The new Explorer will change that. It will be built in Europe and is aimed right at the most popular type of car in the UK – the medium sized SUV. At 4.4 metres long, it’s almost exactly the same length as the best-selling Nissan Qashqai.
If you are thinking the Explorer name is familiar, it’s been used before on a big gas-guzzling American SUV which was briefly sold in the UK a couple of decades ago. It wasn’t a huge success here, but it had a moment of fame in Jurassic Park. This new model makes that old SUV look like a real dinosaur, with an all-electric powertrain instead of a big V6.
Underneath the Ford-designed body are the mechanical bits borrowed from Volkswagen’s electric cars. That means it shares the motor – or motors if you opt for the four-wheel-drive version - and battery packs with cars like the ID.4 and Skoda Enyaq. That means the Explorer offers up to 335bhp and all-wheel drive, up to 335 miles of range, and 10-80 per cent charge in 25 minutes using DC fast-charging up to 170 kW.
In terms of size (and expected price) the Ford sits in between the ID.3 and ID.4/Enyaq. It will also put a Ford spin on the tech and connectivity.
Ford Explorer design
The new Explorer has little in common visually with any of Ford’s existing range in Europe. Instead it reflects the company’s American heritage, with a bold and surprisingly high bonnet line to give the SUV look. The traditional grille has been reinterpreted into a filled-in panel featuring an unusually large Ford Blue Oval.
The lower silver skid plate also gives a rugged look and forms ‘air curtains’ that improve aerodynamic performance by guiding airflow across the front wheels.The rear has vertical tail lamps with a “light blade” feature which mirrors the front. The rear pillars have a printed graphic which looks a little like a battery charge gauge and break up the stretch of glass along the side.
The Explorer’s chunky look is helped by surprisingly large wheels with19-, 20-, and 21-inch diameters. Each alloy wheel design features surfaces that are optimised for aerodynamic performance.
Ford Explorer interior and practicality
Anyone used to a conventional mid-sized SUV or crossover is going to be pleasantly surprised by the Explorer’s space and practicality. It’s not as big as some other electric rivals though.
There’s plenty of head and legroom in the front and rear, although back seat passengers might feel their feet and being pushed unusually high by the underfloor battery pack. If you are squeezing three across the rear bench the outer occupants might find their head bumping on the lining too.
There is also more of a quality feel than might be expected from the much-criticised Volkswagen ID origins, with squishy soft-touch materials, a funky “squircle” steering wheel and sporty-looking seats. On top versions they adjust 12 ways and are covered in a man-made leather substitute called ‘Sensico’.
The luggage capacity is 450 litres with the rear seats in place, or more than 1,400 litres with seats folded. That’s a quite a lot less than the bigger Enyaq and ID.4, but more than you’d find in a Leaf or ID.3. It’s almost identical to the Toyota BZ-4X actually, and a smudge less than a Nissan Ariya. The parcel shelf is integrated parcel into the tailgate, removing the need for side supports and making the space more usable.
Ford has also invented some other clever usable storage space around the cabin, and – of course – given them cheesy names: SYNCMove, My Private Locker and MegaConsole.
SYNCMove is an adjustable 15-inch centre touchscreen which can be raised and lowered through an arc of more than 30 degrees. In town when you need the nav, it can be placed more vertically, keeping the screen in your eye-line. Or you can slide it down for a slicker look.
This sliding also opens the My Private Locker storage area that provides a secure place to keep personal items out-of-sight. Beneath the screen is a compartment designed to securely fit two large-screen smartphones side-by-side, with a wireless charger also incorporated as standard. If you lock the car, it is locked too, making it ideal for keeping valuable safe if you are exercising or at the beach, for example.
If that’s still not enough space, there’s the MegaConsole. This huge 17-litre cubby between the seats is large enough to hold a 15-inch laptop, or to store three 1.5-litre drinks bottles and a 1-litre bottle side-by-side. The storage features a divider that doubles as an ice-scraper.
Ford Explorer Technology
Most Ford customers would be happy that the company has borrowed bits from VW, except for one aspect – the infotainment and switchgear. These are the aspects of electric Volkswagen ownership which have been criticised most strongly.
In the Explorer, there is good news and bad news.
The good news is that Ford has created its own software and screen, which includes ‘fixed’ buttons on the touchscreen for commonly used and essential items such as the heating and defrosting.The bad news is that there are still some VW parts which we have never liked, such as the confusing and cost-skimped electric window switches and column stalks.
The 15-inch sliding central screen seems to work well though, and it is supplemented by a smaller display in front of the driver. A soundbar stretches across the dashboard and features a mood lighting strip. This can change colour based on your preference or the drive mode selected.
Ford Explorer battery, performance and charging
Confusingly, Ford hasn’t yet confirmed the battery capacities, but we assume they are the same as you’d find in Volkswagen’s IDs at around 58 and 77kWh. But Ford does seem to have a teased out a bit more power from the motors.
The entry level Explorer will use a 167bhp motor driving the rear-wheels. Ford reckons it will be good for an official range up to 218 miles and it will charge at up to 130 kW at a suitable rapid DC point.
A 283bhp rear-wheel drive variant with the bigger battery will take a charge at up to 170 kW and have an official range of 335 miles. The big daddy is the version pictured - a 334bhp all-wheel drive version with a range of up to 305 miles. That’s going to be plenty for a family car and is spookily close to a Tesla Model Y.
Using a rapid-charger, both the batteries will charge from 10 per cent 80 per cent in around 25 minutes via a charge port on the rear wing. You can tow with them too – with limits of between 1,000 and 1,200kg.
All Explorers have a heat pump, which extracts warmth from the surrounding air to warm the interior. It’s a bit like putting the air con in reverse and is far more efficient than using heating elements powered from the battery.
Ford Explorer launch date and price
If you like the look of the Explorer, you’re going to have to wait until the late spring of 2024 before there’s one covered in balloons and bunting in your local Ford dealer - that's after a delay of six months to sort out a battery issue. We’ve also heard that the car may be sold exclusively online, although the dealer will hand over the cars.
We don’t know a price yet either, but I’d guess it’s going to be somewhere between the Volkswagen IDs, starting at about £35,000 - £40,000. That will leave some space in the range for the smaller electric Puma which we’ll see in 2024.
We don’t get a go behind the wheel for a few weeks yet either, but we would guess Ford has looked to put its own stamp on those borrowed mechanical bits to make sure it drives in the way owners would expect.