• Ford’s midsize 3-row SUV has been completely redesigned for 2020
  • Switches to a rear-drive platform with available all-wheel drive
  • Four powertrains: 2.3L turbo four, two 3.0L turbo V6s, and a V6 hybrid
  • First-ever Hybrid and ultra-sporty ST models
  • New Ford Explorer goes on sale Summer 2019
  • Prices range from $32,765 for the base model to $58,250 for the AWD Platinum

 

The 2020 Ford Explorer is the redesigned sixth-generation version of Ford’s popular midsize 3-row SUV. The new Ford Explorer switches to a new rear-drive platform that it shares with its new upscale sibling, the Lincoln Aviator—with all-wheel drive available. The rear-drive architecture allows for more premium proportions with a shorter front overhang, and should also give the 2020 Explorer improved chassis balance and better handling.

With the front axle pushed further forward, the 2020 Explorer sits astride a 6.3-inch longer wheelbase although overall length is about the same. Under the hood, the new Explorer switches from a naturally aspirated V6 to new turbocharged four as its base engine, which offers more power and torque. There’s also a turbocharged V6 that offers as much as 400 horsepower, plus a new hybrid powertrain, and all engines get a new automatic transmission that has four more gears. Besides a new chassis, new styling, new powertrains, and new model variants, the 2020 Ford Explorer also brings a more upscale interior and enhanced tech features.

How Much Will the 2020 Ford Explorer Cost?

2020 Ford Explorer pricing has risen compared to the previous version, but the amount of the increase varies greatly depending on trim level. The base Explorer, in its least expensive two-wheel-drive form, starts at $32,765, which represents just a $400 increase over the 2019 model. The more popular Explorer XLT has seen its price increase by $2,275, to $36,605. The 2020 Explorer Limited is $48,130, a jump of more than $5,000 over its predecessor. The top-of-the-line 2020 Explorer Platinum costs $58,250, which is approximately $4,000 more than the 2019 version. All prices are before the $1,095 destination charge. Keep in mind with these price increases that the 2020 Explorer does come with more standard equipment than before.

Two 2020 models without direct 2019 antecedents are the new Explorer Hybrid and the Explorer ST. The Explorer Hybrid is based on the Limited trim level, and is priced at $51,685, which means the premium for the hybrid powertrain is $3,555 over the Limited with its turbocharged 2.3-liter four. The high-performance Explorer ST starts at $54,740, which is a more than $8,000 jump over the previous Explorer Sport.

When does the new Ford Explorer come out?

The new Explorer goes on sale this summer as a 2020 model.

2020 Ford Explore engine and transmission

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The previous 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6 base engine is gone from the Explorer lineup, as the turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder, previously the step-up engine offering, takes over as the standard powerplant for 2020. At the same time, it adds 20 more ponies for a total of 300 horsepower along with 310 lb-ft of torque, which is more than most competitors’ V6s. A 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 with 365 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque is exclusive to the Platinum. Powering the sporty new Explorer ST is a 400-hp version of the same engine, with 415 lb-ft, numbers that out-muscle everything this segment save for the Dodge Durango SRT, with its 6.4-liter V8. Finally, an Explorer Hybrid joins the family for the first time, and pairs a 3.3-liter V6 with an electric motor. All engines use a 10-speed automatic transmission, up from the previous 6-speed.

The base, XLT, Limited, and Hybrid models are available with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The Explorer ST and Platinum come standard with all-wheel drive. Ford’s Terrain Management System consists of a series of drive modes selectable via a knob on the center console. With rear-wheel drive there are six modes: Normal, Slippery, Trail, Sport, Tow/Haul, and Eco. All-wheel-drive versions add a setting for Seep Snow/Sand. The modes can alter accelerator sensitivity, transmission shifting, steering effort, suspension firmness, traction-control programming, and all-wheel-drive torque management.

2020 Ford Explorer interior

The 2020 Ford Explorer comes standard with a third row of seats that accommodates two passengers. The base Explorer’s second row is a 3-person bench, making for a total seating capacity of seven. Higher trim levels have a pair of captain’s chairs in the second row, meaning that they seat six. Ford claims that the new Explorer has a bit more hiproom and headroom than before, and the second-row seats now can slide fore and aft—a common feature that helps apportion space depending on requirements.

Cargo volume shrinks slightly in the 2020 Explorer, although the load floor now measures 48.1 inches in width between the wheelwells—its narrowest point—meaning that 4’x8’ building materials can lay flat (albeit sticking out the back by about a foot). The cargo floor is reversible, with carpet on one side and vinyl on the other. On some trim levels, the power liftgate can be opened by kicking a foot under the rear bumper, and power-folding of the third-row seats is available.

