What is it?
According to Ford, these are Explorers, which, in the best of automotive marketing alliteration, go “faster and further.”
Why is it important? Any time you take one of the most iconic SUVs ever — that would be the Explorer — and mate it to a 400 horsepower/415 pound-feet turbocharged V6, you’ve got to have a winning formula right?
How winning you ask?
Ford says that the ST’s top “track speed” is 229 kilometres an hour, putting this Explorer is some rarified company indeed. Combining a 10-speed transmission with four-wheel-drive, the Explorer ST also offers a Sport mode which will tighten up the steering and throttle response while holding onto gears a little longer, making it, in chief functional engineer, Ed Krenz’s words, “a hell of a lot of fun to drive.” Visually, this sporty version of the Explorer stands apart from the rest of the lineup thanks to a black mesh grille and liftgate applique, some aggressive bodyside details and skid plate elements while riding on humungous 21-inch wheels.
The Hybrid version of the all-new, meanwhile, pumps out a not-exactly-insubstantial 318 horsepower from its 3.3-litre V6/electric motor combination while still managing to eke out as much as 800 kilometres on a single tank of gas. That’s all the information Ford will allow regarding the new Hybrid’s fuel economy, but unless it has a 120-litre tank, we should expect exemplary fuel economy from the gas/electric combo. And unlike many other hybrids, the Explorer’s liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery is mounted below the second row of seats, a positioning that Ford says preserves the new Explorer’s expanded rear cargo area. “Lost cargo space in hybrids is a thing of the past for Ford customers,” says Bill Gubing, the Explorer’s chief engineer, though there was no discussion of exactly how big said battery is or how much electric-only range it will allow.
Both ST and Hybrid will be premium trims with a list of available features that will include a Bang & Olufsen audio system, leather seats (sport buckets in the ST) with micro-perforations and accent stitching, second-row heated seats and wireless charging for cell phones.
When is it coming?
Ford is being mute on the availability of these two top-end trim levels of its new Explorer, but a good guess would be by this summer.
Should I buy one?
Well, who can argue with 400 horsepower? And if the Edge ST is anything to judge by, the Explorer ST should be quite the ride. As for the Hybrid, well, without actual fuel economy figures, its entire raison d’etre — reduced emissions and consumption — is tough to evaluate, but 313 horses from a supposedly gas-conscious vehicle is a pretty attractive starting point.