Currently reading: First ride: Is new Ford Explorer a 'proper' Ford?
We finally get a taste of Ford's bold new electric SUV as it goes on sale in Europe

What can you learn from the wrong side of the car in 15 minutes on slow suburban roads?

Well, we certainly can't verify or refute Ford's lofty claims that the Ford Explorer will be more dynamically adept than its Volkswagen Group platform-mates, although our chauffeur seemed to relish the opportunity to put it in Sport mode and throw it into some of the tighter bends on our route, if that's any indication...

What struck me, watching from the passenger seat, was the more overtly sporting posture facilitated by the 'squircle' (that's Ford parlance, categorically not mine) steering wheel, compared with a conventional round item.

It seems to encourage a more purposeful grip and exacerbates the responsiveness of the steering that, even from the other side of the centre console, looked to be at once more direct and communicative than anything I've tried on the MEB platform so far.



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We were in the single-motor rear-driven Explorer so had a 'mere' 282bhp at our disposal on the straightaways, which of course is more than sufficient in such a practicality-focused proposition.

In Sport mode, there was a perceptible urgency to its acceleration, albeit delivered in a smooth, fluid manner that mitigated the uncomfortable head-lolling that you might be susceptible to as a passenger in other SUVs with this much power.

I can tell you that the Explorer rode compliantly and quietly over the worst bits of our lap of Nice, with no especially overt tyre roar or wind noise to speak of - although we only breached the heady heights of 30mph on a few occasions.

It's probably best to wait until we drive it to make any categoric conclusions on these dynamic attributes, but the elements I can talk about with some degree of conviction at this stage happen to be those that Ford is keenest to show off.

The interior design, for example, is a pretty radical departure from the Ford cabins to which we've become accustomed.

At once more daring in its striking, multi-layered surfacing and more thoughtfully arranged, it compares well with the likes of the Skoda Enyaq and Hyundai Ioniq 5 for outright flair and ergonomics, while giving promising signs of how Ford can make its interiors as appealing as its exteriors – finally.

Unfortunately, the Volkswagen Group's influence extends to the much-derided haptic steering-wheel controls. Ford makes much of the improvement opportunities afforded by a six-month delay in launching the Explorer but confoundingly hasn't rectified this. Here's hoping for the facelift...

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So too are the gloss plastics on the centre console and the faintly utilitarian, scratchy lower surfaces slightly disappointing in the context of a £40,000 car, although the higher-spec Premium model goes some way to ramping up the quality - both perceived and actual.

I'll pay special mention to the tilting infotainment touchscreen, which can be adjusted through 30deg according to preference and to minimise glare. Hardly life-changing stuff, but it's a simple innovation that you can imagine using fairly often.

Less obviously useful will be the 'mega-console' between the two front seats. Already massive and made bigger with the removal of the two cupholders, it's comfortably large enough to stow handbags, lunchboxes and maybe even smaller breeds of dog.

But if it meant having a narrower centre console and freeing up more knee room in the front and middle rear seats, I think I'd be quite happy to keep using the boot for my bulkier items.

Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: News and features editor

Felix is Autocar's news editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years. 

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LouSiThames 27 March 2024
Wtf are "straightaways"? Since when was this an American publication? This is England.
Bar room lawyer 27 March 2024

So it has all the faults of the VW it is based on... 

When will Ford Europe become a VW brand?

Cobnapint 26 March 2024
Haptics? Oh ffs, they're so last decade.