Up front, the 2020 Explorer debuts a new 10.1” vertically oriented touchscreen that can display multiple functions at once (an 8” unit is standard). The top-spec Platinum ups its game with leather not just on the seating surfaces but also on the dashboard and the door panels—luxury touches befitting its lofty price. Other niceties include heated front and rear seats and a heated steering wheel.

2020 Ford Explorer technology

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The standard infotainment touchscreen measures 8.0” with a 10.1” vertically oriented touchscreen available. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard as is Amazon Alexa integration. No family ride is complete without built-in Wi-Fi, and the Explorer now comes standard with 4G LTE Wi-Fi for up to 10 devices, and a Qi wireless-device charging pad is available. The Explorer offers as many as four USB ports (including type-C) along with three 12-volt outlets and a 110-volt outlet. Drivers also can use their smartphone to unlock and start the car, using the FordPass Connect app.

A 12.3” digital instrument cluster replaces traditional gauges on the Explorer ST and Platinum. Drivers can select what Ford calls a Calm Screen, which reduces the information shown to just a speedometer, fuel gauge, and trip info, all with a blue background, which is supposed to be soothing.

The Platinum and ST also come with Active Park Assist, which can, at the push of a button, park the Explorer into a parallel or perpendicular spot—operating the accelerator, brake, and steering wheel—and pull it out again. This represents an upgrade over the outgoing model’s Enhanced Active Park Assist, which handles the steering but requires the driver to work the pedals, and also is able to parallel park.

2020 Ford Explorer safety

The new Explorer comes standard with what Ford calls its Co-Pilot360 package of active-safety features. Co-Pilot360 includes the following notable items: forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic high-beams. Those features have become fairly common among midsize SUVs and crossovers, but not all competitors include all of them as standard on their lowest trim levels. Optional on the one-step-up Explorer XLT, and standard on the Limited, Hybrid, ST, and Platinum, is an enhanced package, Co-Pilot360 Assist+. It adds adaptive cruise control with stop-and-start capability and active lane centering, evasive steering assist, and navigation. Those same models also include a 360-degree-view camera. Reverse brake assist (automated braking to avoid an accident when backing up) is reserved for the Explorer ST and Platinum. 

How much can the 2020 Ford Explorer tow?

The 2020 Ford Explorer can tow up to 5,600 pounds with its top-spec 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6, versus a max of 5,000 pounds for the outgoing model. With its base 2.3-liter turbo four-cylinder, the maximum tow rating for the new Explorer is a still-impressive 5,300 pounds. And even the Explorer Hybrid can tow 5,000 pounds (all figures with the available trailering package). Typically, mid-size SUVs can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

2020 Ford Explorer vs. Chevrolet Traverse

The 2020 Ford Explorer is smaller than the Chevy Traverse, which is one of the largest vehicles in the segment. Compared to the Traverse, the Explorer’s wheelbase is nearly 2 inches shorter and the Ford is 5.5 inches shorter overall. That translates primarily into reduced cargo space: With all seats in place, the Explorer’s cargo capacity is nearly 5 cubic feet less than the Chevy’s. With the third row folded, or with all seats folded, the Traverse has about 10 cubic feet more cargo space than the Ford. Additionally, Chevy provides seatbelt for three (small) passengers in the third row, meaning the Traverse can seat up to eight passengers, or seven with second-row captain’s chairs. The Explorer third row seats just two, so maximum passenger count is seven with the second-row bench or six with captain’s chairs.

All versions of the Traverse are powered by a 3.6-liter V6, while the Explorer’s mainstay engine is a 2.3-liter turbo four. The Chevy’s V6 makes 310 horsepower versus 300 for the Ford 2.3L, but the Traverse’s 266 lb-ft of torque trails the Explorer’s 310 lb-ft. The Traverse does not offer more powerful engine options to compare with the Explorer’s 365-hp or 410-hp turbo V6s. The maximum trailer-tow rating for the Traverse V6 is 5,000 pounds. The non-hybrid Explorer tows up to 5,300 pounds with the 2.3-liter or 5600 with the turbo V6.

The starting price of the base 2-wheel-drive Chevrolet Traverse L is $31,125, which is some $2,000 less than the entry-level Explorer. The top-spec Traverse is the High Country AWD, priced at $54,395—that’s about $5k less than the Explorer Platinum.

