2020 Ford Explorer debuts: More power, more safety for evergreen crossover SUV

January 9, 2019

Thirty years after fanning the first SUV flame, the redesigned 2020 Ford Explorer bowed Wednesday with a new rear-drive platform, a more spacious interior, much-needed standard active safety tech, and a healthy increase in underhood muscle.

The 2020 Explorer doesn't look much different than its predecessor, but the two share little more than a shape and seating for up to seven passengers. Under the new Explorer's hood sits a choice of 2.3-liter inline-4 or 3.0-liter V-6 engines, both with twin turbochargers. The 4-cylinder's 300-hp rating is impressive, while the V-6 is rated at a healthy 365 hp. With the V-6 and an optional trailering package, Ford says the new Explorer can tow up to 5,600 pounds. 

MORE: Read our 2020 Ford Explorer preview

A new platform shared with the Lincoln Aviator means that the new Explorer returns to standard rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is optional and all versions use a 10-speed automatic transmission. A seven-mode traction management system doles out specific drivetrain settings for a variety of terrains such as deep snow or slippery surfaces. Ford has said that a hybrid Explorer and a sportier Explorer ST will also join the lineup at a later date. Ford didn't say if it expects the redesigned Explorer to be thriftier with fuel than the outgoing model. 

The Explorer seats six or seven passengers thanks to a standard third row of seats that's optionally power-folding. The slide-forward second row allows for better third-row access and Ford said that, unlike some other crossover SUVs, the Explorer includes a LATCH child seat anchor at each rear seating position. Many Explorers are likely to be built with individual captain's chairs with a low center console for the second row rather than the three-piece bench. 

2020 Ford Explorer

2020 Ford Explorer

2020 Ford Explorer

2020 Ford Explorer

2020 Ford Explorer

2020 Ford Explorer

With the second and third rows folded, the Explorer has a wide, flat 87.8 cubic foot cargo area. That's a little more spacious than some rivals such as the Honda Pilot and Subaru Ascent. 

Up front, the Explorer has a curvy dashboard with a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment mounted horizontally. An optional 10.1-inch touchscreen is oriented vertically, almost like a tablet computer resting on a small shelf, and Ford says it can be paired to an available 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Regardless of infotainment screen, the Explorer comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility plus a built-in Waze app for navigation. Four USB ports including some Type-C inputs are standard. 

Big screens aren't the only luxury up front. The Explorer offers heated, cooled, and five-mode massaging front seats. 

In contrast to last year's Explorer that was lacking for active safety tech, the redesigned model comes with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitors, and active lane control. Adaptive cruise control is optional and it works with forward-facing cameras that can read road signs. When the adaptive cruise control system detects a change in the posted speed limit, it can be set to automatically accelerate or slow the vehicle down accordingly. 

Ford said that the 2020 Explorer will cost about $400 more than the outgoing model to start, meaning its base price should be a hair under $34,000. Available in XLT, Limited, and Platinum trim levels, the Explorer goes on sale this summer. 

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