Update, 8/20/2021: Ford has indeed gone ahead and announced a new rear-wheel-drive addition to the 2022 Explorer ST line, which brings the price down to $48,420.
Here in 2021, when we discuss Ford SUVs, the Bronco, the Bronco Sport and the Mustang Mach-E tend to get all the fanfare. (Unless we're talking about towing capacity, at least.) But Ford's best-selling SUV — and most important non-F-Series vehicle today — is the Explorer. And we just might see that model make a change for 2022 that makes it a bit more of a modern-day interpretation of the classic muscle car formula.
The high-performance Explorer ST packs Ford's 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 engine, which puts out an impressive 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque in this trim. Currently, Ford's Intelligent All-Wheel Drive comes standard on the ST...but Ford Authority is reporting that Ford may drop the standard AWD and offer a version with rear-wheel drive.
If true, that would mean the Explorer ST — which already has aggressive styling and a muscle car-worthy power output — would also get the traditional RWD muscle car layout. That muscle would just come in a modern family-friendly, three-row crossover body style.
Why would Ford make this change? Well, not everyone needs AWD. And it presumably would make the ST — which starts above $50,000 with fees factored in — and the new partially stripped-down Enthusiast ST cheaper. AWD on other Explorers is about a $2,500 option.
Facing fierce competition in the three-row SUV segment from the new Jeep Grand Cherokee L, Toyota Highlander and Kia Telluride, Ford has been dramatically expanding its Explorer offerings. They have already added a Timberline off-roading package, a Platinum Hybrid trim and a King Ranch trim. So getting the ST power in front of more buyers would make a lot of sense. After all, a potent 400-hp engine is the one thing the Explorer offers that you can't get from competitors...and unique features matter in a segment with many great competitors and low brand loyalty.
Does anyone need a high-po, fire-breathing three-row family crossover? Perhaps not. But there's no law mandating your practical family car can't also be your fun car. Just save the burnouts for the ride back from school.