The first thing I needed to do was to remind myself that Ford still produced the Explorer SUV. In light of their newest models - the Flex and Edge come to mind - older models like the Explorer can easily be forgotten. Unlike these new crossover (CUV) cars, the current Explorer has a body-on-frame construction which not only makes it heavier, but also clarifies that it's basically a truck underneath. It's bad on fuel economy, ride, and handling. In other words, it's not trendy anymore.
Ford wants to change all of that with a new Explorer debuting sometime in the fall of 2011. Borrowing styling cues from the concept vehicle shown below, the Explorer moves to unibody construction (which lowers weight) and will offer a turbocharged four-cylinder which is expected to deliver at least 25 mpg. So how will it differ from the Flex? It will continue to offer space for seven passengers and will also have more ground clearance and better hauling capabilities. Is this the SUV of the future? I believe so.
Why? Just as the original Explorer defined what a midsize SUV was back in 1990, it will now redefine the segment for this century. It's definitely more macho looking than the Flex and Edge models, so that will help in attracting a large male audience. If Ford is able to combine power, towing capabilities, and fuel efficiency to make the modern SUV, then they'll have a hit on their hands. Again.