By on January 29, 2018

Since former CEO Mark Fields announced Ford would bring the Bronco and Ranger back to the United States, the Blue Oval rumor mill has focused mainly on those vehicles. With the 2019 Ford Ranger now out of the bag, car enthusiasts everywhere will now hone their attention on the 2020 Ford Bronco.

However, the Bronco is not the most important new Ford in 2020. That honor goes to the next-generation 2020 Ford Explorer, a vehicle that diverges from the current model in significant ways.

Even though the Explorer’s underpinnings are a decade old, 2017 was its best sales year in the United States since 2004. Last year saw the Explorer flex its muscles and freestyle its way to 271,000 U.S. units sold. The last time Explorer volume dipped under 200,000 units was 2013. It’s a sales powerhouse that, along with F-Series trucks and the Ford Edge, has significantly increased Ford Motor Company’s average vehicle transaction price. America’s insatiable lust for crossovers led Ford to add the premium-priced Sport and Platinum trims to the Explorer line.

Ford plans to continue the trend of high transaction prices in a premium product by moving the next Explorer to a rear-wheel-drive platform.

We were the first to tell you the next Explorer would be rear-wheel drive. Now, thanks to TTAC’s Blue Oval sources, we have details. The Explorer and its Lincoln counterpart will be built on Ford’s new modular CD6 platform at the Chicago Assembly Plant. This platform is a flexible one, accommodating front-, rear-, and all-wheel-drive products, and has been described as a significant chunk of the $5 billion Ford allocated to Lincoln’s revival.

Unlike the F-series trucks, the Explorer and its Lincoln counterpart will have mostly steel body panels.

2017 Ford Explorer Sport

Sources tell TTAC that the Explorer will boast four engine options. The only engine to carry over from the current Explorer is the 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder . The 3.5-liter V6, which is the Explorer’s volume engine, will be replaced by a 3.3-liter V6. This is currently the entry level engine in the F-150.

The 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 and Sport trim will be no longer be options on the Explorer. Instead, an Explorer ST will debut with the company’s 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6. Currently, this engine makes 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque in the Continental and MKZ. Because this is an ST vehicle and the V6 engine will be mounted longitudinally, expect a bump in power. The Explorer will also sport a hybrid option. Ford expects this option to further enhance the Explorer’s dominance over the police vehicle market. The 10-speed transmission found in the F-150 and Mustang will also be available in the Explorer.

The Explorer’s Lincoln sibling will have fewer engine options. Standard equipment will be the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6. The only other powertrain option will be a plug-in hybrid version of the same engine. Our sources claim it will boast a better electric range than the current Energi-badged Ford vehicles. Both engines will send power to the drive wheels through Ford’s 10-speed transmission.

We reached out to Ford Motor Company for comment, but a spokesperson stated the company doesn’t speculate about future products. Production of the sixth-generation Explorer starts in spring of 2019.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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128 Comments on “2020 Ford Explorer Goes Rear-Wheel Drive, Steals Lincoln Engine...”


  • avatar

    Sounds like they’ve set themselves up well for putting LOTS of profitable _UV items on this platform.

    Bold moves.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Heh, probably the next gen Mustang platform as well. I hear Hackett canceled the ” S650 ” program for the 2020 Mustang.

      They probably threw the Mach 1 moniker out there to test public reaction and Hackett is probably sitting around in Ron Zarrella mode thinking ” that’s not too bad these guys complain about the Camaro’s lack of green space an Explorer based Mustang will solve that problem plus we will improve rear seat room and only add 3,000 more pounds! They’ll never know the difference”!

  • avatar
    ajla

    RWD Continental for 2021??

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Last year saw the Explorer flex its muscles and freestyle…

    I C WAT U DID THERE

  • avatar
    Dirk Wiggler

    Anytime FWD is countered is GREAT. How many times has a vehicle gone from RWD to FWD and back to RWD?

