The 2020 Ford Explorer returns completely overhauled. Now sitting on a rear-wheel-drive platform with available all-wheel drive, the Explorer supplies four engine choices and a roster of comfort and safety upgrades like standard second-row captain's chairs. The lineup expands with the first-ever hybrid variant, while the ST model replaces the previous Sport trim. Buyers should prepare for sticker shock too, as even a base XLT trim with four-wheel drive costs about $40,000.
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2020 Ford Explorer Overview
Choosing Your Ford Explorer
Ford offers the Explorer in four trims: XLT, Limited, ST, and Platinum. There is a base model that's fleet only that we aren't going to include it in our overview, while the hybrid powertrain is only available on the Limited trim. Pricing starts at $37,770 including destination for the XLT model and tops out at $59,345 for the Limited.
There are four engines for the Ford Explorer. The base turbocharged four-cylinder offers horsepower to equal or better many naturally aspirated V6 engines. The available twin-turbo V6 is very strong, even exceptional in the ST model where it benefits from special tweaking.
|Engine Type||Horsepower||Torque||Max Towing||Fuel Economy (Combined)|
|2.3L Turbo 4-Cylinder||300 hp||310 lb-ft||5,600 lbs||24 mpg|
|3.0L Twin-Turbo V6||365 hp||380 lb-ft||5,600 lbs||20 mpg|
|3.0L Twin-Turbo V6||400 hp||415 lb-ft||5,600 lbs||20 mpg|
|3.3L V6 Hybrid||318 hp||322 lb-ft||5,600 lbs||Not yet rated|
Every Explorer engine sends power to the wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel drive is standard on the ST and Platinum, but optional elsewhere for $2,000.
Passenger & Cargo Capacity
All four trims offer standard seating for six, and space is plentiful outside of the tight third row. A second-row bench seat that ups capacity to seven passengers is optional on the XLT and Platinum trims for $495. Cargo capacity checks in at 18.2 cubic feet behind the third row, 47.9 behind the second, and 87.8 cubic feet with both back seats folded.
The 2020 Explorer comes standard with automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist, and automatic headlights and high beams.
The available Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist Plus adds adaptive cruise control with stop and go and lane-centering, speed limit recognition, and voice-activated navigation. It's optional on the XLT and standard on the Limited and up.
The ST and Platinum trims get Ford's new park assist technology called Active Park Assist 2.0. It allows the vehicle to park itself, even in parallel parking situations, with the touch of a button.
We’re still waiting on the Explorer’s crash test results from the IIHS and NHTSA, but we expect a noticeable improvement over the previous scores, which were average.
Ford supplies the Explorer with an 8-inch color touchscreen with the latest version of their SYNC 3 infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Waze. Also standard is a 6.5-inch driver information display and FordPass Connect, which provides wi-fi for up to 10 devices and remote services that allow owners to lock, unlock, locate, start, and monitor diagnostics from their smartphones.
Moving up to the Limited trim brings even more technology, including a voice-activated navigation system, HD radio, and a surround-view camera. The ST and Platinum get a 12.3-inch digital driver information display as standard, while a 10.1-inch touchscreen is optional on these trims. The bigger touchscreen looks strange thanks to a vertical layout that makes it seem as if an iPad is sticking out of the dashboard.
The Explorer XLT comes well equipped and is much cheaper than the other Explorer models, so many shoppers may begin and end their search here. Standard features include LED headlights and taillights, keyless entry, and push-button start.
Ford also bundles a roster of interior, exterior, and safety upgrades under a $5,140 202A Equipment Group. This package is highlighted by a remote start system and an upgraded seating material, and it also unlocks the ability to add Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist Plus for another $795.
If buyers plan on towing, upgrade to the Class III Trailer Tow Package ($710), which unlocks this model’s top towing capabilities.
It’s a big $11,550 leap from the XLT to the Limited, but the level of standard equipment reflects this. Limited buyers get navigation, adaptive cruise control, leather seating, a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, a surround-view camera system, a hands-free, foot-activated liftgate, power-folding side mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a power-folding third row seat, and a 12-speaker Bang and Olufsen audio system, among other upgrades.
Equipping the Limited with the hybrid powertrain brings a starting price of $53,375, making it $4,150 more expensive than a gas-powered variant. The hybrid doesn't have the fuel-saving benefits to make the upgrade worth it, as Ford estimates it'll only get 24 miles per gallon combined.
The Explorer ST is the performance leader of the pack with its enhanced V6 banging out an outstanding 400 horsepower. This model also comes with standard four-wheel drive and a stiffer sport suspension system.
It's easy to distinguish the ST from the rest of the lineup with its blacked-out grille, 20-inch dark aluminum wheels, quad chrome exhaust tips, and ST logos.
