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2020 Ford Explorer

$32,765 - $58,250
Price Range (MSRP)
Ford Explorer

2020 Ford Explorer Review: America's Best-Selling Midsize Gets Better

by Sebastian Cenizo

When you offer the best-selling SUV in America, new iterations need to stay ahead of the curve. With this in mind, Ford has released an all-new Explorer for the 2020 model year, adding more features and convenience to its seven-seater SUV. Available with a choice of two powertrains, the 2020 Explorer has fully embraced turbocharging, while a new hybrid variant - reviewed separately - is also available. A 2.3-liter EcoBoost with 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque is standard while the ST and Platinum models get a 3.0-liter V6 EcoBoost with 400 hp/415 lb-ft and 365 hp/380 lb-ft respectively. All models utilize a 10-speed automatic that sends power to the rear wheels, with four-wheel-drive available as an option.

2020 Ford Explorer Changes: What’s the difference vs 2019 Explorer?

The Explorer is fully redesigned for the 2020 model year, with numerous changes to the underpinnings, body, convenience features, and more. Front-wheel-drive is no longer an option on the rear-based platform, with the EcoBoost engines being new. A power liftgate is now standard, while a 10.1-inch LCD infotainment screen is a new option too. Hill-start assist is also a new standard feature, while Limited and higher models get a 360-degree camera and all models get crosswind assist.

Pros and Cons

  • Numerous standard safety features
  • ST model is a bona fide performance SUV
  • Impressive towing capability
  • Multiple variations in trims to suit budget and requirements
  • Capacious cargo volume with seats folded
  • Options can be pricey, and top trims are expensive to start with
  • Interior is a little dull
  • Third-row seating is cramped for adults

Explorer Exterior

The body of the Explorer has been comprehensively tweaked and redesigned, but the headlights and taillights bear resemblance to the old model. LED daytime running lights feature along with a new grille that is gloss black on the ST model and full chrome on the top Platinum model. Black plastic wheel arches, rocker panels, and bumper guards protect the paint, while the glasshouse imitates a floating roof design with black A-pillars. Wheel sizes vary depending on model with 18-inch rims as standard, swelling to 20s on Limited models, 21-inch wheels are also available. A dual-pane sunroof is also available to improve the interior ambiance.

2020 Ford Explorer Front Angle View Ford
2020 Ford Explorer Front View Driving Ford
2020 Ford Explorer Rear View Driving Ford
See All 2020 Ford Explorer Exterior Photos

Dimensions

The Explorer has expanded considerably over its time on the market, and the 2020 model is bigger than ever. Bumper to bumper, the SUV measures 198.8 inches in length with a wheelbase of 119.1 inches. Width is 78.9 inches excluding the mirrors, and height varies depending on the model. Base, XLT, and Limited models measure 69.9 inches tall, while ST and Platinum variants are 70.2 inches high due to an increase in ride height from 7.9 inches to 8.3. Base curb weight on the first three models, all of which come with rear-wheel-drive as standard, starts at 4,345 lbs, while the four-wheel-drive ST weighs 4,701 lbs, the Platinum model tips the scales at 4,727 lbs.

Exterior Colors

Five paint options have been axed from the lineup, with six new colors standing in their place. Cinnamon Glaze, Ingot Silver, Ruby Red, and White Platinum all meet Burgundy Velvet in the trash can, while Atlas Blue, Iconic Silver, Silver Spruce, Rapid Red, Rich Copper, and Star White make their debut on the Explorer. Agate Black, Blue, Magnetic, Atlas Blue, Silver Spruce, Iconic Silver, and Oxford White are no-cost options, while Rich Copper and Rapid Red cost $395. Star White is a $595 option. The ST model cannot be specced with Oxford White while the Platinum trim misses out on the same color as well as Atlas Blue.