  • avatar
    OzCop

    They should never have gone away from rear drive to begin with. Glad to see they are coming back closer to their roots…the engine combinations sound interesting…

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      If you’re suggesting they should have replaced the BOF version with a Federalized Territory, I totally agree, but for a platform already designed for North America, there wasn’t a RWD one available when the Explorer was last (fully) redesigned. And no, before anyone tries to counter that, it would not have worked on Mustang or the Panther platform. One is too small, the other too big.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      At the time there just wasn’t another choice. The previous version was poison when gas went to $4/gal so they killed it before its originally planned execution date and rushed the current version into production.

      Bringing the Territory over would have been a stupid move as it would not have appealed to the masses as it wouldn’t have addressed the main concern at the time of better MPG what with the choices of an ancient inline 6 or a derivative of the Modular V8 that lost its appeal with $4/gal gas.

      Putting the Explorer on the D platform was the right choice at the time as shown by the fact that despite being one of the oldest in the segment on an even older platform it is still the best seller in the segment.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I agree.

      • 0 avatar
        DownUnder2014

        Even in Australia, in later years, once the Diesel-engined versions came out, they seemed to be more popular as most of the newer ones I see tend to be Diesel (the diesel engine is the same one used in the Discovery 3 and the Jaguar XF, being a 2.7 TDV6) instead of the Petrol Six. But I suppose partially that is also due to Ford Australia, after 2010, AWD models were Diesel only, so to get a Patrol, you could only get a RWD verison.

        There was never a V8 in the Territory either. At the time that Explorer was released, there was only one engine available, the reliable-but-thirsty 4.0 Barra Straight Six. The Turbo version of the Six had been discontinued, and the Turbodiesel was still a few months away.

        I would agree with Scoutdude on this one as well.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    I thought this was a minivan?

  • avatar
    d4rksabre

    Mmmmm yesss RWD. Between this and the Ranger, Ford will have my attention in about 5 or 6 years…

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    I seriously doubt that the Hybrid versions will use the 10sp transmission. The two motor/generator eCVT architecture or something like the Honda Accord’s serial two motor/generator with clutch are the a much better way to go that strapping a motor on a conventional transmission.

    I do believe that the 10sp will be found in all of the versions that aren’t a hybrid.

  • avatar
    SC5door

    I mentioned this quite some time ago. They’re working in the background at the plant to refurbish the paint shop (and other areas) to minimize downtime when the switch happens. Word on the street is that it will use a significant amount of aluminum and the plant body shop will be completely re-tooled for it.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      It sounds like it will be similar to how GM uses aluminium on the CT6. The Expedition/Navigator/F-Series process is much different. I’ve been told “mostly steel” but I’d imagine there will still be significant aluminium usage.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    While it’s nice to see Ford move away from the horrendous D3 platform, where is the 5.0 V8 option?

    • 0 avatar
      Jeremiah Mckenna

      why do you need all of that unnecessary weight and fuel consumption when you can have a TT V6 or 4Cyl that gives you similar, if not better performance?

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        The 5.0L is more efficient than those gas guzzling, turbo V6s.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        How much does the TTV6 weigh in with all the added plumbing? The 5.0 isn’t all that heavy (around 445 pounds IIRC). The 3.5 TTV6 weighs in around the same from what Google is telling me.

        Ford pushing all its Ecoboost stuff aside and people’s proclivity for shiny stuff I’d say its more a real estate issue than a weight one since the V8 is a 90 degree engine with a few more inches out front compared to 60 degree bank angle on the EB motor (although I also suspect any advantage the V6 might gain with less weight over the front axle due to its more compact length is probably lost or is a wash due to the plumbing and heat exchanger hanging ahead of said axle).

        In any event the EB engine’s real advantage is its percieved superiority. Ford could have just as well loped two cylinders off of the old 4.6 SOHC 3v and hung a set of turbos on the resulting V6 engine and people would have been just as gobsmacked.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I’m most intrigued by the idea of a Lincoln variant with 3.0TT and a plug-in hybrid system. Tell me more.