Buyers can take these changes further by unlocking 21-inch dark aluminum wheels, red brake calipers, and performance brakes with the $995 ST Street Pack. A $1,595 High Performance Package adds the same, except the brakes are now high-performance.
Ford pulls out all the stops with the Explorer Platinum, a model that rivals some premium SUVs with its many luxurious features. These include a twin-panel moonroof, perforated leather seats, and satin aluminum exterior touches.
The available 10.1-inch touchscreen requires the $995 Premium Technology Package that also includes multicontour front seats and a 14-speaker audio system.
The 2020 Ford Explorer doesn't come cheap, but the standard amenities are plentiful. The Limited requires a hefty jump in price, but the equipment upgrades over the XLT are well worth it.
2020 Ford Explorer Review
Unlike other websites and magazines, our ratings are not based solely on a singular road test, but rather a more encompassing batch of criteria: quality, safety, comfort, performance, fuel economy, reliability history and value. When comparing vehicles using our Rating System, it's important to note that the rating earned by each vehicle correlates only to the models within its class. For example, a compact car cannot be compared to a SUV—They are different vehicles altogether.
You can interpret our ratings in the following way:
5-Star: Outstanding vehicle. Only the most exceptional vehicles achieve this rating.
4-Star: Very Good vehicle. Very good and close to being the best vehicle in its class.
3-Star: Good vehicle. Decent, but not quite the best. Often affordable, but lacking key features found in vehicles of the same class.
2-Star: Below average vehicle. Not recommended, and lacking attributes a car buyer would come to expect for the price.
1-Star: Poor vehicle. Simply does not deserve to be on the road.
- Ample rear legroom
- Cargo space beats competitors
- ST model offers up to 400 hp
- Supports AppleCarPlay & Android Auto
- Laggy infotainment system
- Hybrid efficiency doesn't impress
All-new from rubber to roof rails. The 2020 Ford Explorer is all-new, bringing in a sharp design and a potent range of powertrain options. With its redesign, the Explorer not only gets more powerful, it goes back to its roots with a big driveline update and truck-like design. With these and other key updates, Ford looks to prove its value in the mid-size three-row crossover segment.
Premium and peaceful interior. Inside, the Ford Explorer delivers a more car-like cabin than the previous generation that boasts a lower, more stylish dashboard. It also delivers a peaceful ride with a soft suspension system and plenty of sound-deadening materials.
A peaceful cabin is only part of the equation for the Explorer with its well-padded front and rear seats, and its 39 inches of rear leg room. The latter beats plenty competitors in its class, including the Toyota Highlander by 0.6 inches and the Subaru Ascent by 0.4 inches. The Explorer’s 18.2 cubic feet of cargo room with the third-row seats upright beats the Highlander by a whopping 4.4 cubes and the Ascent by 0.4 cubic feet.
The Explorer also has all the standard tech today’s crossover shoppers desire, including an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. These popular smartphone interfaces aren't available in the Highlander and are optional in the Honda Pilot. The one weak spot in the Explorer’s tech is the lag time in its infotainment system.
Back to roots in design and function. The Ford Explorer’s new looks go back to its roots, bringing in a more truck-like design SUV buyers crave. This flies in the face of most of the crossover segment, which includes mostly swoopy designs that have abandoned any resemblance to yesteryear’s SUVs.
The Explorer also looks to the past with its new platform. Instead of sitting atop a front-wheel-drive platform like most crossovers, the Explorer boasts a rear-wheel-drive platform with optional four-wheel drive.
New, more advanced engine options. Another huge update for the Ford Explorer is an advanced line of engine options that deliver fantastic performance. In its base trim, the Explorer’s turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder delivers 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. The Platinum trim uses a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 with 365 hp and 380 lb-ft.
The Explorer also gains a new performance version, the ST. The Explorer ST uses the Platinum trim’s twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6, but Ford milked 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque from it. On top of its additional power, the ST gains a stiffer suspension and simulated engine noise in the cabin.
Standing out from others in its class is the new Limited Hybrid model that uses a 3.3-liter V6 and an electric motor to produce plenty of pop at 318 hp and 322 lb-ft of torque.
Final thoughts. With its long list of engine options that deliver plenty of power, up to a 5,600-pound towing capacity, a truck-like exterior, and a slick, feature-packed cabin, the 2020 Ford Explorer is a great option for most crossover buyers.
That said, its design may turn off buyers looking for the typical sleek crossover, and the Limited Hybrid will disappoint buyers seeking maximum fuel efficiency. With only an EPA-estimated 28 miles per gallon combined, the hybrid variant emphasizes performance and capability more than fuel economy.
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