Styling changes are coming.
The latest generation Ford Explorer debuted for the 2020 model year. It was immediately embraced by longtime fans for one key reason: the return of a rear-wheel-drive platform. The previous fifth-generation model relied on a heavily modified version of Ford's D4 front-wheel-drive architecture originally developed by Volvo. For 2022, the Explorer ST loses the standard AWD and there's the new ST-line trim. Looking even further ahead, an all-electric version is reportedly due in 2023 and will be built along the Mustang Mach-E in Mexico. Ford has yet to confirm this.
But something else is also happening for the 2023 model year: a mid-life facelift, at least for the Chinese market version.
What you're looking at are leaked images of the refreshed Explorer. The images originated from China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. So much for state secrets. Notice the new front end with completely restyled vents on each side of the lower front bumper. The headlights and taillights have been reshaped but not dramatically. There is also a new grille pattern and new wheel designs.
There's a chance that none of these changes will be applied to the American-spec model. America's and China's Explorer (pictured below) looks slightly different up front and out back despite sharing a platform and a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine.
SUV popularity continues to increase in China and the country's Explorer is built locally as part of a joint venture between Ford and Changan, a Chinese automaker. The Chinese-market Explorer carries a starting price of 309,800 yuan, or about $44,000. That's significantly higher than it is here. The base model kicks off at $32,925 with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost that's good for 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. A 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 with up 400 hp and 415 lb-ft is found on higher trims like the ST and King Ranch.
2023 is shaping up to be a big year for the Explorer. Both the US and China will get a refresh but what we're looking forward to, even more, is the pure battery-electric version.