Ford officially unveiled the All-New Ford Explorer today, the latest model in Ford’s growing portfolio of vehicles that embodies its “Progressive Energy in Strength” China design language.
An American Icon in a New Land
The Ford Explorer is a global icon of American strength and adventure, boasting athletic performance and premium design. This pioneering land yacht is in many ways an ideal fit for China’s various driving scenarios, being as at home on city streets as it is on winding mountain roads.
The Explorer has long been America’s all-time best-selling SUV. After being introduced to the country in 2012, the Explorer has been warmly welcomed by Chinese customers. With China becoming the largest market for the Explorer outside of North America, this flagship SUV for Ford in China required local insights.
An International Dream Team with Local Vision
As the company’s sixth and latest global design studio, the China Design Center is a state-of-the-art facility that also encompasses a full showroom and in-house clay workshop, making Ford the first automaker to operate a fully-capable design center in central Shanghai. As much as the building itself and the vehicles dreamed up there, the talented design team at the Center are a fusion of east and west, with 75% of the staff being local and maintaining close connections to the design teams globally. With their international outlook and local insights, this diverse group of talents became the dream team to design an iconic vehicle for the Chinese market.
Simon Brook, Chief Designer of Ford China Design Center, is clear on the benefits of his international team: “Being the first time the Explorer was designed outside of North America, it was important that it continues its successful heritage of pioneering innovation and adventure whilst being modernized for the progressive China market.” Brook elaborates on further differences when it comes to design: “We know our Chinese customers value a high degree of sophistication, luxury and premium refinement, from exterior to interior.”
The process began with the creation of hundreds of detailed sketches to define the thematic direction. These themes were then narrowed down to strong proposals that ran the gamut from luxury to progressive to bold, to ensure that the optimum balance was achieved in the sense of strength and luxury while staying true to the Explorer heritage. The international design team also had the advantage of Ford’s fully equipped Design Center, which enabled the use of high-tech solutions such as Virtual Reality and digital review tools to evaluate the themes from the sketch phase before committing and identifying the core design directions.
Progressive Energy in Strength: The Latest Vehicle to Embody Ford’s China Design Language
Brook defines the “Progressive energy in strength” mantra as being “All about taking Ford design heritage and that trust, and then innovating, and taking us somewhere new.” The Explorer design fully integrates the design DNA of the Explorer and combines it with modern Chinese aesthetics. The key visual signatures of the Explorer heritage – such as the connected grille to lamps, C-clamp rear lighting signature and an open and expansive cabin – are all retained in the All New Explorer.
The luxury yacht inspiration can be found throughout the Explorer’s exterior design. The new 21 inch Turbine fan wheels spin like a ship’s propeller, the iconic C-pillar graphic echoes the mast of a luxury sailboat, while the front end captures the essence of a ship’s bow as it breaks through the waves.
With the luxury-yacht feel retained and established, the key to the All New Explorer’s design innovations for the Chinese market were to be found by leveraging the Progressive Energy in Strength Chinese design DNA to capture three main principles: Agile, Responsive, Commanding.
The sense of agility remains in the athletic proportions of the silhouette. The responsive nature is found in the smart exterior lighting. From the front view, the corner-to-corner DTRL and animated turn indicator injects further Responsive and dynamic touches.
The Commanding aspect is possibly the easiest thing to notice, with its robust and solid volume that gives a sense of stability and a grounded stance and is especially notable in the All New Explorer’s refined front design – inspired by the unshakable confidence of a lion – balanced with China’s traditionally prominent sense of premium detailing and precision craftsmanship. The new central grille has been widened, while the reproportioned lighting enhances visual width through linear graphics. The combination provides a greater visual width and stance to the front appearance, creating a more noble and commanding presence.
New High-Tech Interior to Reflect Expert Craftsmanship
The philosophy behind the main interior elements is based on three fundamental aesthetic principles: clarity in build, harmony within composition and detailed craftsmanship. Aside from the overall proportion and form language, Chinese customers pay close attention to the mastery of craftsmanship and are more willing to embrace new, advanced technologies.
The overall interior architecture and prominent 27” touchscreen both reflect the commanding presence of the exterior, giving the Explorer a “Masculine Presence” while ensuring it lives up to the “Tech Enhanced” demands for well-integrated high technology – something which is further heightened through the newly designed instrument panel and center console with its strong horizontal emphasis.
Time spent within the vehicle and the overall driving experience were considerations that remained at the forefront throughout the design process, with customer voices prominently declaring comfort to be equally as important as safety and reliability. Driving an Explorer had to remain a rewarding experience, which necessitated finding a balance between comfort and technology. This was achieved via the harmonious integration of the technology itself and its intuitive usages, combining them with experiences that stimulate the senses.
In order to improve physical comfort, and place an emphasis on “Premium Quality and Solidity”, Ford designed new seating with wider seat dimensions and fuller side bolsters to enable an optimally comfortable seating posture. A standout feature is the unique China seat material and patterns designed in cooperation with Eagle Ottawa. Via the application of high-definition technology, the design team were able to express extremely fine detailing and new innovative patterns that would not have been possible using traditional quilting techniques, resulting in a design that is immaculate in its precision without sacrificing functionality.
As expressed through the interior color scheme, the premium brown and black theme represents a confident presence by projecting an image of strength and sophisticated adventure, while the ruby and black theme represents an exquisite premium expression combining a commanding quality suffused with elegance and a premium feel through the accent colors and selected finishes.
The All New Ford Explorer stands as a testament to what is possible with the harmonious fusion of American heritage and Chinese sophistication, proving that the China Design Center is a force to be reckoned with, both locally for the world’s largest automotive market, and internationally as China sets the pace for the future of the industry.