  • Rich Copper Metallic Tinted Clearcoat
  • Rapid Red Metallic Tinted Clearcoat
  • Star White Metallic Tri-Coat
  • Atlas Blue Metallic
  • Blue Metallic
  • Magnetic Metallic
  • Iconic Silver Metallic
  • Agate Black Metallic
  • Silver Spruce Metallic
  • Oxford White

Explorer Performance

With a number of different variations, the Explorer aims to please all types of folks. An ST model with more power is the finest example. It gets a sport-tuned suspension setup and 400 hp/415 lb-ft of torque distributed to each corner. Ford says that this combination allows the ST to accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 5.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 143 mph - impressive for a seven-seater platform. This powerplant, also fitted to the Platinum trim, albeit with less power (365 hp/380 lb-ft), allows the Explorer to tow up to 5,600 lbs. The 2.3-liter EcoBoost that does duty in lesser rear-wheel-drive trims isn't far behind, managing 5,300 lbs. This powertrain produces 300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque in all the models it is fitted to. Both engines have proven to be reliable and capable mills, and their performance is more than acceptable for most people. For those who don't want to spend extra on an ST but need that all-weather capability, AWD can be added to the 2.3-liter EcoBoost trims for around $2,000, but the added weight will affect performance and towing capability. Fortunately for enthusiasts who find that family life has necessitated the sale of the sports car, the ST is more than just a tow car. The increased power is distinct and although it's not in Jeep Trackhawk territory, the ST is a proper performance SUV with impressive car-like handling. Overall, there are few if any gripes with the way this vehicle eats up the motorway.

2020 Ford Explorer Front View Driving Ford
2020 Ford Explorer Rear View Driving Ford
2020 Ford Explorer Exhaust Ford

Engine and Transmission

The standard engine in the Explorer is a 300 hp 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-pot with 310 lb-ft of torque. This engine does duty in the base, XLT, and Limited trims, while a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 EcoBoost is fitted to the ST and the Platinum. In the Platinum model, it produces 365 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque, and although the base model performs admirably and smoothly, the extra grunt of the V6 is immediately apparent here. The ST model, which is intended to be considerably sportier, is also a competent performer. Here the V6 produces a meaty 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque - more than enough to make it a fun car to mash your right foot in. However, if you end up with the base engine, you're not subjected to glacial acceleration and eternal overtaking maneuvers.

All models across the lineup share Ford's 10-speed SelectShift automatic transmission as the only available way of managing power, and just as with other applications across the Blue Oval's product offering, the gearbox is great company for any motor. At low speeds, the auto shifts smoothly and quietly and refrains from constantly hunting for gears. When you put your foot down and get going, the shifts are quick and precise, meaning that you don't have to anticipate overtaking maneuvers and prepare the Explorer for them. A well-rounded and smooth package, the Explorer is unlikely to make any enemies as a result of its engines or transmission.

  • Engines
    2.3-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 3.0-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
  • Transmission
    10-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    4X4, RWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Thanks to unibody construction, the Explorer doesn't feel like a truck with different bodywork plastered on top. This obviously has its trade-offs when it comes to off-roading, but the result is an SUV that feels and behaves more like a car when you're on regular paths. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean that you can't take it on some rougher terrain when the need arises - after all, an SUV needs to be a capable pleasurecraft too. While you won't be able to scale cliff-faces, you can speed over rutted dirt trails, flicking rocks up under the Explorer without too much fear of major damage. The available four-wheel-drive system enhances the Explorer's capabilities in this department, but again, it is more suited to dealing with slippery surfaces than severe off-roading.

The performance-biased ST gets four-wheel-drive as standard along with a sport-tuned suspension. Despite this, it rides just as comfortably as the regular models and manages to be a civilized commuter. When you chuck it into the bends, body-roll is less severe and the traction from all four corners allows for sharp acceleration out of the corners. Braking feel on all models is similarly impressive, with no moments of fear ever eroding your trust in the vehicle. The steering is not likely to remind one of a race car, but the weight and direct response is a good indication that Ford has worked hard to make the Explorer a better and more car-like vehicle.

Explorer Gas Mileage

Three different configurations of the Explorer each return different economy figures. A rear-wheel-drive 2.3-liter EcoBoost Explorer will return around 21/28/24 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. Its 17.9-gallon gas tank returns a range of around 430 miles with mixed driving. Opting for the four-wheel-drive version drops the ratings on the same cycles to 20/27/23 mpg, dropping the overall range to around 412 miles. The 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 is considerably thirstier but still impressive, with official ratings of 18/24/20 mpg. However, it comes with a bigger 20.2-gallon gas tank, thus offering a mixed range in the region of 404 miles.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    19.2 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 21/28 mpg
* 2020 Ford Explorer Base FWD

Explorer Interior

The Explorer has a fairly monochromatic interior, dominated by black with hints of gray plastic dotted about. However, it still looks neat and fairly classy, with a relatively premium feel. Everything is decently assembled and solid, with comfy seats and a roomy feel. Heated and ventilated front seats, as well as heated second-row seats are available. A choice of two infotainment systems is on offer as well, with ST and Premium models having access to an attractive but slightly unintuitive larger 10.1-inch screen available to replace the standard eight-inch system. Features like a power-folding third row and a standard power liftgate help make the Explorer more function friendly.

