The world's best-selling ute bulks up and pretties up.

by Brenda Priddy

Although cloaked in secrecy, no amount of camouflage can conceal the true identity of these prototypes caught on public roads in Michigan.

Sources tell us that Ford's U152 program, the next-generation Explorer, will be riding on a larger platform when it makes it official appearance for the 2002 model year. People who have seen this vehicle uncovered have commented on the new "beefier" look and upscale appearance.

New features for the next Explorer include independent rear suspension, optional third-row seating, and an optional 4.6-liter SOHC V-8 matched to an all-new five-speed automatic transmission. The current SOHC V-6 engine will be the standard offering. Sheetmetal changes will separate the Explorer from its Mountaineer sibling.

After the Explorer's introduction, Ford will bring yet another addition to the platform offerings: Lincoln is expected to introduce a slightly larger version (codename U231) of the Explorer / Mountaineer, referred to as "Baby Navigator" or "Lincoln Explorer" by insiders. Insiders expect the Lincoln version to be powered by a 4.6-liter DOHC V-8 with distinctive Lincoln styling.

© 2000 The Car Connection

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