The Ford Explorer has been carrying families around the U.S. since 1990. As the years progressed, the Explorer remained true to its routes offering ample amounts of interior space and comfort for those long family road trips. Although the sixth-gen model came out in 2019, it is already starting to show its age, especially when you consider more premium and luxurious options coming to the market, with latest rivals being the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee L.

This may be about to change. China has received an updated Ford Explorer earlier than the rest of the world. While we can't confirm the exact design elements, powertrains, or features that will make it to the U.S. model, the Chinese version sure gives a good idea of what Ford could bring to the refreshed Explorer. The new vehicle is much more luxurious while also managing to look more futuristic. Let’s take a look.

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The Highs And Lows of The Current Model

Blue Ford Explorer Hybrid
Front three-quarters shot of a Ford Explorer Hybrid

In order to justify how the new model is going to be a much stronger competitor than the current one, we need to see what people get when buying the 2023 model. First and foremost, we have the fact that people like the look of the current generation vehicle. It has a wide stance, and a modern design that fits the SUV market really well. Also, we need to mention that the Explorer offers plenty of powertrain options with the most powerful one being the 400 horsepower ST variant.

However, all is not great for the current Explorer. Interior materials feel a bit cheap; third-row comfort is below average, and the higher and more premium trim levels elevate the price tag quickly. Oh, and we also have the vertically mounted infotainment screen that most buyers don’t seem to enjoy. Criticisms revolve around the fact that it looks weird but also that it isn’t intuitive to use. For example, the rear-view camera only takes up a small portion of the screen making it hard to see when reversing.

The current Explorer also hasn't performed well in recent reliability and dependability studies. So, generally speaking, the Explorer is an adequate SUV, but sadly, adequate in a world filled with excellent options, isn’t enough. In order to increase sales to match those of the top players in the game, Ford will have to address the current Explorer's shortcoming with its upcoming model. Thankfully, this seems to be the case with the new model.

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Exterior Updates

As mentioned above, the exterior design of the Explorer has been perceived well. Therefore, Ford is heavily updating it rather than completely reimagining it. Upfront, we now get a lightbar design that seems to be famous amongst many manufacturers. The Chinese version seems to offer a two-tone color design which will be a great addition to the U.S. market. Not many SUVs offer the option for a different colored roof and people seem to get such paint combinations done in the aftermarket.

The fact that Ford will probably offer this from the factory will certainly attract buyers. In the rear, the taillight design remains similar to the old one with some additional pieces that make it look more modern. New plastic trim pieces and a different shape for the exhausts finished the tail end of the SUV and make it look more premium.

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The Interior Receives Some Dramatic Changes

The interior is one of the areas that let the Explorer down but is also one of the areas that have received the most updates on the new one. First and foremost, the infotainment screen has been updated and the one on the new model certainly won’t go unnoticed. On the dashboard of the new Explorer, you will find a gigantic 27-inch display that makes its way from the driver to the passenger. Spy shots of the upcoming U.S. model show a different setup. But the massive screen, would certainly make it one of the very biggest in the segment.

It is mounted horizontally and will take care of most vehicle functions. One of the coolest things is the fact that maps are displayed along the whole screen which makes it extremely easy to pinpoint your location or follow directions. So, one of the ways the Explorer might be able to redeem itself and take over the market is with its great infotainment system. Keep in mind that a 12.4 digital gauge cluster can also be found in front of the driver while a heads-up display is also available.

Of course, a new infotainment screen alone won’t be enough to put the Explorer at the top of its game. The new model should also offer other useful amenities like wireless charging, electric seats with memory functions, a panoramic sunroof, electronically folding second and third-row seats, and even autonomous driving. Autonomous driving is currently available in China but will probably come to the US as well in the form of Blue Cruise.

Therefore, we can expect some hand-free highway cruising. Worth mentioning is the fact that the Chinese vehicle is in some cases seen with rear captain’s chairs which suggests that the second row might be configurable. It is safe to say that Ford is getting serious with the new Explorer with significant updates in the areas that were most flawed. This should leave us with a much more competitive SUV.

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Engine Availability Should Likely Remain The Same

The All-new Chinese Market Ford Explorer
A front end shot of the all-new Chinese market Ford Explorer

One of the Explorer’s strong points is the fact that it offers plenty of engine options. You can choose between a 300-horsepower 2.3-liter four-cylinder, a 3.3-liter V-6 hybrid with 318 horsepower, and a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 with 400 horsepower. The more powerful 3.0 litre V-6 is offered in the ST model which aside from being sportier, also offers interior and exterior upgrades.

The new model will most likely offer the same engines as they offer adequate power. Some changes might be made to the Hybrid engine model as its fuel economy numbers aren’t adequate for a hybrid system. We expect pricing for the new Explorer to be the same or slightly more expensive as the current one.