2020 Ford Explorer Front Seats Ford
2020 Ford Explorer Infotainment System Ford
2020 Ford Explorer Infotainment System Ford
See All 2020 Ford Explorer Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

As standard, the Explorer seats seven people, with optional captain's chairs for the second row reducing the tally of seats to six. In general, ease of access, comfort, and space are decent, but the third row is nowhere near as accommodating as in vehicles like the Honda Pilot. The Explorer's third row feels narrow and cramped, and taller children will find it too confining for anything but short drives. Thankfully, accessing the third row is at least easy thanks to a mechanism that can move the second row of seats out of the way with a simple push of a button. Eight-way power-adjustment for the driver is standard with four-way manual adjustment for the front passenger, but the XLT upgrades this to 10-way for the driver and adds power-adjustment for the front passenger. The Limited is the trim that offers more balance, gifting the front passenger with the same 10-way power-adjustment. In the driver's seat, finding a good driving position isn't too tricky, and the view out in most directions is good. Checking blind spots can be troublesome, however, as the chunky C-pillars that separate the rear end of the car are obtrusive. Fortunately, blind-spot monitoring is standard to counter this.

  • Seating capacity
    7-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

The base model is equipped with cloth seats as standard, which is also shared with the XLT model. The XLT does at least get a leather-wrapped steering wheel and the option of leatherette upholstery in Sandstone or Ebony coloring. The Limited model gets genuine leather in the same colors and the ST gets unique silver embroidery for the standard black leather. The Limited is the most luxurious model, earning a choice of Ebony or Light Sandstone perforated leather to set it apart. This model's upholstery also features more leather on the doors and dash, thus making it feel considerably more premium.

Explorer Trunk and Cargo Space

The cargo area of the Explorer is generous, offering 18.2 cubes compared to the Honda Pilot's 16.5 cubes. That's enough for a quartet of carry-on suitcases. It's bigger with the seats down too, as the space behind the second row expands to 47.9 cubes (46.8 in the Pilot) and 87.8 behind the first row (83.9 cubic feet in the Honda). This allows one to fit a multitude of items in the back, even accommodating mountain bikes for a weekend adventure.

When you're carrying people and they need somewhere for small-item storage, the front row has a generous space beneath the center console for phones and keys with a pair of cupholders and decent door pockets supplementing the average glove box. The second row has square cupholders in the doors specifically included to hold juice boxes. In addition, the center armrest can fold for more storage, and if you spec captain's chairs, the space between the second-row seats has shallow bins for phones as well. The third row makes do mainly with pockets on the walls, but overall, it's unlikely that occupants will have a shortage of space to store whatever they bring along with them.

2020 Ford Explorer Trunk Space Ford
2020 Ford Explorer Front Angle View Ford
2020 Ford Explorer Side View Driving Ford

Explorer Infotainment and Features

Features

The Explorer is packed with features throughout the model range, with base models getting a power liftgate, dual-zone climate control, a rearview camera, rear park sensors, hill-start assist, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, auto headlights with auto high beams, and lane-keep assist - all as standard. Elsewhere in the range, you can have keyless entry, front parking sensors, a hands-free liftgate, ambient lighting, a 360-degree camera, auto wipers, active park assist, adaptive headlights, and a dual-pane sunroof. Also available are heated and ventilated front seats with massage functions, and heated second-row seats, as well as tri-zone climate control. The driver info display can also be upgraded to include a 6.5-inch LCD screen on the XLT while the ST and Platinum models get an expansive and modern 12.3-inch digital driver display as standard. Four-wheel-drive models also get hill descent control and a terrain management system with multiple modes for various surfaces.

