Ford is exploring the potential for a larger Explorer, according to sources who recently snapped shots of the next-generation vehicle testing on public roads.
Based on the captured shots, the new Explorer is tapping into the 'bigger is better' mentality, although that doesn't necessarily mean heavier. The Blue Oval has been striving to up the fuel economy and shave off weight from its selection of SUVs and crossovers, in order to adhere to the federally mandated 54.5 mpg fleet average fuel economy standard in the next nine years.
As covertly captured photos of the Explorer's flat body panels show, the new crossover may maximize the use of aluminum across multiple components of the car's exterior, including the tailgate,doors and hood. It's no secret that Alcoa and Novelis, who supply Ford with the aluminum for its vehicles, have been undertaking the challenge to create new aluminum blends that resist cracking - even if the metal is worked into shapes with deep curves or draws. AutomotiveNews.com reports that at this point, it's not confirmed whether or not this innovative blend is ready for mass production, but its development suggests that we'll be seeing it in use not too long from now. See the current Explorer model on-the-go in the video below:
Despite the likely changes, sources predict that the next-gen Explorer will keep its front-wheel drive (with an option for all-wheel drive); however, its probable design makes it a shoo-in for a new nine-speed automatic transmission that Ford developed in conjunction with General Motors, which gets points for its fuel-saving feature. The last time the Explorer underwent notable changes was during the 2011 modelyear, when it bore a likeness to the Ford Taurus sedan and Flex crossover with its front-wheel drive, unibody platform.
Suspicions will be confirmed once the new Explorer makes its debut, which is predicted as early as summer 2018. To fill the gap in between now and that point, current models of the acclaimed crossover are available now at Sound Ford in Seattle, Washington to satiate any driver's appetite for a little bit of Exploring.