Redesigned for 2020, the Ford Explorer is bringing a lot of brand-new to a crowded class of three-row SUVs. Facing tough competition from the likes of the Chevrolet Traverse, Honda Pilot and Hyundai Palisade, the Blue-Oval brand has packed the latest Explorer with tech, safety and interior upgrades.
In our 2020 3-Row SUV Challenge, the Explorer came in fourth out of seven. Its highest scores were in the handling and powertrain categories, though it also scored well in the in-cabin storage, braking, and driver-assistance and safety features categories.
For the full rundown on the 2020 Ford Explorer, follow the related link above and read Cars.com reviewer Brian Wong’s comprehensive critique. For a rapid-fire rundown of things Ford got right (and wrong) on the redesigned Explorer, read on.
Things We Like
1. Fun to Drive
The switch to a rear-wheel-drive architecture has made the 2020 Explorer a standout among other members of its class from a design perspective, but it’s also made this SUV a fun one to drive. For a three-row SUV, it handles really well: It stays solid on winding roads or when you have to make a sudden maneuver. The steering wheel feels appropriately weighted in terms of electronic boosting. Braking also feels smooth and responsive.
The powertrain in the Explorer is the same base powertrain Ford uses in the Mustang and Ranger: a 300-horsepower, turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline-four-cylinder mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. It comes with standard rear-wheel drive and optional four-wheel drive. If you step up to the Platinum trim, you get a larger, beefier engine — a 365-hp, turbocharged 3.0-liter EcoBoost V-6 — and standard four-wheel drive.
3. Standard Safety and Driver Assistance
Ford’s Co-Pilot360 safety suite is standard on all trim levels. With it, you get lane keep assist, automatic forward emergency braking and blind spot warnings; among competitors, the latter is not typically standard. If you bump up to higher trims, Co-Pilot360 Assist Plus adds adaptive cruise control and lane-centering steering. A 360-degree camera system (especially useful considering the Explorer poses some visibility challenges) comes on Limited and above models.
4. Technology Updates
Ford’s Sync 3 multimedia system comes on the standard 8-inch touchscreen that sits high on the dash. The system itself is easy to use and the location of the screen is within reach of the driver. A larger, 10.1-inch vertical touchscreen is available on the ST and Platinum models.
5. In-Cabin Storage
A small but important interior feature to note is the ample storage space in the Explorer’s cabin. A large console between the captain’s chairs in the second row gives passengers a lot of extra space for their stuff.
6. Towing Capacity
The rear-wheel-drive platform also gives the Explorer an edge in towing capacity. The 2020 model tops out at 5,600 pounds, 600 pounds more than the 2019 model. Even the lower trims can tow up to 5,300 pounds with an optional towing package.
More From Cars.com:
- Research the 2020 Ford Explorer, Now
- Shopping for a 2020 Ford Explorer? Find One Near You, Here
- 2020 Ford Explorer: Everything You Need to Know
- How Do Car Seats Fit in a 2020 Ford Explorer?
- 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid: Real-World Fuel Economy
Things We Don’t
1. Hybrid Option
Ford has called the Explorer Hybrid an “uncompromised vehicle” because of its similar specs to the gas version. It has the same interior and cargo space, towing capacity and ground clearance, but one important aspect is quite different: the price. Starting at $53,475 including a destination charge, the Hybrid is $4,150 more than the gas-only Limited trim. For that added cost, you don’t get much in return. The Hybrid is powered by a 3.3-liter V-6 engine and a 35-kilowatt electric motor, which puts out 318 hp — a similar output to the base engine. Its fuel economy, in practice, doesn’t give you much over the base engine’s 24 (RWD) or 23 (AWD) mpg combined.
2. Cramped Interior
The previous-gen Explorer wasn’t roomy, but this Explorer is even smaller. The new rear-wheel-drive platform raises up the floor in the third row — meaning the space with the least headroom and legroom to begin with is that much more compressed. You might have more space to stretch your legs up front, but the bottom seat cushions are too short to be comfortable. The standard second-row captain’s chairs are narrow and lack bolstering, so everything and everyone go sliding when the SUV takes a corner.
3. Poor Tech Functionality
While the new optional 10.1-inch vertically oriented multimedia touchscreen is pretty to look at, it lacks the functionality of the horizontally oriented screens when it comes to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These integrations are still only equipped to display in landscape mode and take up just a small portion of the Explorer’s screen.
In its class, the 2020 Ford Explorer is not the most affordable option. The cheapest Explorer, the XLT, starts at $37,870, including destination, which is a lot considering competitors like the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride start at less than $33,000. But even fully loaded, it lacks features and interior quality when compared with the fully loaded Telluride or Palisade, which go for much less.
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