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Spotted: Next-gen Ford Explorer caught testing in public

Ford\'s three-row is due for a major overhaul.

Development of Ford's next-generation people-mover should be entering its final stages at this point, and instances of examples being spotted undergoing public-road testing are becoming more and more frequent.

It's no surprise, then, that this mule has appeared on the roads of Dearborn. The extensive camouflage leads us to believe we're seeing well-disguised production-intent bodywork (Don't let the half-disconnected front bumper cover fool you; this is southeastern Michigan, where discombobulated bodywork is par for the course.), but it's clearly sporting test-spec emissions controls, marking this as a powertrain mule.

Explorers equipped thusly have been spotted on public roads previously, some even bearing trailers with emissions testing equipment. This has led to speculation that Ford is developing a diesel engine for its three-row SUV. And while this trumpet-style exhaust is ubiquitous on Ford's powertrain mules (whether diesel-powered or not), the ability to tow an on-road sniffer may point to something besides a run-of-the-mill gasoline unit.

If such an engine is in development, it's likely a carry-over from the new Ford F-150 Diesel--a 3.0-liter Powerstroke V6 which Ford is hoping will be EPA-certified at 30 MPG or higher in the half-ton application.

It's likely that we won't have to speculate for too much longer. The new Explorer, likely to go on sale as a 2020 model some time next year, should make its debut some time in 2018, and perhaps even as soon as the Chicago Auto Show in February. Stay tuned.

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