack side rails and a unique grille with satin aluminum finish. Platinum models also feature a standard twin-panel moonroof. It adds those things for a few extra bucks. Pricing on the Limited Hybrid RWD starts at $49,885.
Also new for 2021 is a 3.0-liter rear-wheel-drive Platinum option starting at $52,480, in addition to the premium four-wheel-drive model. The rear-wheel-drive option provides customers a better value, offering the right equipment for the right markets — those where four-wheel-drive is not necessary. Prior this, the ute was only available in four-wheel drive.
The Explorer Enthusiast ST, rear-wheel-drive Platinum and Platinum Hybrid are available for ordering today, and are scheduled to arrive at Ford dealers this summer. All prices do not include destination and delivery charges.