• Ford’s first-ever Explorer Hybrid 
  • 3.3-liter V6 engine/electric motor 
  • 318 combined horsepower and 322 lb-ft of torque 
  • Range: more than 500 miles between fill-ups 
  • On sale later this year 
  • Prices start at $53,375 

 

The 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid is an all-new midsize SUV with a hybrid gasoline/electric powertrain. This new hybrid SUV is powered by a 3.3-liter V6 engine supplemented by an electric motor that’s connected via a hydraulic clutch to the front section of the new Explorer’s 10-speed automatic transmission. You can order a new Explorer Hybrid with rear- or all-wheel drive. In rear-wheel-drive form, the new Explorer Hybrid will travel more than 500 miles between gas fill-ups.

This Explorer Hybrid, the first that Ford has made, is based on the upmarket Limited trim level, which means it’s opulently equipped with leather seat trim, a 360-degree camera and the most advanced form of Ford CoPilot 360 safety suite, along with a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system and wireless smartphone charging. The Explorer Hybrid also is super quiet inside, thanks in part to an active noise-cancellation system. Max tow capacity of the new Ford Explorer Hybrid is 5,000 pounds.

How much does the Ford Explorer Hybrid cost?

The 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid has a starting price of $53,375 and tops out around $61,000 when loaded with every conceivable option. The destination fee is $1,095. Although there wasn’t a previous Explorer Hybrid to compare this new model to, we can tell you this: The 2020 Ford Explorer Limited Hybrid costs $4,150 more than an Explorer Limited with the turbocharged 2.3-liter gasoline engine.

RELATED: Our full review of the 2020 Ford Explorer lineup

For some added pricing perspective, consider this: A 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, one of the Explorer Hybrid’s main competitors, starts at $37,320, a price that can climb to about $50,000 when you order a Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum model. Interestingly, Toyota’s destination fee is also $1,095. For the record, the max towing capacity of the 2019 Highlander Hybrid is 3,500 pounds, well below the Explorer Hybrid’s 5,000-pound rating.

When does the Ford Explorer Hybrid go on sale?

The new 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid will go on sale later this year. We expect to see it at Ford dealers by this fall.

Driving it

While driving a 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid might sound complicated, it’s not. Rather, it’s very much like driving a standard Explorer, but one equipped with an electronic brain that decides if the propulsion should be gasoline, electric, or a mix of the two. The software always seeks to maximize efficiency, but not at the expense of the Explorer Hybrid’s ability to do hard work.

On both an off-road course and while towing a 4,500-pound boat and trailer, the Explorer Hybrid worked great, just like a standard Explorer. If you weren’t paying close attention to the gauges, it’s be easy to think you’re in a standard Explorer with plenty of power. And the active noise cancellation works great, creating a remarkably quiet cabin.

RELATED: Our full review of the 2020 Ford Explorer ST

All told, the Explorer Hybrid drives very well and is a model of refinement. The interaction of the electric motor with the gasoline engine is especially smooth, and we like how the liquid-cooled battery – nestled under the floor in a spot below the passenger side of the second-row seat – is so compact. As such, it doesn’t intrude one bit into the Explorer Hybrid’s interior volume.   

Ford Explorer Hybrid engine and transmission

To attain the desired blend of power and efficiency for its new Explorer Hybrid, Ford chose to pair a 3.3-liter V6 with an electric motor mounted that fits between the longitudinal engine and the 10-speed automatic transmission. Total system output is 318 horsepower, along with 322 lb-ft of torque. Of note, the torque converter is retained in Ford’s design, which helps with trailer towing. Also notable: Ford says the Explorer Hybrid can travel about two miles at 30 mph on battery power alone.

Ford Explorer Hybrid fuel economy

Ford hasn’t yet announced official EPA fuel economy of the 2020 Explorer Hybrid. We do know, however, that it has an 18-gallon fuel tank and a range in excess of 500 miles. This translates to about 28 mpg, which is impressive for a 4,970-pound vehicle with 318 horsepower.

For some perspective, consider that the 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, a front-wheel-drive LE model, is rated by the EPA at 30 mpg City/28 mpg Highway. The all-wheel-drive Acura MDX Hybrid is not quite as thrifty, rated at 26 mpg City/27 mpg Highway

How many people does the Ford Explorer Hybrid seat?

The 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid seats six people, in a 2-2-2 configuration featuring Captain’s chairs in the middle row. The base Ford Explorer, fitted with a center bench seat, is the only new Explorer that seats seven.

How much can the 2020 Ford Explore Hybrid tow?

The 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid, when fitted with the $710 optional Class III tow package, is rated to tow 5,000 pounds.

