2024 Ford Explorer electric SUV revealed for Europe, not coming to Australia

Ford’s latest electric car is a small SUV with Volkswagen DNA – and the name from a seven-seat US family SUV. It is due in European showrooms this year, but it won’t reach Australia.

The Ford Explorer family SUV nameplate has been applied to a new electric SUV for Europe – with Volkswagen underpinnings – but it is not planned for Australian showrooms.

The Explorer has for 33 years been one of Ford’s largest seven-seat SUVs, aimed at the US – but for Europe the name will now be used on a small electric SUV, underpinned by Volkswagen’s MEB electric-car platform as part of a technical partnership between the car giants.

However, Ford says there are no plans to introduce it in Australia. Drive understands the larger Mustang Mach-E is more likely for an Australian launch.

The new electric Explorer is expected to be sold outside of Europe, though in the US the larger, petrol Explorer is likely to continue alone.

Set to be built in the Cologne, Germany factory home to the Fiesta city car – already axed in Australia, and in Europe from this June – the Explorer measures 4450mm long, about the size of a Toyota Corolla Cross or Nissan Qashqai small SUV.

Positioned beneath the 289mm-longer Mustang Mach-E, the new model is based on the same MEB electric-car platform as the Volkswagen ID.4 as part of a strategic partnership between the two car markers initially forged in 2019.

Ford and Volkswagen have already worked together on utes and vans – including the new Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok pick-ups. They are now pushing ahead with a similar strategy with electric vehicles. 

Although fundamentally different to its US-produced namesake, Ford’s European operations say the new electric Explorer embodies the same “adventurous character”.

Speaking about the decision to redeploy an existing name for the new SUV, Amko Leenarts, head of Ford’s European design studio, said the company will look at using other historic nameplates as a means of attaching connotations of the US car maker’s 119-year heritage to new models.

“I think, in general, the public loves that we are bringing [existing] nameplates to new territories,” he said.

The new Explorer, priced from €45,000 ($AU72,000) when sales get underway in the European Union later this year, is the first of two new electric Ford models to be based on Volkswagen’s MEB platform and planned for launch by the end of 2024.

The second model, described as a ‘sporting’ SUV, is expected to receive similar front-end styling as the Explorer but with a more coupe-like roofline and heavily-sloping rear window.

Three versions of the Explorer will be available – led by a dual-motor all-wheel-drive variant with 250kW, and an estimated 490km of driving range from a 77kWh battery.

There is also said to be an entry-level, rear-wheel-drive 125kW model with a 52kWh battery and 350km of range, and a mid-grade, rear-drive version with 210kW and 540km of range from a 77kWh battery.

The battery packs are shared with equivalent Volkswagens, but the 210kW and 250kW motor layouts are not available in any electric Volkswagen to date (though they may appear in future models).

The 55kWh battery supports a DC charging capacity of up to 130kW, with the larger 82kWh unit able to accept up to 170kW. Ford also confirms the Explorer will come as standard with 11kW AC charging functionality.

Ford claims a 10 to 80 per cent fast charge in 25 minutes.

The rear-wheel-drive models offer four drive modes: Normal, Sport, Eco and Individual, with the all-wheel-drive model providing an additional Traction mode.

In a bid to provide the Explorer with its own driving character compared to the VW, it receives its own uniquely-tuned steering system and suspension – the latter a MacPherson-strut front and multi-link rear set-up developed by Volkswagen, but with new spring and damper rates as well as unique bushings and low rolling-resistance tyres.

The dynamic properties of the new model have been honed by Ford’s European chassis engineers, who suggest it “delivers a different driving experience to Volkswagen’s ID models”.

The Ford Explorer takes on a bolder and arguably more assertive appearance than its sister model, the Volkswagen ID.4.

This is particularly noticeable up front, where it receives a prominent blanked-off grille housing Ford’s traditional blue oval badge, as well as angular LED headlamps connected by a black trim panel that serves to provide it with added visual width.

Further back, it sports largely unadorned flanks and large wheelhouses, accommodating wheels range from 19 to 21 inches in diameter. The pillars receive a blackened appearance “to give the impression that the roof is floating,” said Mr Leenarts.

The rear end mirrors the stylish at the front with a squared-off shape and LED tail lamps connected by a black trim element. The tailgate sits at a more upright angle to that of the ID.4, opening at bumper level.

Matrix LED headlights are optional in Europe, while all models are fitted with LED tail-lights. Available colours include Arctic Blue (pictured), Blue My Mind, Frozen White, Magnetic Grey, Agate Black and Lucid Red.

Inside, the five-seat cabin is well removed from that of Volkswagen’s MEB-based electric car, with a large portrait 14.6-inch infotainment touchscreen.

Running the latest Sync infotainment software, it is said to have 30 degrees of adjustment. There is a 5.3-inch instrument display ahead of the driver.

In the screen’s lowest position, it serves as the lid for a storage compartment – which locks in place when the car is off.

In place of the rotary gear selector control used by Volkswagen on all its existing electric models is a new Ford-designed column-mounted gear selector.

The new model also eschews the fiddly steering wheel mounted controls and slider audio volume adjuster found in Volkswagen’s ID models.

Ford highlights two wireless smartphone charging pads, four USB-C charging ports, “space-saving” removable cupholders, 10-colour ambient lighting, and a 17-litre Mega Console storage area in the centre console claimed to hold three 1500mL and two 1000mL water bottles side by side.

The Explorer also receives standard power-adjustable front seats with heating and massage functions, as well as a standard sound bar atop the dashboard, incorporating 10-colour ambient lighting that also extends into the upper part of the doors. 

Other available features include a panoramic sunroof, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, a power tailgate, and a heat pump, which converts heat “from the ambient air” to warm up the cabin, extending the driving range.

Boot capacity is put at a nominal 450 litres, with up to 1400 litres available when the 40:20:40 configured rear seat is folded down.

Available advanced safety technology includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian/cyclist detection and intersection support, lane-centring assist, automated lane changes, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, safe exit warning, and adaptive cruise control.

The 2024 Ford Explorer electric SUV is due in European showrooms at the end of this year, but an Australian launch is not planned.

“While we have no plans to introduce the all-electric Explorer in Australia, we’re looking forward to sharing the next phase of our EV journey very soon,” Ford Australia said in a media statement to Drive.

Alex Misoyannis

Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020.

Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines at a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.

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