Most three-row SUV shoppers are looking for space, comfort, and capability from their vehicles. Ford took all three checklist items into consideration to redesign the 2020 Ford Explorer from the ground up. Built on a new rear-wheel-drive architecture, the Explorer has an all-new look, more power, and more towing capability than ever. Along with elevating the Explorer's style, comfort and performance, Ford has also elevated the price tag. The starting MSRP of $36,675 for the base trim and a whopping $58,250 starting price for the top Platinum trim will raise some eyebrows. We drove the Explorer in the top trim at the Midwest Automotive Media Association's Fall Rally to see if the value justifies the price. Here's what you should know about the new styling, interior, and performance features.
The new exterior of the 2020 Ford Explorer balances some of its heritage elements with a more modern and athletic design. It keeps the familiar blacked-out A-pillars, D-pillars, and body-color C-pillars, but gets a new sloping roofline and shorter front overhang for increased sportiness and style. 18-inch aluminum wheels come standard but shoppers get the option to customize their SUV by choosing one of seven wheel designs like the available 21-inch premium aluminum wheels. Despite ditching the body-on-frame design of the old Explorer, the new unibody SUV maintains a sporty appearance that won't be mistaken for a minivan.
The Explorer Platinum model we tested has special exterior features to make it stand out including door handles with satin aluminum insert, liftgate appliqué, lower bodyside cladding insert, roof-rack side rails and a unique grille with a satin aluminum finish. The Platinum models also offer a standard twin-panel moonroof which fills the cabin with natural light. The 2020 Explore stands out on the road, especially in the Platinum trim, but looks alone don't justify the luxury price tag, so we hopped in for a look at the interior and a short test drive.
Interior and Tech
Climbing inside the Explorer Platinum, we found a spacious and comfortable cabin with some eye-catching technology. The interior materials are high-quality with tri-diamond perforated leather seats and a carbon-fiber-lined front dash. The interior styling takes a "simple and comfortable" approach in lieu of "upscale and luxurious". With the price tag hovering near $60K for the Platinum trim, the expectations for the interior were set high. Although the Explorer's cabin is attractive, it doesn't match the aesthetic of a luxury SUV such as its cousin, the 2020 Lincoln Aviator. The first and second rows of the Explorer are roomy and comfortable for full-grown adults but the comfort of the third row decreases exponentially. It will fit adults for quick rides, but isn't designed for comfort on longer trips.
What the Explorer lacks in third-row passenger space, it makes up for in cargo space which is plentiful enough to fit all your gear. Cargo space of 47.9 cubic feet behind the third row and 87.8 cubic feet with all seats folded can be accessed with the available PowerFold third-row seats, and new E-Z entry second-row seats let drivers create a flat-floor cargo area to maximize available space.
Even though the interior styling alone doesn't justify the luxury price, we were impressed by the user-friendly infotainment and safety technology offered in the Explorer. The available 10.1-inch portrait-mounted touch screen is the focal point of the dashboard. It gives you the experience of having your own tablet in your vehicle at all times. The screen offers generous real estate for navigation or your favorite apps accessible through Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Waze navigation connectivity.
Along with protecting drivers and passengers from boredom, the 2020 Explorer also protects them from the real dangers on the road. Ford's Co-Pilot360 suite of driver-assist technologies comes standard and includes Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane-Keeping System, Rearview camera with built-in lens cleaner and Auto headlamps with auto high-beams. The Ford Explorer Platinum also comes with Active Park Assist 2.0. The class-exclusive feature is standard on Explorer Platinum and allows the driver to park without having to work the steering wheel, gear shifter, gas pedal or brake pedal.
The Ford Explorer's new rear-wheel-drive architecture helped it stay composed and balanced on the road during our short drive. The Platinum model we tested comes with standard AWD which offered traction and confidence on wet roads. Besides the excellent handling, the Explorer Platinum also impressed when it came to power and acceleration. The base engine for the Explorer is a 2.3-liter 4-cylinder, good for 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Our Platinum model comes standard with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that makes 365 horsepower and 380 lb.-ft. of torque. The V6 had no problem moving this large SUV from a full stop or accelerating to pass other vehicles.
Drivers with towing and off-roading needs will enjoy the Ford Explorer's improved capability. Thanks to the updated engine, the 2020 Explorer's towing capacity is increased to 5,600 pounds with the 3.0-liter EcoBoost. This is a 12% increase over the 2019 model. Although we didn't drive the SUV off-road, those that want to adventure off the beaten path will appreciate the SUVs intelligent four-wheel drive and an available new Terrain Management System that features seven different drive modes. The Ford Explorer is a well-rounded, comfortable and spacious family SUV, but getting it in the Platinum trim with all the bells and whistles will set you back nearly $61,000. For that price or less, the Explorer's luxury counterpart, the Lincoln Aviator can offer a more upscale cabin and a more powerful V6 across all the trims.