Infotainment

Ford's ever-versatile Sync 3 infotainment system does duty in the Explorer across all trims, with its eight-inch central touchscreen controlling access to a Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, SiriusXM satellite radio, and voice-activated navigation. Six speakers and two USB ports are also standard here, with the XLT earning an additional pair of ports for the second row. Limited, ST, and Platinum models get a premium Bang & Olufsen 12-speaker sound setup with more punch and HD Radio functionality. Wireless charging is also available, but the big news in the infotainment department is the option of a vertically-mounted 10.1-inch touchscreen paired with a 14-speaker B&O sound system. However, despite its attractive appearance, it can be a little unintuitive to operate, something that could possibly be remedied with a rotary controller instead of just touch input. Further options include a dual-headrest rear-seat entertainment system with a pair of screens integrated into the front seats.

Explorer Problems and Reliability

Both the rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive versions of the Explorer have been subject to four recalls pertaining to the 2020 model year. The first was for vehicles that were still in factory mode, thus not displaying all data on the cluster while the second recall was due to an improperly assembled seat recliner. Both of these recalls were issued in August. A month later, a third recall was issued for a wiring harness that wasn't properly placed and would potentially get worn through and possibly start a fire. The final recall was issued in December of 2019 for fuel lines that could rub together and eventually leak, also increasing the risk of a fire.

Ford offers a basic warranty that provides coverage for three years/36,000 miles as well as an unlimited-mileage corrosion perforation warranty that is in place for five years.

Explorer Safety

The NHTSA has not yet rated the 2020 Ford Explorer, although the very different 2019 model did score five stars out of five - we expect this new model to perform as well. The IIHS, however, has rated the vehicle, awarding it their best possible scores of Good in most tests and Acceptable in a small percentage of the tests.

Key Safety Features

As standard, the Explorer is equipped with dual-stage front, side, and knee airbags, with curtain airbags protecting all three rows in the event of a rollover. Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, crosswind assist, a rearview camera, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection are all standard. Also included is post-collision braking and rear park sensors. For extra cash, one can spec a surround-view camera, active park assist, active brake assist, front park sensors, and adaptive headlights can also be fitted. Adaptive cruise control and evasive steering assist are also available.

Verdict: Is the 2020 Ford Explorer a good SUV?

The Ford Explorer is a considerably different vehicle under the skin compared to its 2019 predecessor, but it's not revolutionary. In this segment, that can be a good thing, as the Explorer is already the best-selling American SUV and buyers don't want a radical change from the vehicle they know and love. With more safety and convenience features, as well as multiple trim levels to choose from, the Explorer is not a bad choice. For those who will regularly make use of the third row, alternatives like the Volkswagen Atlas or the Honda Pilot will be better, but you pay more for the VW and the Honda is lacking in the towing department. The Explorer is a well-rounded vehicle that offers comfort in all trims, a reasonable purchase price, and a wealth of standard features. It's a solid vehicle and a good cruiser. If you're in the market for a roomy SUV, the Explorer should tick most of the boxes.

What's the Price of the 2020 Ford Explorer?

If you're looking for a base Explorer, you won't find one available to the public, as it's a fleet-only option that can't be bought through the regular channels. The base model has a starting price of $32,765 before the destination charge of $1,195 and other taxes and fees. The XLT starts at a base price of $36,675. The Limited trim has a base price of $48,130 and the performance-enhanced ST model starts at $54,740. The top-tier Platinum model is the priciest, at $58,250. Ticking the options boxes with wanton abandon can escalate this to over $64,000 for a fully-loaded model. Adding four-wheel-drive to any of the four-cylinder models adds $2,000.

2020 Ford Explorer Models

The Explorer is available in five flavors: base, XLT, Limited, ST, and Platinum.

Base models are fitted with cloth seats and rides on 18-inch wheels. It has rear-wheel-drive and a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine as standard, producing 300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. A power liftgate, rearview camera, rear parking sensors, and dual-zone climate control are standard along with an eight-inch touchscreen mated to six speakers. Auto headlights with auto high beams, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, auto emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, hill-start assist, crosswind assist, and post-collision braking are standard. Ford Sync 3 infotainment with voice-activated navigation is also included.

As the first publicly available model, the XLT is more heavily-specced, adding LED running lights, power-adjustability for the front passenger seat, a leather steering wheel, keyless entry, and second-row USB ports.

The Limited is further enhanced by features like a hands-free liftgate, ambient lighting, perforated leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, a 360-degree camera, wireless charging, auto wipers, and an upgraded B&O sound system. It also features heated and ventilated front seats as well as heated second-row seats and 20-inch wheels.