2020 Ford Explorer vs. Honda Pilot

Compared to the Honda Pilot, the 2020 Explorer rides on a 9.1-inch longer wheelbase but is only 2.3 inches longer overall, and the vehicles are nearly identical in width and height. Cargo volume and third-row-seat space are also very close. Honda rates the Pilot’s third-row seat for three passengers, which means that most versions of the Pilot are 8-passenger vehicles, while the top-trim levels equipped with captain’s chairs can seat seven. The Explorer’s third row accommodates two, and all Explorer trims save the base model have captain’s chairs, so the Explorer seats six or, at best, seven.

All versions of the Honda Pilot use a 3.5-liter V6 making 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, paired with either a 6-speed or a 9-speed automatic. Both those output figures are below those of the Explorer’s smaller standard engine, a 2.3-liter turbo four that musters 300 horses and 310 lb-ft. The Pilot’s maximum tow rating with all-wheel drive is 5,000 pounds, while front-drive models can tow 3,500 pounds. The Explorer with its 2.3-liter can tow 5,300 pounds, and 5600 with its available V6, with either rear- or all-wheel drive.

The base, 2-wheel-drive Honda Pilot LX is $31,450 (plus $1,045 destination), while the Explorer’s starting price is about $1,000 higher. The Pilot Elite is the fanciest trim level at Honda and is priced at $48,020, more than $10k less than the Explorer Platinum.

2020 Ford Explorer vs. Toyota Highlander

Like the Explorer, the Toyota Highlander has been redesigned for 2020, and not all of the new specs are available. But the Highlander isn’t quite as extensively changed, so there are several comparisons that can be drawn. The new Highlander is slightly larger than before, but it still is smaller than the Explorer. The Toyota’s wheelbase is 9.3 inches shorter than the Explorer’s, and the vehicle is about 4 inches shorter in length. Here again, the difference can be seen primarily in the cargo hold, where the Explorer has a 2-cubic-foot advantage with all seats upright, a 7-cubic-foot advantage behind the second row, and approximately 10 cubic feet more space with all seats folded. Whereas the Explorer seats six in a 2-2-2 configuration (with the base model offering 2-3-2 seating for seven), the Highlander’s three-passenger third row allows seating for seven with captain’s chairs or eight with a second-row bench.

All versions of the Highlander (except for the Hybrid) are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 with 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque. Despite the Toyota’s larger engine, its output is less than the Ford 2.3-liter turbo four’s 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft, and the Explorer further offers more powerful turbo V6 options. The V6 Highlander’s maximum tow rating is 5,000 pounds, versus 5,300 for the Explorer four-cylinder and 5,600 for the Explorer V6.

Toyota, like Ford, offers a hybrid powertrain, and is one of the only other models in the segment to do so. Unlike the Explorer, however, the Highlander Hybrid uses a 4-cylinder gasoline engine rather than a V6, and total output is 240 horsepower compared to the Explorer’s 318. EPA fuel-economy ratings are not out yet for either hybrid, but given the engine differences, we expect the Highlander hybrid to return significantly better mileage at the expense of some performance. Toyota is estimating 34 mpg combined, which is outstanding for this class—we’d expect the Explorer Hybrid to come in at 24 mpg. Another hybrid difference is that Ford offers the Explorer Hybrid in a single trim level but Toyota offers the Highlander Hybrid in multiple trim levels.

Pricing for the 2020 Toyota Highlander has not been released yet, but using 2019 prices as a rough guide, the Highlander starts about $2k less than the Explorer, and the Highlander tops out just shy of $50,000, nearly $10k below the top-spec Explorer.

Feature highlights

10.1” Vertically Oriented Touchscreen The 2020 Explorer’s optional touchscreen is the largest the model has ever offered, and can display multiple functions at once, and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.

12.3” Digital Instrument Cluster On Explorer ST and Platinum, the standard instrument cluster is replaced with a 12.3” digital display. The display can be customized, including with a minimalist Calm Screen that shows only essential info and is supposed to reduce driver distraction.

400-hp EcoBoost V6 The new Explorer ST model’s twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 produces 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque, figures that tower above most non-luxury competitors’. The ST can be further equipped with a Track Pack or a Street Pack, options that bring more robust brakes with red calipers and 21” wheels, the largest ever offered on an Explorer.

2020 Ford Explorer warranty

The Ford Explorer is covered by a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, which is the typical coverage for non-luxury vehicles.

Ford Explorer key specs

  • Seating for 6 passengers (or 7 in base model)
  • Tows up to 5,600 pounds
  • 300-hp 2.3-liter turbo-four base engine
  • Available 365-hp and 400-hp 3.0-liter turbo V6s
  • Hybrid model available
  • Rear-drive or all-wheel drive
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