Ford Explorer Hybrid interior 

As the new 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid is based on a Limited model, it possesses a high-end interior with leather seat trim, a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo and a wireless phone charger as standard equipment. There’s also an available 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that uses 3D graphics to display the drive mode selection.

While the 2-seat third row is best for kids (who’ll have no trouble climbing back there), the first two rows of individual seats in the new Explorer are quite roomy. A 6-foot 2-inch person can ride behind a driver of the same size in the new Explorer Hybrid, with headroom and legroom to spare.

Behind the third-row of seats, there’s 36.4 cubic feet of cargo room, which expands to 56.5 cubic feet when that last row of seats is folded forward. Given the new Explorer’s multilink rear suspension, the load floor of the Hybrid’s cargo area is a bit higher than you might expect.

Ford Explorer Hybrid infotainment

Sync 3, which features an 8-inch LCD touch screen with swipe capability, is standard on all 2020 Explorers, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. Additionally, FordPass Connect provides 4G LTE Wi-Fi access to the vehicle. Other standard infotainment hardware on the 2020 Explorer Hybrid includes a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen premium audio system and wireless smartphone charging. A voice-activated touchscreen navigation system also is standard; it’s part of the Hybrid’s Co-Pilot360 Assist+ system.

Feature highlights

Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+ The 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid has this most advanced safety suite as standard equipment. Co-Pilot360Assist+ includes adaptive cruise control, lane centering and Speed Sign Recognition.

Evasive Steering Assist This new technology dramatically reduces the steering effort needed in emergency-avoidance situations, possibly sparing the Explorer Hybrid from a dangerous impact.

Speed Sign Recognition When cruise control is activated, Speed Sign Recognition will read roadside speed-limit signs and automatically bring the Explorer Hybrid down to the posted limit. If you set the cruise a few mph above the posted limit (as many people do) Speed Sign Recognition will honor that request.

Selfseal tires These new Michelin tires are standard equipment on the new 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid. They are lined with a natural rubber sealant that fills most tread punctures to “dramatically slow” the rate at which air leaks. For the record, all Explorer models, even the new Hybrid, are equipped with a spare tire.

Ford Explorer Hybrid warranty

The 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid has a basic warranty of three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. Its powertrain warranty is good for five years or 60,0000 miles, while the hybrid electrical components are covered for eight years or 100,000 miles.  

Ford Explorer Hybrid vs. Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

Both these luxurious hybrid SUVs feature a V6 engine supplemented by electrical power, but the MDX has two electric motors in back, driving the rear wheels. The Explorer Hybrid’s electric motor is mounted up front, between the engine and transmission. While both these hybrid SUVs ooze luxury, the Explorer is a better worker: It can tow a 5,000-pound trailer whereas towing is not recommended at all in the MDX Hybrid.

Ford Explorer Hybrid vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

There’s a new 2.5-liter 4-cylinder Toyota Highlander Hybrid coming for 2020, but the 2019 version with a V6 is the one on sale now. Its combined output of 306 horsepower is close to the Explorer Hybrid’s 318, but the Ford’s max tow capacity of 5,000 pounds is a good deal better than the Highlander Hybrid’s 3,500 pounds.

Ford Explorer Hybrid trims 

The 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid is available exclusively as a Limited, a luxurious trim level. As such, leather seat trim is standard on the Explorer Hybrid, as are a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, a 10-way power front seats, a 360-degree camera and a power-folding third row seat. The Limited’s power-operated rear hatch is a hands-free affair that be operated with a swing of a foot below the rear bumper.

Ford Explorer Hybrid key specs

3.3-liter V6 engine/electric motor
318 combined horsepower
10-speed automatic transmission
Range: More than 500 miles
Curb weight: 4,969 pounds
Length: 198.8 inches
Wheelbase: 119.1 inches
Width: (with mirrors): 89.3 inches
Height: 69.9 inches
Ground clearance: 7.9 inches
First-row headroom: 40.7 inches
Second-row headroom: 40.5 inches
Third-row headroom: 38.9 inches
Cargo volume behind third row: 18.2 cubic feet
Cargo volume behind second row: 47.9 cubic feet
Cargo volume behind first row: 87.8 cubic feet
Total passenger volume: 152.7 cubic feet
Lift-in height: 31.1 inches
Maximum towing capacity: 5,000 pounds
Final assembly: Chicago

Is the Ford Explorer Hybrid the right car for me?

If you’re in the market for a 3-row SUV with good fuel economy, the new 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid deserves a look. It’s not a plug-in hybrid, so don’t expect great stretches of pure-EV driving. What you can expect, however, are miles of smooth hybrid operation with good fuel efficiency and no compromises. The new Explorer Hybrid works as well as a standard Explorer in everyday use, plus it can go off-road and carry just as much cargo as its non-hybrid sibling. That’s impressive.

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