A Ford Explorer Raptor? Imagine a Super Rugged Off-Road Family SUV
Could Ford translate its voracious off-road brand into a mainstream overachiever?
How far “down” the range could Ford’s successful, dust-flinging Raptor halo subbrand come? That’s been a question on our minds recently as we peruse the Ford stable and look for potential candidates. The F-150 Raptor and Bronco Raptor are beefy, rugged vehicles that swallow rough terrain for breakfast. Is there anything else Ford has on hand (or on deck) that could meet the Raptor criteria? We don’t think an Explorer Raptor is necessarily imminent, but we also were curious what Ford’s large three-row crossover might look like with a Raptor treatment.
And we took things in a slightly different direction than you might expect. You see, the Explorer is also assembled in China, and it just got a very handsome facelift that takes it more upscale than our comparatively run-of-the-mill U625 Explorer. And the off-road-themed Timberline version, with a unique front fascia, is even more striking. So we used a mashup of both as a base for our hypothetical American-market Explorer Raptor.
Speaking of the Timberline trim, it does show Ford’s interest in probing the adventure/soft-roader potential of its crossover SUVs like the Explorer and Expedition. After all, the Expedition Timberline already borrows the Raptor’s high-output EcoBoost V-6, and it’s only a (massive) suspension and likely frame upgrade away from offering a ponderous take on the F-150 Raptor’s all-terrain chops. And the Expedition is T3-based, too, giving it a leg up as a body-on-frame option.
The Explorer, of course, isn’t body-on-frame. It’s CD6-based, a rear-drive-derived unibody frame that traditionally is frowned-upon as a basis for a real rugged off-roader. But consider the Jeep Grand Cherokee line, including the current WL which is based on the Alfa Romeo Giorgio platform. It’s flexible enough to be beefed up to be a legit off-road machine, albeit not quite as capable as a Wrangler. I don’t think anyone would doubt that if Jeep threw some development dollars at the WL’s unibody (and reinforcements in key places) it could be a credible desert-cruising dirt missile. Same goes for Ford.
The big Expedition is the more likely candidate, but it’s a nice mental exercise to imagine what might be if Ford lifted some styling cues from overseas and decided to prove to the world that anything could be Raptor-ified. Bronco Sport Raptor, anyone?