    “Last year saw the Explorer flex its muscles and freestyle its way to 271,000 U.S. units sold.”

    I think your gratuitous puns are a distracting excursion from the point of the article. I suggest an escape from such practices.

  • avatar
    Jeremiah Mckenna

    I think I will be interested in Ford for something other than an F series truck or a Mustang. Although the Focus RS is a looker, but that ridiculous $41k price tag and only two color availability has got to change.

  • avatar
    SkookumFord

    Pictured: 2018 Explorer Sport.

    Not Pictured: 2020 Explorer.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeremiah Mckenna

      Because nothing has been built/designed for public release on it yet. This is an article on the subject of the drive train.

      • 0 avatar
        Adam Tonge

        We could use a photo of an Explorer mule for an image, but we don’t own them. This is cheaper since it is a Ford media image we already had on file.

        • 0 avatar
          James2

          How much does Ford charge for its use?

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Ford doesn’t charge anything for the use of their press release photos. However they don’t press release spy photos of mules undergoing road testing. Any photos of a mule will come from a 3rd party who will want what ever they can get for the use of their photos.

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            Scoutdude has it right. $0

            I’ve seen a number of Explorer mules in the Detroit area. I work in Dearborn a few days a month. The TTAC staff says I need to camera up my C-Max.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Yeah, I’ve heard that Priddy pictures are on the expensive side.

            Could always disguise yourself as a tree and stand beside the admission line to the Henry Ford Museum. (At least that butted right up against one of the perimeter walls of the Dearborn Proving Grounds last time I was there..prolly 30 years ago! I seem to recall seeing SOMETHING flying by back in the day!)

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            @sgeffe: Could always disguise yourself as a tree…

            The place to go is on Enterprise Drive in Allen Park. Position yourself in the vegetation between i-93 and Enterprise. Another good spot is on South Dearborn Rd. in Melvindale. There’s a berm in the ice arena parking lot that provides a bit of cover along with several trees along the road. The stop signs at Harmon St. and S. Dearborn are a good spot as well.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Yeah Adam you need to get a dash cam and see what you get.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      Top Photo: 2018 model, bottom photo 2016-2017 model.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    With these becoming the police car of choice throughout the Galaxie, it will be interesting to see what they do to the interceptor models.

    I don’t know what the take rate is on the 3.5TT versions as all the ones in my area are 3.7L powered.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    CD6 can support front, rear and all-wheel-drive products? The only times I’ve seen front and rear wheel drive simultaneously have been with platforms that had longitude-mounted engines, and the transmission mounted in line with the front wheels.

    Rumor has it that Chrysler was going to do something like this. The LH platform was longitude-FWD, with the engine pushed way ahead of the front axle, and half shafts that came out of each side of the transmission to form a transaxle for the front wheels. in the mid-late 90s, they started working on a replacement platform designated “LX”, which was a derivative of the LH platform for RWD and AWD vehicles. LX would have the same engine / transmission layout, but would support a driveshaft conventionally running along the length of the car to connect to the rear axle. However, when the DaimlerChrysler “Merger of Equals” took place, Daimler decided the LH-based LX platform was too expensive and scrapped the idea. They instead developed a conventional RWD platform that supported a significant number of existing Mercedes-Benz components, like floorpans and transmissions, and that is the actual LX that we know today. Supposedly some of these early LH-based LX prototypes appeared in the Viper TV show of the late 90s, as police cruisers.

