Ford Explorer, America’s all-time best-selling SUV, has been a family favorite for nearly three decades. Now, for 2020 and its sixth generation, Explorer has been redesigned from the ground up. It features a new rear-wheel-drive platform, a sportier more athletic design, and improved on-and off-road capability. Overall, it’s a more capable, comfortable, and roomier three-row vehicle that handles daily driving chores with imperturbable poise, assurance and ease.
The new design is instantly recognizable as Explorer, but more modern and athletic than the last generation. It’s basically the same size, but with a roomier interior.
At the Southwest Lifestyle Media Drive in Chandler, we tested the top-of-the-line Platinum trim level Explorer, powered by a 3.0-liter 365-horsepower twin turbocharged V-6, paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. That engine is more than adequate for handling all driving situations. But for those who want a quicker, sportier feel, there’s the optional 400-horsepower V-6 engine in Explorer’s new ST model. For the first time, Ford also offers the Explorer with a hybrid powertrain.
This Explorer came equipped with optional 21-inch premium wheels, and standard satin aluminum trim about the rear liftgate, door handles, and roof rails, with a unique satin aluminum finish grille. Platinum models come with a twin-panel moonroof allowing more light to flood over the tri-diamond perforated leather seating in the most comfortable Explorer cabin ever.
On the road, the ride improves with new suspension modifications. The new Terrain Management System™ features seven selectable drive modes to individually tailor your driving experience to road, weather, and terrain conditions. This is the best driving and handling Explorer yet. The EcoBoost-powered Explorer has towing capability of up to 5,600 pounds, a 12 percent increase over the outgoing model.
Standard technology includes a large 12-inch LCD capacitive touchscreen with swipe and pinch-to-zoom capability, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, autonomous braking, collision warning, lane keeping and lane departure warning assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic detection, a 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, evasive steering assist, reverse autonomous braking, active park assist, a Bang Olufsen sound system, wireless charging pad, side wind stabilizer, and more.
With all this goodness we still found a few disappointments with the new Explorer. The third row-row seats are especially disappointing due to their diminutive size, minimal seat cushion and overall lack of leg and shoulder room.
The interior lacks an upscale appearance even in our up-market Platinum model, falling short of competitors in its class. We also thought the ride was on the firm side with bumps and pothole encounters transferring into the steering column and throughout the cabin for an unsettled and noisy ride.
Overall, the 2020 Ford Explorer is certainly improved over the previous generation and does a lot of things well, but it’s not a home run, especially with the unremarkable interior. But with its basic function as a family hauler it will satisfy the needs of most buyers.
Still, with a window sticker that topped out at over $60,000, we think Explorer Platinum will have a hard time competing with many vehicles that offer a more upscale interior for far less money. It’s a tough sell, especially considering the excellent new mid-level Lincoln Aviator Reserve has a starting price of $56,190, and easily out scores and out classes the Explorer.
Ford Explorer is available in five trim levels: XLT ($36,675), Limited ($48,130), ST ($54,740), Platinum ($58,250) and Limited Hybrid ($48,130)
Price as tested: $60,935
Fuel Economy (city/highway/combined): 18/24/20
What I Loved: Impressive standard safety and tech features, powerful and refined engine, attractive exterior styling.