UPDATE: You can now read our in-depth review of the 2020 Ford Explorer
 
  • Ford’s 3-row midsize SUV returns to its rear-wheel-drive roots
  • 6th generation Explorer comes standard with a robust suite of assists
  • Two engine choices, 10-speed automatic
  • New Ford Explorer goes on sale this summer
  • 2020 Explorer will start at $32,765, just $400 over current model
  • Hybrid and performance ST models added

 

Ford has unveiled the 2020 Explorer SUV, the next generation of one of its most popular and important vehicles, and the new sport utility vehicle simultaneously forges ahead to the future while also bringing back the type of capabilities that made it so popular to begin with.

The 2020 Ford Explorer marks the sixth generation of the Blue Oval’s 3-row SUV, which has sold nearly 8 million units since it arrived in 1991. With its rugged looks and attitude, the Explorer became an immediate hit with active families and the adventure-minded. It competes against such rivals as the Honda Pilot, Chevrolet Traverse and Toyota Highlander.

The current Explorer debuted in 2011 and ditched its truck-like body-on-frame chassis and rear-wheel-drive architecture for a sedan-based, front-drive unibody setup. For the newest Explorer, however, Ford is changing things up once again.

While the Ford Explorer continues to use a unibody chassis that makes for a more comfortable and efficient ride, it is going back to a rear-drive setup in 2-wheel drive, with 4-wheel drive optional. The advantage of the layout is better handling and off-road capability while enabling greater towing capacity.

Choice of two engines, standard 10-speed automatic

The 2020 Ford Explorer will offer two powertrains at launch. The standard engine will be a 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes a potent 300 horsepower. For those wanting even more output, a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 that makes up to 365 horsepower will be optional. Both engines are connected via a 10-speed automatic transmission. And Ford promises more powertrains to come, including a hybrid Explorer and a performance-oriented Explorer ST model.

New Explorers fitted with the V6 will be able to tow up to 5,600 pounds, while those with the 4-cylinder can pull up to 5,300 pounds – that’s significantly more than the 3,000 pounds of the current model.

For those who want to really want to explore, the Explorer will continue to boast a terrain management system. The new model will now boast seven drive modes: normal, trail, deep snow and sand, slippery, sport, tow/haul, and a new eco mode.

More tech, more safety

Even more than what’s under the hood, today’s Explorer buyers prioritize technology and safety features, and the Explorer promises to pack in those features, too. All models will come with Ford’s Co-Pilot360 suite of safety and driving-assist features. The system is laudable in that it bundles automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping system, and pedestrian detection.

While most of the Explorer’s competitors offer similar systems, we like that Ford is paying attention to the details. For example, the new Explorer’s rearview camera has a built-in lens cleaner.

Other standard features include 4G LTE that can allow up to 10 mobile devices to use the Explorer as a rolling Wi-Fi hotspot, an 8-inch touchscreen Sync3 infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, power tailgate, dual-zone climate control and 18-inch wheels.

The next-gen Explorer will also offer some first-of-its-kind features for a Ford, such as a 10.1-inch vertically oriented touch screen. Other available premium features will include a 14-speaker, 980-watt audio system from Bang & Olufsen, a 12.3-inch all digital instrument cluster, and a self-parking system that will enable the Explorer to parallel park itself.

Roomier interior, better cargo utility

The new 2020 Ford Explorer retains its 3-row/7-passenger interior layout, but this new version betters the outgoing model in both passenger room and utility. In addition to gains in head and hip room, the new Explorer will be able to hold a 4x8-foot sheet of plywood with the second and third rows folded.

Other helpful features include the option of hands-free tailgate operation, second-row sun blinds, and even a reversible cargo floor that can be easily cleaned.

Explorer Hybrid and ST models

In addition to the standard 2020 Ford Explorer, the automaker will be offering both high efficiency and performance variants in the Hybrid and ST models. The 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid delivers a combined output of 318 horsepower from its 3.3-liter V6 engine and 10-speed automatic transmission with a built-in electric motor. Ford is promising a range of more than 500 miles between fill-ups, although EPA numbers and pricing will not be announced until closer to its on-sale date this summer.

In developing the Hybrid, Ford decided to mount the lithium ion battery back beneath the second-row seats in order to preserve rear cargo room. Based on the Limited trim level, the Ford Explorer Hybrid boasts such amenities s active noise cancellation, Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+ and a 14-speaker B&O Premium Audio system.

At the other end of the scale, the 2020 Ford Explorer ST boasts 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque from its tweaked 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6. That engine is backed by a 10-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Available upgrades include a ST Street Pack and ST Track Pack, both of which include 21-inch wheels and tires. ST models are distinguished by black mesh grilles, lower bodyside cladding, roof-rack and skid plate elements. Inside, the cabin features a 12.3-inch digital instrument display and flat-bottomed steering wheel. Like the Hybrid, pricing on the ST model will be announced closer to its on-sale date. 

How much will the new Explorer cost?

The 2020 Ford Explorer will have a starting price of $32,765 before destination charge. That’s only $400 more than the 2019 Explorer, which is impressive considering all the new features the redesigned version adds.

When does the new Explorer come out?

The 2020 Ford Explorer is set to go on sale this summer as the newest entry in the popular three-row midsize SUV segment

Where is the 2020 Ford Explorer built?

The all-new Ford Explorer will be built alongside the equally new 2020 Lincoln Aviator at Ford’s Chicago assembly plant. The plant built the previous Explorer as well as Ford’s soon-to-be discontinued Taurus full-size sedan.

 

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