Just don't expect it to where a Raptor badge.
Ford didn't hold back with its all-new Explorer SUV debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. Several variants arrived at once, including a hybrid and the high-performance ST. But what about a more dedicated off-road version? We're not talking about a hardcore Explorer Raptor (which would be cool, by the way), but something more capable off pavement for those with an adventurous lifestyle. We asked Explorer marketing manager Lee Newcombe at Detroit whether an off-road Explorer was possible and, if so, what form it would take.
"(The new Explorer) has a great platform that has more capability than 99 percent of customers would ever use," Newcombe said. "Sometimes it's about imagery too, and a more rugged look would certainly work well."
What would Ford have to do to the SUV to make it more off-road capable?
"I think you have to provide some additional ground clearance. You have to look at your front-rear departure angles, and probably improve those a little bit more. More aggressive tires, obviously" he said. "We've got a great four-wheel-drive system in this vehicle with that all-terrain management that's really next level kind of stuff. So I think we've got the underpinnings to do a really great execution on something like that if we really wanted to."
And that leads to the ultimate question regarding this subject: does Ford want to do an off-road-focused Explorer? "It's something we should definitely look at, but we'll need to see how buyers respond to this new vehicle first. You know, by this summer we will have sold 8 million Explorers since came out in 1990. Our customers will help us decide what's next," Newcombe said. When we did mention the words 'Explorer' and 'Raptor' together, all Newcombe could do was laugh and say: "Who knows?"
Honestly, we wouldn't hold our breadths for a hardcore off-road Explorer anytime soon because Ford is already taking its sweet time regarding a Ranger Raptor, which isn't slated to arrive until the next generation model. In all likelihood, Ford will eventually offer a more off-road focused Explorer, though that 'Raptor' badge won't be attached.