Even as the industry undergoes rapid change, the Explorer remain critical to the Ford Motor Co.
Jeff Marentic, marketing manager for Ford passenger vehicles, said the company has every intention of maintaining and strengthening the appeal of Ford’s most popular utility vehicle.
“We are prepared to dominate,” Marentic said, noting that even as the demographics shift to a new generation of buyers very different from their parents, the company is still looking to be the gold standard.
The younger Gen X and millennial buyers are very interested in the outdoors. “Everything is centered around the outdoors,” he said. In fact, supplying outdoor gear has grown into $900 billion business. In addition, COVID changed the way people vacation and the Explorer is a perfect fit for automobile-oriented travel, he added.
Ford is reconfiguring the Explorer line to offer more on-road performance as well as for those looking for unique styling by expanding the Explorer ST line, which now accounts for one of every five Explorers sold by Ford dealers.
RWD-only versions of ST available now
The new models for 2022 include an Explorer ST rear-wheel-drive model and the Explorer ST-Line, which is designed for drivers who like the appearance of the ST, but cannot afford the price tag that comes with the 400 hp engine found in the Explorer ST and other premium features. The ST-Line models feature a 300-horsepower, 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
The Explorer ST rear-wheel-drive is built on a rear-wheel-drive platform but is powered by the 3.0-liter EcoBoost putting out 400 hp and 415 pound-feet of torque. It comes with on-road handling support but four-wheel drive is an option.
Now in its sixth generation, Explorer continues to build on its strengths in the highly competitive midsize SUV segment by offering customers even more options, whether they desire the on-road performance of rear-wheel drive or the performance-inspired style without maximum Explorer ST performance, Marentic said.
“We’ve taken Explorer, already the all-time best-selling SUV, and given our customers the chance to put the emphasis on the things they value most,” he added. “For on-road performance and styling, our new rear-wheel-drive Explorer ST and new Explorer ST-Line are specifically designed to appeal to new customer groups with different adventure needs.”
ST Explorers join new Timberline
The new ST family will join the most off-road-capable Explorer, the Timberline, which was unveiled last spring in the line-up for 2022, he added.
“No two SUV drivers use their vehicles the same way, so our goal is to meet the needs of as many as possible,” said Lee Newcombe, Ford Explorer marketing manager.
“Four-wheel-drive capability is great if you need it, but if you don’t, you shouldn’t have to pay for it. These changes to the Explorer lineup were guided by what our customers told us they wanted,” he said.