    Mind you, that’s just a rumor.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The LH platform was designed from the get go to be FWD, AWD and RWD which is the reason for its longitudinal layout. Of course Chrysler didn’t have the funds so they were FWD only. The LX just dusted off those plans for the RWD and AWD LH but when Daimler came along they stopped the orders for tooling and forced a redesign to use existing Mercedes components like the diff and trans to name the key parts.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Just as I suspected. Like I said, it’ll be interesting to see if Ford does do a platform like that. VW Group has had great success with it, the latest of which is their MLB platform. In fact, they just moved the newest generation of their large SUVs to MLB (Cayenne, Bentayga, Q7, upcoming Touareg), where the previous versions had a traditional longitude-RWD-based layout.

        Of course, the VW / Audi MLB series of platforms has never specifically been used on a RWD-only vehicle, but it conceivably could be.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Can confirm, an LH intrepid will accept an OHV V8 with automatic transmission in the engine bay and trans tunnel without serious sheet metal modification. All it would really need is a rear differential/suspension which would either be really easy with a janky solid axle/leaf spring setup or very involved with IRS, say one cut from a Charger.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        If you’ve ever seen one on the lift you can see how they left the space for a diff and half shafts to get to the center of the rear spindles.

        According to something I read at Allpar from a guy who claimed to be involved in the LH development the designs were all complete to offer and AWD V6 or a RWD V8 using carry over small block and trans, all that was really missing was the funding for the tooling.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      I think Ford is trying to build an architecture/platform that can do either a longitudinal or transverse engine layout. I’m guessing that is difficult.

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      Ford did it before, for Transit. It supported either FWD or RWD. The U.S. market version never had an FWD, but supposedly the platform allowed it.

  • avatar
    krohde

    Ok, I’ll take the enthusiast bite and say, “yay, RWD again!” But for the Explorer’s planned usage, what about FWD makes it a bad platform, exactly? It can tow 5,000 pounds currently, so I guess they might be able to bump that by 1-2,000 pounds? More than what wheels are the primary drivers, I would think the major concerns for the next Explorer are interior packaging and weight/fuel mileage and I’m not sure how RWD itself solves either of those.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I’m trying to figure out why go to RWD for 2020 when the 2020 Bronco is going to be a RWD/4wd vehicle too.

      • 0 avatar
        Adam Tonge

        Bronco = Wrangler
        Explorer = Durango/Wagoneer

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          So then what will be the vehicle configured for maximum interior space? Or does Ford think the max cube Pilot/Traverse segment is not the way of the future?

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            I think you’ll see another vehicle in there. The Edge L and S-Max exist in other markets. I’m sure there is something that they could replace the Flex and FWD Explorer with. Still, I think a lot of Explorer buyers would move to the new Explorer. The brand is good.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            This move opens up the space for the 3 row Edge that they promised so many years ago, before the gas price shock forced them to switch directions on the Explorer.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          I still think the Bronco is going to be “rebadged Everest” – which might step on the 4Runner’s toes but not the Wrangler.

          I’m happy to be proven wrong but I’ll be more believing of a rendering that looks like the new Ranger crew cab with a cap on it.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Because the Explorer will fill the family truckster/tow vehicle role it currently does while the Bronco will fill the off-roader wannabe role.

      • 0 avatar
        Reino

        I think Explorer going RWD may be an answer to the new market of “performance-SUV” like Cayenne, X5/6, F-pace, Grand Cherokee SRT…while the Bronco targets wrangler and 4-Runner.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Well, a lot of the savings are going to come from smarter use of metals and weight-saving materials on this new CD6 architecture, as well as just plain old not using the D platform anymore, which is a pig and terribly space inefficient (source: my 2014 Lincoln MKS).

      Other than that, since they still need the rear driveshaft stamping for AWD applications, the floorpan wouldn’t necessarily be any flatter if the vehicle were FWD. And if they’re going to a longitude-engined platform like VW Group’s MLB—in which the engine and transmission are pushed further to the front—packaging won’t be much worse than in a transverse-FWD vehicle, if at all, because the bulk of the engine / transmission assembly will be under the hood.

      So it comes down to…why not?

