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Ford Explorer: Best Car To Buy 2020 Nominee

December 20, 2019

After a series of delays, recalls, and repairs, the redesigned 2020 Ford Explorer finally arrived at dealerships late in 2019 with a range of powertrains and loaded with creature comforts for the modern three-row crossover SUV. 

As the first redesign in nine years in one of the most competitive segments, the 2020 Explorer competes against stalwarts such as the redesigned 2020 Toyota Highlander and newcomers, such as the 2020 Kia Telluride and 2020 Hyundai Palisade

Built on a rear-wheel drive platform, the new Explorer comes with essentially four engine offerings in six variants. Base, XLT, and Limited models are powered by a 300-horsepower 2.3-liter turbo-4 paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission with optional four-wheel drive. The Limited Hybrid has a 3.3-liter V-6 with a modular hybrid 10-speed automatic transmission setup. The ST and Platinum Explorers share a 3.0-liter turbo-V-6 with the 10-speed and standard AWD, but the performance ST model is tuned to make 400-hp versus the Platinum’s 365-hp.

The ST rumbles to life and can be modest enough when dropping off the kids at school, despite bold 21-inch wheels and blacked-out grille and trim pieces. Once peeled away from the conventions of domesticity, it can hit 60 mph in just over five seconds, which is very impressive for a large vehicle weighing just under 5,000 pounds. It’ll get your heart pumping as quickly as the whopping $55,935 starting price for the ST. That’s $10,000 more than the top Telluride and Palisade models, which are also Best Car To Buy contenders, and the Explorer gets even pricier with the top Platinum trim, which scales the $60,000 ceiling. 

At the other end of the ST spectrum is the Explorer Hybrid, which goes for $53,475 on the Limited trim. The first-ever hybrid Explorer gets 28 mpg combined, while the 4WD variant gets 25 mpg combined; that’s less than the outgoing Highlander Hybrid, far less than the new one.

2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid - First Drive - Portland OR, June 2019

2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid - First Drive - Portland OR, June 2019

2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid - First Drive - Portland OR, June 2019

2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid - First Drive - Portland OR, June 2019

2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid - First Drive - Portland OR, June 2019

2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid - First Drive - Portland OR, June 2019

Even though all Explorers come well-equipped, they only seat six people, except for the $37,870 XLT model, which has a second-row bench to fit seven people total. Standard equipment includes a power liftgate, LED headlights, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and standard active safety features that include automatic emergency braking. 

In spite of a small third row, the 2020 Explorer has an above average 18.2 cubic feet of storage space with the seats up, and can tow up to 5,600 pounds. 

With all the powertrain options, and the sharp, well-equipped interior, the 2020 Ford Explorer qualifies for our Best Car To Buy 2020, particularly in XLT and Limited trims. 

Check back with us on Jan. 2 when we announce the winner of this year's award. We'll also announce the winners from our sister sites, Motor Authority and Green Car Reports. The Car Connection will also reveal the best vehicles in 15 categories to help you choose the best the cars, trucks, and SUVs for your needs. Finally, be sure to vote for our annual Driver’s Choice awards and tell us what you think is the best in every category.


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