The Explorer is a significant model in Ford’s past and will be an important vehicle to the brand in the years to come. In March 1990, Ford introduced the world to the Explorer, an SUV that would take millions of people on adventures with their families and friends, and change Ford and the automotive landscape as a whole for decades to come.
The blue oval recently invited us up to Detroit to witness the debut of the sixth-generation 2020 Explorer, a vehicle that will play a vital part in Ford’s future as a company that will almost exclusively manufacture crossovers, trucks, and SUVs.
High up in Ford Field, the stadium that’s home turf to the NFL’s Detroit Lions, we watched representatives from Ford, including CEO Jim Hackett, explain all of the changes the automaker made to the iconic SUV.
The 2020 Explorer is all new from the ground up. It rides on a new rear-wheel-drive platform that makes it more spacious inside and increases its towing capacity. Designers tweaked the sheet metal to give it a sportier appearance, but kept some of the Explorer’s signature visual cues. The next-generation Explorer’s model lineup (base, XLT, Limited, Hybrid, ST, and Platinum) and assortment of engines will deliver efficiency, performance, and everything in between. Passengers will benefit from new safety and infotainment technologies, including Ford Co-Pilot360, a massive available center screen, and a powerful optional sound system from Bang & Olufsen. Thanks to an updated version of Ford’s Terrain Management System, Explorer drivers will be able to conquer a wider variety of road and trail surfaces.
There’s a lot more to the 2020 Explorer than we can fit in just one paragraph so keep reading to learn more about it.
2020 Ford Explorer Exterior
For decades, the Explorer’s front grille has had a trapezoidal shape. That changes with the 2020 model, whose standard automatic headlights and high beams connect with its diamond-shaped grille.
Base models come standard with 18-inch wheels; seven designs are available across the Explorer lineup. Designers blacked out and the A- and D-pillars, and made the C-pillars the same color as the body to give the 2020 model a family resemblance, but trimmed the front overhang and gave the roofline a pronounced downward slope to make the Explorer look sportier than its predecessor.
2020 Ford Explorer Interior
Ford’s multimedia presentation stressed two main themes: the importance of spending time with your family and going on adventures with them. The team behind the new seven-passenger Explorer made filling it with people and their possessions nice and simple. The second row features user-friendly E-Z entry seats; the third row offers the optional convenience of Ford’s PowerFold system.
No matter how big your family is or where you go with it, you can always use more space for gear and luggage. The Explorer’s new underpinnings give it another 6.3 inches of wheelbase, which increases cargo room in certain areas. Space behind the first row is up from roughly 82 cubic feet to nearly 88. Ford says that’s “wide enough to fit standard 4-foot building materials.” Cargo capacity behind the second row has increased from approximately 44 cubic feet to almost 48. The rearmost cargo hold behind the third row of seats has shrunk in size and provides a little more than 18 cubic feet of space.
Back when the Explorer first came out, getting to a faraway vacation destination meant having the front-seat passenger read a map and tell you where to turn. In the 2020 Explorer, all you have to do is glance at the massive available 10.1-inch touchscreen. It’s connected to the SYNC 3 system and compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Waze navigation. Its giant screen can display just the navigation map or show both that and audio information. Amazon Alexa adds another layer of convenience.
Audiophiles can jam out to an available 980-watt, 14-speaker stereo system from Bang & Olufsen. Passengers will be able to connect up to 10 mobile devices to the available 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. They can keep those smartphones and tablets full of juice because the Explorer will offer up to four USB ports (including Type-C outlets), as many as three 12-volt outlets, and a 110-volt outlet.
2020 Ford Explorer Performance
Base, XLT, and Limited models of the Explorer will have Ford’s 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine with 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque under their hoods. A 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 is new to the Explorer lineup and cranks out 365 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque in the Explorer Platinum. Both engines are connected to a 10-speed automatic.
The high-performance Explorer ST gets a hotter version of the 3.0-liter EcoBoost that’s projected to generate 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque. Like its more sedate siblings, it’s equipped with a 10-speed automatic. Hybrid models with rear-wheel drive are expected to have more than 500 miles of EPA-estimated driving range thanks to a 318-horsepower, 3.3-liter hybrid powertrain and 10-speed modular hybrid transmission.**
Some family adventures involve towing a travel trailer or off-road toys. The 2020 Explorer is ready to help. Its new RWD platform enables it to tow more than the 2019 model. With the 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine and the available Class III Trailer Tow Package, the Explorer can pull up to 5,300 pounds. The regular 3.0-liter EcoBoost allows the Explorer to tow as much as 5,600 pounds.
Rear-wheel drive is standard on the lower trim levels, but four-wheel drive with a fuel-saving front axle disconnect feature is available. The ST and Platinum are 4WD only.
Ford has revised its Terrain Management System for the 2020 Explorer to make it more capable than before. Drivers can set two-wheel drive models to one of five modes: normal, sport, trail, slippery, tow/haul, and eco. Four-wheel-drive Explorers get all of those plus a setting for deep snow and sand.
2020 Ford Explorer Safety
Time with the family is easier to enjoy when you know you’re traveling in a safe vehicle. Good thing the 2020 Explorer is prepared for a variety of potential hazards. Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s Executive Vice President of Product Development and Purchasing, said, “On Explorer, we’re introducing a lane centering feature that mimics human behavior.” The Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of safety technologies that debuted on the thoroughly updated 2019 Edge is standard equipment in the Explorer. In its most basic form, Ford Co-Pilot360 protects occupants with automatic headlights and high beams, a rearview camera with its own lens washer, Lane-Keeping System, Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert, and Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, which includes Pedestrian Detection, Forward Collision Warning, and Dynamic Brake Support that pre-charges the brakes and applies full braking power if the Explorer detects an imminent collision.
Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+ adds voice-activated navigation, adaptive cruise control with speed sign recognition, and evasive steering assist for additional steering power that can help drivers steer around an obstacle in the road.
ST and Platinum models come standard with reverse brake assist, which automatically applies the brakes when the Explorer is in reverse to prevent a collision, and Active Park Assist 2.0. With the press of a button, Park Assist 2.0 will parallel or perpendicular park the Explorer without the driver having to use the gas pedal, brakes, shifter, or steering wheel.
2020 Ford Explorer Overall
During the unveiling of the Explorer, Jim Farley, Ford’s Executive Vice President and President of Global Markets, said, “A Ford needs to be a smart financial decision.” We have no doubt many of you will see the new and improved 2020 Explorer as one because its starting price is only $400 higher than the base price of the 2019 model ($32,365).* Ford will release more details about it at the 2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, January 14-27. The 2020 Explorer will start appearing in AutoNation Ford dealerships this summer.
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.