      • 0 avatar
        krohde

        That’s fair, as long as it doesn’t make the packaging worse or have the Explorer take a step back in terms of drivability. I know it’s sacrilege for an enthusiast to say but, having driven a recent Explorer and 4Runner pretty close to back to back, the Explorer is just a much more pleasant vehicle to drive in everyday situations, departure angles and transfer cases be damned.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Yes, but the 4Runner (and its GX460 cousin) is also body-on-frame and has a space-robbing solid rear axle. So it’s an apples-and-oranges comparison.

          The Explorer will still be unibody-based. Picture it as being more like its crosstown rivals, the Grand Cherokee and Durango, which are RWD-based, but unibody…and also share their DaimlerChrysler-era platform with the GLE-Class and GLS-Class.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The D platform is not space inefficient. The problem with the MKS/Taurus was that they went the 4dr coupe/console the size of Texas route. Look at the original Ford version the 500 which packed a ton of interior and trunk room for the exterior size.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      You should be able to tow the same amount as the current Explorer in hybrid form. I think that is a positive.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Well, shoot. I’m thinking of selling the 2008 Explorer V8 and replacing it with the closest option: 4Runner Limited. I wonder if I should wait 3 more years (after first year model) or get the proven but ugly and thirsty Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Hmmmmmmmmmm when is the 4Runner supposed to be redesigned? I’d be scared that the 4.0 is going away during the next redesign.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        Let’s hope. That 4.0 is a dog.

        Yeah the 3.5 in the Tacoma is even worse, but keep in mind that when Toyota made it that way it looked like $120 a bbl oil, an economic recovery limited to investors only, and CAFE 2025 were all certainties.

        Four years from the first two of those being true, and a year from the third, let’s see if they haven’t learned.

    • 0 avatar
      Lightspeed

      I’ve driven V8 and V6 4Runners. I believe the V8 is based on the 1UZ in my Lexus, and that’s a heck of an engine. The only problem with 4Runners is of course the gonzo prices for used ones.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I don’t really get this move.

    Explorer has become crossover minivan type. Of which basically all are Fwd platforms.

    I thought maybe this made sense if they want grand Cherokee or 4runner sales… But the Bronco is coming.

    Well maybe this is a move to get more in the Tahoe/Denali zone of space, towing, etc. But Ford has the Expedition.

    What, exactly, is the point of this? I’ll cheer rwd with the rest, but what is the business decision here?

    My ONLY guess is that this platform is designed first to accommodate Lincoln. To be more than a nicer Ford, they want rear drive bias to give it closer feel to the Germans. Lincoln will never “come back” if it goes the Lexus route of offering just nicer Fords. Just like Acura NEVER cracked the luxury sedan market because of their refusal to do V8s and RWD. Some things are just more required in premium brands at higher price points. So I could see it being designed with that first and then down-engineering from Lincoln to Ford. Otherwise I simply don’t get this change.

    Getting the feeling Ford is starting to have too may trucks and crossovers starting to step all over each other.

    I also wonder if this is part of the reason the fusion might die. New explorer and bronco can cover the Edge bases (based on fusion). Up size a focus/escape to cover from the bottom. Future Continental models based on this new platform as well. Just don’t need a midsized Fwd platform anymore?

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The Bronco is coming to fight the Wrangler and 4-Runner with a more off-roader focus. The new Explorer will be intended as a competitor for the Grand Cherokee, Pilot or Highlander with a greater towing capacity.

      This will also likely be the basis for a RWD and AWD version of the Continental as its platform is at the end of its life cycle, but was what they had to get it on sale sooner rather than later.

    • 0 avatar
      Rocket

      Other than sacrificing a miniscule amount of interior space, there is no real disadvantage. The dynamics will be better than a FWD/transverse layout, it gives the Explorer a better opportunity to snag potential Tahoe/Yukon buyers that find the Expedition to be a little too big, and it’s well know that law enforcement still prefers RWD. Plus, the V8 and new turbodiesel V6 drivetrains will plug right in should either be considered. (I won’t be surprised if the diesel is offered at launch, but I don’t seriously expect a V8 option.)

