It’s safe to say that the Ford Explorer is now a global model since it started production in Russia last week. Ford revealed last year that the crossover will be available in China. The Blue Oval considers this output in Russia to be significant since SUVs make up about 31% of the new-car market in this country in 2012. Even if the Explorer is sold in 64 countries and Ford has exported more than 24,000 vehicles in 2012, this marks the first time that the Explorer was built outside of the U.S.
The Explorers that are rolled out at Ford’s Sollers Elabuga Assembly Plant in the Republic of Tatarstan are meant to be sold at just the Russian market but all other Explorers will still be produced at Ford’s assembly plant in Chicago.
For the new Explorer production, Ford will hire 500 more workers to its present 1500 employees on the line at the Sollers Elabuga plant. For now, this plant also builds the Transit van, Kuga crossover, and S-Max and Galaxy models.
Just like those offered in the U.S., the Russian-spec Explorer comes with naturally aspirated and twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 engines, coupled to a six-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is offered as standard but the 2.0-liter turbo-four and front-wheel drive that Americans get are not yet available in Russia.
“Russia is on its way to being the largest market in Europe and presents an enormous opportunity for growth,” said Ted Cannis, president and CEO of Ford Sollers. “We anticipate SUV sales to continue to grow as Russian customers prefer the image and performance these utility vehicles provide in severe weather and challenging road conditions.”
In penning the looks of the new Ford Explorer, its design team had to take on the challenge to reinterpret the SUV as a modern, contemporary vehicle suited for the new era.
Betancourt remarked that the new Explorer is characterized by its proportions and stance as well by its sporty looks and unparalleled aerodynamics, as helped by its muscular sheet metal and fluid lines. He noted that the new Ford Explorer offers desirable fuel economy, thanks to aids like the liftgate spoiler lip and the integrated flexible lower air dam. Moreover, the new SUV also comes with blackened rockers that convey its four-wheel-drive capability.
Likewise, the new SUV has retained some traditional Ford Explorer cues, like the body-color C-pillars and blackened D-pillars. These cues are complemented by blackened A-pillars and B-pillars.
According to Betancourt, Ford’s brand DNA is also well-conveyed on the design of the new Explorer, as seen on the Mustang-inspired wheel flares and a Taurus-derived body-side undercut. He added that the new Explorer features a new interpretation of the Ford signature three-bar grille as well as a trapezoidal lower grille.
Moreover, the new Ford Explorer comes with a number of rugged design cues typical of an SUV like shorter overhang, roof rack, rounded corners as well as assertive wheels and tires. On the rear end, the new Explore is provided with jewel-like taillamp cluster featuring LED stop lights. The rear liftgate appliqué displays the Explorer name.