Ford takes the familiar Explorer name and what it describes as a “good dose of American spirit” for its first European-designed, -developed and -produced electric model: a midsize SUV offering up to 335 hp in a range-topping, dual-electric-motor, all-wheel-drive performance model.
Martin Sander, president of Ford Europe, recently declared the automaker’s upcoming products for Europe would be “unapologetically American.” Although Ford says the battery-electric Explorer is destined for markets outside Europe, it has not been confirmed for sale in North America.
Positioned beneath the Mustang Mach-E CUV, the Explorer BEV is based on the same MEB electric-vehicle platform as the Volkswagen ID.4 as part of a strategic partnership forged between the two automakers in 2019.
Ford and VW already cooperate on vans and utilities, most notably with the latest Ranger and Amarok pickups, which are produced alongside each other in the same factory in South Africa. They are now using a similar strategy with electric vehicles.
Although fundamentally different from its U.S.-produced namesake, Ford Europe says the Explorer BEV embodies the same “adventurous character.” Speaking about the decision to redeploy an existing name for the SUV, Amko Leenarts, head of Ford’s European design studio, says the company will look at using other historic nameplates as a means of alluding to the U.S. automaker’s 119-year heritage with new models.
“I think, in general, the public loves that we are bringing (existing) nameplates to new territories,” he says.
The Explorer takes on a bolder and arguably more assertive appearance than its sister model, the VW ID.4. This is particularly noticeable up front, where it receives a prominent blanked-off grille housing Ford’s traditional blue oval badge as well as angular LED headlamps connected by a black trim panel that adds visual width.
Further back, it sports largely unadorned flanks and large wheelhouses accommodating wheels ranging from a standard 19 ins. up to 21 ins. The pillars receive a blackened appearance “to give the impression that the roof is floating,” Leenarts says.
The rear end (pictured, below) mirrors the look up front with a squared-off shape and LED taillamps connected by black trim elements. The tailgate appears to sit at a more upright angle than that of the ID.4, opening at bumper level.
The Explorer, confirmed to be priced from €45,000 ($48,500) when sales get underway around the 27-nation EU bloc later this year, is the first of two electric-powered Ford models to be based on VW’s MEB platform and planned for launch by the end of 2024.
The second, described as a sporting SUV, is expected to receive similar front-end styling as the Explorer but with a more coupe-like roofline and heavily sloping rear window.
The VW-based electric models have been developed under Ford Europe’s new Model E division. Established to operate independently of the company’s combustion-engine operations, now known as Ford Blue, it is based at the company’s European production headquarters in Cologne, Germany, where the Explorer will be assembled.
At 175.2 ins. (4,450 mm) in length, the new Ford is 5.3 ins. (135 mm) shorter than the ID. 4 and 11.4 ins. (290 mm) shorter than the Mustang Mach-E.
Three Explorer models are planned, including two rear-wheel-drive versions with a single, synchronous, rear-mounted electric motor developing a respective 168 hp and 282 hp.
They will be joined from the start of European sales later this year by an all-wheel drive performance model with front-mounted asynchronous and rear-mounted synchronous electric motors offering a combined 335 hp – to be sold under the Explorer Premium name.
Ford confirms the Explorer will offer a choice of two lithium-ion batteries, a base 55-kW unit offering 52 kW of usable energy and an 82-kWh unit with 77 kWh of usable energy. The former is claimed to offer up to 218 miles (351 km) of range, with the latter rated at 335 miles (539 km).
As with its exterior, the Explorer receives a 5-seat interior (pictured, above) whose design is well removed from that of VW’s various MEB-based models.
Housed within an upright dashboard are 5.3-in. (13.5-cm) instrument and 14.6-in. (37-cm) infotainment displays. The latter offers Ford’s in-house-developed Sync operating system with touch control and Bluetooth smartphone integration via Android Auto 4 and Apple CarPlay 4 as standard.
In place of the rotary gear selector control VW uses on all its existing electric models is a new, Ford-designed column-mounted gear selector.
The Ford SUV also eschews the fiddly steering-wheel-mounted controls and slider sound system volume adjuster found in VW’s ID. models.
The Explorer also receives standard electrically adjustable front seats with heating and massage functions in both rear- and all-wheel-drive models, as well as a standard soundbar atop the dashboard incorporating 10-color ambient lighting that extends into the upper part of the doors.
Ford’s design team has placed a clear focus on practicality with the automaker’s first European-developed electric model, which boasts a number of bins, including a “Private Locker” within the center of the dashboard and a larger 0.6-cu.-ft. (17-L) “Mega Console” housed between the front seats (pictured, above).
Connectivity is provided by four USB-C sockets, two within the “Private Locker” up front and another two at the rear. An optional charging pad capable of accommodating two smartphones side-by-side is below the infotainment display within the dashboard.
As with VW’s ID. models, the Explorer does not offer a front stowage compartment, or frunk.
Standard driver-assist systems include an Assisted Lane Change function, a first on a European-produced Ford model. Operating in combination with 12 ultrasonic sensors, five cameras and three radar sensors, it is capable of performing an automatic lane change without driver input.
The electric SUV also receives blindspot assistant, clear exit assist, cross-traffic alert with active braking, pre-collision assist and traffic sign recognition.