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Ford Explorer: Volkswagen ID.4 rival delayed to meet safety regulations

Ford’s new electric SUV boasts a range of more than 300 miles, but won’t go on sale until summer 2024

The upcoming Ford Explorer has been delayed until summer 2024 in order to conform with new EU regulations regarding electric car safety.

Ford’s latest model, a result of a new partnership between it and the Volkswagen Group, was supposed to go on sale in 2023, but new legislation regarding the safety and volatility of electric car batteries and powertrains has drastically delayed production at the firm’s new plant in Cologne.

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In a statement to DrivingElectric, Ford said: “We are excited to bring the electric Explorer to our customers in Europe. Ford is embracing the incoming technical standard for electric vehicles because it is consistent with our internal philosophy to deliver safe, high-quality vehicles to customers around the globe.”

Under the metal, the new Ford Explorer shares its MEB underpinnings with the Volkswagen ID.4, as well as the Skoda Enyaq and Auto Q4 e-tron. Style-wise, there are very few links to Ford’s existing lineup – at least here in the UK. The car, designed in Europe for European customers, is said to draw heavily on the brand’s “American heritage” – with a bold front end and traditional SUV proportions.

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That face is of particular note, with the large blanked off grille area complimented by Ford’s new two-dimensional badging. The LED headlights are connected by a “coast-to-coast” black panel – a feature that is replicated at the rear. The Explorer’s front and rear overhangs are noticeably shorter than the ID.4’s; at less than 4.5m long, the Ford has a smaller footprint than its Volkswagen counterpart.

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Those dimensions mean the new Explorer dives right into a fiercely competitive area of the market, with rivals spanning everything from the family-friendly Nissan Ariya and Kia Niro EV, to more premium models like the latest BMW iX1, Tesla Model Y and Volvo XC40 Recharge.

Inside, Ford claims it has listened to customer feedback and paid particular attention to the new Explorer’s interior quality and the infotainment system. The latter comes in the form of a moveable 15-inch portrait display, which can tilt through 20 increments by up to 30 degrees. It’s running the latest SYNCMove software, and features full-screen mapping, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

With respect to those quality concerns, Ford says it has engineered a “consistent 3mm of give” to the tops of the doors for a more “supple feel”. If our time spent in a prototype version is anything to go by, the Explorer’s cabin – covered in optional Sensico man-made leather – definitely felt more premium than the latest ID.4’s.

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We’ve not yet been issued with any pricing or specification information for the new Ford Explorer, but given its positioning between the forthcoming – but still under wraps – Puma EV, and the existing Mustang Mach-E, we expect a starting price of around £40,000. We understand all versions of the Explorer will feature heated massage seats and a heated steering wheel, two-zone climate control and that 15-inch infotainment screen. Base cars will get 19-inch wheels as standard.

Above this will sit the Ford Explorer Premium, bringing the aforementioned Sensico trim and 10-colour ambient lighting, as well as larger alloy wheels; sizes up to 21 inches are available, as is a full-length fixed panoramic roof. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that a fully-loaded Explorer might overlap with the entry-level Mustang Mach-E, which currently starts from just under £51,000.

Ford says the Explorer gets a 450-litre boot, which is around 100 litres down on the ID.4 – presumably because of the shorter rear overhang. There’s no cable storage under the bonnet, but the boot floor moves up and down, providing space to keep those wires when not in use. The cabin is dotted with clever cubbies, including a 17-litre bin between the front seats that Ford says is big enough for a 15-inch laptop.

Ford Explorer range, battery and charging

At launch there will be three battery and motor combinations to choose from. Basic cars will feature a rear-mounted motor with 168bhp, plus a 55kWh (52kWh usable) battery for up to 218 miles of range. These models will get a maximum charge speed of 130kW, for a 10-80% charge time of around 25 minutes using an appropriate rapid charger.

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Those looking to go further without stopping should look at the mid-spec layout, which also gets a single rear-mounted motor, but with power boosted to 282bhp. This is also paired with a bigger 82kWh (77kWh usable) battery for up to 335 miles on a charge.

Sitting atop the Explorer range is a dual-motor car with 335bhp – 40bhp more than the range-topping Volkswagen ID.4 GTX. We expect this version to be the fastest Explorer, though it’s not clear whether it will inherit the ST nameplate from the firm’s hot petrol and diesel hatchbacks. Also utilising the 82kWh battery, range drops to 305 miles. This version can tow up to 1,400kg, however.

Both variants fitted with the bigger battery can charge at speeds of up to 170kW, which means despite the larger capacity, it can perform the same 10-80% charge in an identical 25 minutes.

Ford future electric car range

Ford has announced plans to launch three electric SUVs by the end of 2024, including a "sports crossover" which we don’t yet know the name of. We do know that it will also use Volkswagen’s MEB underpinnings and be built in Cologne, Germany – alongside the Explorer. 

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The final model is a zero-emissions version of its hugely popular Puma compact SUV that’ll roll off the same Romanian production line as the existing petrol-powered model. The three cars join the existing Ford Mustang Mach-E, which has been on sale since 2021.

“Our march towards an all-electric future is an absolute necessity for Ford to meet the mobility needs of customers across a transforming Europe,” said Stuart Rowley, the chairman of Ford Europe. “It’s also about the pressing need for greater care of our planet, making a positive contribution to society and reducing emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.”

While Ford is collaborating with Volkswagen to produce its European electric models, its zero-emissions efforts in the US will be underpinned by two new platforms developed in-house.

The first is a rear-wheel-drive/all-wheel-drive flexible architecture that'll sit under future compact and full-size vehicles, including two and three-row SUVs, vans and pickup trucks. The second will be for large pickup trucks like the F-150 Lightning. Only the former is likely to be used for Fords sold in Europe, but even that isn't certain in light of the tie-up with Volkswagen.

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Richard is editor of DrivingElectric, as well as sister site Carbuyer.co.uk, and a regular contributor to Auto Express. An electric and hybrid car advocate, he spent more than five years working on the news and reviews desk at Auto Express and has driven almost every new car currently on sale.

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