The ST is the most powerful variant in the range. It swaps out the four-banger for a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 producing 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque and also ditches rear-wheel-drive in favor of four-wheel-drive as standard. Unique badging and embossing on the seats help set it apart, along with a number of gloss black exterior accents. In addition, a 12.3-inch driver info display is added, as well as active park assist and a sportier suspension setup.

The most luxurious model is the Platinum, which features additional chrome accents and a unique grille not found on other models. A limited-slip rear differential is added, as well as LED taillamps, a dual-pane sunroof, adaptive headlights, power-folding heated wing mirrors, and a more expansive spread of leather upholstery throughout the cabin.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Base
2.3-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$32,765
XLT
2.3-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$36,675
Limited
2.3-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$48,130
ST
3.0-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
$54,740
Platinum
3.0-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
$58,250
See All 2020 Ford Explorer Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

A number of packages and options are available to enhance the Explorer's abilities. The Class III Trailer Tow package is available on all but the base model for $710 and comes standard on the ST and Platinum. Along with an engine cooler and the necessary hardware like a frame-mounted hitch and trailer connectors, this package enables the Explorer to tow up to 5,600 lbs.

The 202A package costs $5,140 and adds LED fog lamps, eight-way power-adjustable passenger seats, remote start, and faux leather to the XLT trim.

The ST model has access to the High Performance Package, adding unique 21-inch wheels and upgraded brakes with red calipers. This package adds $1,595 to its base price.

Also available on the ST and the Platinum trims is the Premium Technology package for $995. This upgrades the Bang & Olufsen sound system to a 14-speaker setup and adds massaging front seats and a 10.1-inch touch display for $995.

What Ford Explorer Model Should I Buy?

The base model of the Explorer is too sparsely equipped and only available as part of a fleet purchase, the XLT is only slightly better specced. The ST and Platinum models are good but pricey, and with standard four-wheel-drive plus a V6 engine, they're thirsty. That leaves the Limited trim. Starting at $48,130, this model blends the best of cost-saving with quality features. You get a hands free liftgate, parking sensors all around, heated and ventilated front seats and a heated second row, a power-folding third row, wireless charging, an upgraded B&O sound system with 12 speakers, a surround-view camera, and leather upholstery. We think this makes it the best compromise and a good financial choice, while still boasting impressive towing capabilities.

Check out other Ford Explorer Styles

2020 Ford Explorer Comparisons

2020 Ford Explorer Honda
2020 Ford Explorer

2020 Ford Explorer vs Honda Pilot

The Honda Pilot is one of the favorites in this class due to its roomy seating capacity and capable off-road prowess (if you spec the four-wheel-drive models). Starting at $31,550, it's a little more than a grand less expensive than the cheapest Explorer. However, despite a 3.5-liter V6 as standard, it can only muster 280 hp versus the Ford's 300. Despite not being too far off in the power department, other factors mean that it can only tow up to 5,000 lbs, whereas the Explorer can do up to 5,600. It's also thirstier, and things like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity and navigation cost extra. Nevertheless, there are a multitude of options available to fit your needs and wants from a vehicle like this, and although its storage capacity is less than that of the Ford, it feels roomier inside and is capable of comfortably seating eight adults. As a people carrier, the Pilot is far better. As a comfortable family car that comes pretty well-specced off the factory floor, we'd have the Explorer.

See Honda Pilot Review

2020 Ford Explorer vs Chevrolet Traverse

The Chevrolet Traverse is another of the Ford Explorer's main competitors, and it's even cheaper than some of the others, starting just below $30k. A 310 hp 3.6-liter V6 is standard, with combined fuel economy figures just 3 mpg behind the Explorer's 24 mpg. Although this engine has a fraction more power, its torque figure is almost 50 lb-ft behind the Explorer's, which hints at poorer towing capacity. Like the Honda Pilot, the Chevy too can seat up to eight people. However, the Ford is indeed better at towing with ratings between 5,000 and 5,600 lbs. The Traverse's towing capacity ranges from around 1,500 to a maximum of 5,000 lbs. The Ford also offers a lot more standard and available safety tech, and thanks to a redesign inside and out the Explorer feels much more modern. Based on the figures and feel, we'd stick with the Ford.

See Chevrolet Traverse Review

Ford Explorer Popular Comparisons

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