Leenarts has overseen the styling of every vehicle the brand currently sells in the region and is now leading a ground-up overhaul of its established conventions. All Ford passenger cars will now be categorised according to four new design pillars introduced under the ‘Adventurous Spirit’ banner. There’s ‘Ultimate Outdoor’ for hardcore off-roaders like the Bronco; ‘Wild Performance’ for the Mustang and its sporting siblings; ‘Urban Escape’ for the city-focused Puma; and ‘Active Adventure’ for family SUVs such as the Kuga and the Explorer. Ford is keen to emphasise the difference between this new car and the existing Explorer, a much larger US-focused SUV that will be withdrawn from sale in Europe in the coming months.
Leenarts told Autocar that while the new Explorer is a markedly different proposition from its namesake, it is important that it embodies the same character: “I think it’s not a surprise that it is the first car in our adventurous spirit. It has a market positioning that really helps us get across that adventurous way.” He added that Ford will look to redeploy other historic nameplates, attaching connotations of the firm’s heritage to bold new products. “I think in general, the public loves that we are bringing nameplates to new territories,” he said.
“That’s the goal. You can expand those nameplates in a much more creative way, taking account of the needs of the customer. “And frankly, the Mustang can do it, we proved that the Explorer can do it, and there are a couple of other nameplates that are coming up that we feel that can expand on…” However, he stopped short of naming any specific nameplates for revival. Proportionally, the new Explorer’s minimalist, upright two-box silhouette makes it an obvious relation of the blocky Explorer and Ford’s other US-market icons, the Bronco and F-150, but the design team have used “all the tricks in the book”, according to senior designer Liviu Tudoran, to ensure it is both as aerodynamically efficient and internally spacious as possible.
According to the car’s designers, its bluff front end with the larger new logo, the beltline that wraps around the entire car, the ‘generous’ wheel arches and the floating roof with contrasting black A-pillars are some of its defining features. The designers are also keen to emphasise that while the Explorer represents a departure from the established conventions of Ford design, future models will not follow a ‘Russian doll’ approach in adopting the same cues and proportions. “Each car will have its own unique character,” said Demkiw. Boosting interior space compared with same-sized ICE propositions was a priority for the design team, who tout the flat floor and modularity of the MEB platform as allowing the Explorer to offer ‘large car’ qualities in a relatively compact footprint.