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        I wouldn’t be so sure that they are going to leave room under the hood for a V8, if they aren’t putting one in the Expedition I don’t see it in an Explorer.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    What is the excitement over this change about? It’s still going to be a two and a half ton 6 foot tall something or other. Drive wheels are an afterthought at that point

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Possibly TCO/resale related.

      As I’ve mentioned in a few threads I’ve been looking at various options for either replacing my Lexus sedan with a family-size vehicle or adding one to the family. One thing that’s become very clear in that process is that RWD SUVs, especially BOF or frame/unibody hybrids, retain value far better. I went in with the idea of a used minivan or three-row CUV, but now I’m thinking about used SUVs. In a big surprise to me, the TCO with my limited amount of driving pencils out lower for the SUVs because depreciation is so much less.

      The cheapest option I looked at in TCO terms actually was a GMT900 Hybrid (which are retaining value incredibly well). But my wife vetoed that because rolling a GMT900 would make her feel like her exurban Texas sister-in-law. Next up: early 2008-09 versions one of the most expensive SUVs on the planet, the Land Cruiser/LX570. Odd to think that could be a low-cost vehicle, but in my usage that would be the case.

      I could see a properly executed RWD-based Explorer similary retaining value better than the existing FWD-based versions.

      • 0 avatar

        Hit em where they ain’t (as much) with a tidy GX.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Included that on the list. Depreciation on the LC/LX is lower, and the interior is a good deal roomier. If I’m going to truck, might as well truck all the way.

          I prefer the LC look to the kind of gaudy LX, but so does everyone else. In the 2008-09 range I’m finding about a $5-8K premium for LC over LX, with *lower* expected depreciation for the luxified version, making the LX the better financial choice. It’s a weird little corner of the market.

          • 0 avatar

            Interesting. I didn’t have a good feel for GX depreciation – the only ones I ever saw for sale were old gen 1 examples. It’s like the newer ones were missing.

            It’s funny, the luxury customer spends all that money up front, and more often than not ends up with less when they go to sell it.

            Agree on the gaudy LX. I am okay with the LX100 versions because of how they share the same front end motif as the GS, and how the two-tone gold badges 90s thing was appropriate at the time.

          • 0 avatar
            fvfvsix

            I think I might be able to explain the higher GX depreciation. Based on my limited experience, it seems like the ATP of new GXes is quite a bit off MSRP. So, I believe that the depreciation hit is higher because of that factor. For example – my father bought a new GX last year. Sticker was right at $60K, but they offered a $6000 discount pretty easily.

            It makes sense for the Lexus dealers to deal readily, given that GXes can’t possibly cost a ton more than 4runners to make.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            There’s a crazy-high floor for LC/LX values. If you have a really clean one, it’s worth $15k almost no matter how many miles are on it, and $20k if it has low miles almost no matter how old it is. That really helps when you’re buying in the “still depreciating but most of the way down” range.

            By contrast, my low-mile, optioned-up, pristine 2008 LS is worth $14k and falling like a rock.

  • avatar
    rcx141

    I think the Explorer is a very nice looking SUV. Always wondered why Ford doesn’t stick a Mustang V8 in one.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Will there be a Taurus for us?

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    What’s old is new again!

    Next: The straight-six engine.

  • avatar
    ernest

    Dang Durango R/T is looking better all the time.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    The only way RWD flies in this is as some track-day special, or as a fleet/police version for warmer climates. AWD/4X4 in a wagon package is what made the Explorer the choice for all those ‘active lifestyle’ folks (who aren’t all that active and will never drive on a gravel road).

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    What this discussion sorely lacks are the delicious tears of enthusiasts of Flex.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Bit by bit the Ford platforms with lots of 1990s Volvo DNA in them are moving on. I wonder how long the Ford Flex will stick around?


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