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2020 Ford Explorer: First Drive Review

Ford’s Explorer nameplate is their most-popular vehicle sold behind the behemoth F-Series lineup and is valuable to the company’s bottom line and reputation in the SUV segment. While the last-generation model wasn’t bad, there were a few notable areas where it fell short. For 2020, Ford addresses the shortcomings with an all-new platform and a slew of new engines and options to both modernize the vehicle and make it more appealing to families everywhere.

The 2020 Explorer’s towing capacity stands at 5,300 pounds for the base 2.3-liter four-cylinder and 5,600 pounds with the Platinum trim’s 3.0-liter turbo V6. By contrast, most competitors max out at 5,000 with optional equipment, and then on top of that, have less power and torque to deal with such heavy loads.

From a distance, the 2020 Ford Explorer doesn’t look all the different from the 2019 model. A similar character line flows from the front to the rear, and the C-Pillar is a distinctive callback to the current generation. Up close, the similarities end. The front overhang is shorter, as is the rear. Underneath, the Explorer sits on an all-new unibody architecture that is rear-wheel drive based. Ford’s change to a base rear-drive format let designers push the wheels out, increasing interior space and improving approach and departure angles.

The XLT gets a 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that makes 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. All Explorers get Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission, including the hybrid model. All-wheel-drive is standard on ST and optional on other grades. The hybrid models get a 3.3-liter naturally-aspirated V-6 – similar to the mill found in the base F-150 – mated to an electric motor making a combined 318 horsepower and 322 lb-ft. Platinum trim models receive yet another engine, a variant of a 3.0-liter EcoBoost making 365 horsepower and 380 lb-ft.

The base engine is rated by the EPA at 21-mpg city, 28-mpg highway, and 24-mpg combined with rear-wheel-drive. There’s a 1 mpg reduction for all-wheel-drive and the 3.0-liter with all-wheel-drive is rated at 24-mpg highway, 18-mpg city, and 20-mpg combined. Engine stop-start is standard. 3.0-liter models with rear-wheel-drive are rated to tow 5,600 pounds, the 2.3-liter models are rated to tow 5,300 pounds, and the hybrid rear-wheel-drive model can tow 5,000 pounds. Fuel economy ratings for the hybrid are not yet available.

The new digital instrument cluster is fantastic to look at and depending on which drive mode you are in, varies in the information it shows you. There’s even a neat Easter egg which changes the car in the adaptive cruise control display from a Fusion to a Mustang GT to a Raptor depending on which mode you’re in. The standard eight-inch Ford Sync infotainment system is only slightly updated for the new Explorer, but it supports Android Auto, Apple Car Play and has a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. For those who want the better B&O stereo, it also includes a new 10-inch tablet display.

Explorer’s interior is all-new, with an optional digital instrument cluster and even a new 10-inch infotainment display.The new display offers split-screen functionality for most functions, and in theory, is a clever idea. In reality, the execution isn’t a good as Ram’s 12-inch display, mainly due to screen bezel and width. The map display can go full-screen but if you have Android Auto or Car Play running, most of the display is devoted to stuff you’re not going to care about. It’s the most polarizing part of the interior.

Specifications And Price Range



Price: $36,675 – $38,675

  • 2.3L I-4 Engine
  • 10-spd w/OD Transmission
  • 300 @ rpm Horsepower
  • 310 @ rpm Torque
  • Rear-wheel Drive type
  • ABS and driveline Traction control
  • 18″ silver aluminum Wheels
  • Front air conditioning, dual zone automatic
  • Rear air conditioning, with separate controls
  • SiriusXM AM/FM/Satellite, seek-scan Radio
  • 2 – 1st row LCD monitor
  • Keyfob and smart device Remote keyless entry
  • Heated mirrors
  • Premium cloth Seat trim
  • Driver Lumbar support
  • 50-50 split-bench Third row seats
  • Reverse Sensing System Parking assist



Price: $48,130 – $50,130

Additional or replacing features on XLT
  • 20″ painted aluminum Wheels
  • Driver and front passenger heated-cushion, heated-seatback Heated front seats
  • SiriusXM AM/FM/HD/Satellite, seek-scan Radio
  • Front Fog/driving lights
  • Windshield wipers – rain sensing
  • Leather Seat trim
  • Driver and passenger Lumbar support
  • Navigation system
  • Parking assist



Price: $54,740

Additional or replacing features on limited
  • 3.0L V-6 Engine
  • 400 @ 5,500 rpm Horsepower
  • 415 @ 3,000 rpm Torque
  • Four-wheel Drive type
  • 20″ machined w/painted accents aluminum Wheels
  • Active Park Assist Parking assist



Price: $58,250

Additional or replacing features on ST
  • 365 @ rpm Horsepower
  • 380 @ rpm Torque
  • 1st row exterior express open/close sliding and tilting glass Sunroof.

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    Written by Carzbass

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