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MSRP: $32,765 - 58,250

7.4

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 7.5
Performance: 7.2
Interior: 6.8
Safety:
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 8.1 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
TBD
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

2020 Ford Explorer Review

The redesigned 2020 Ford Explorer has improved handling, a lineup of peppy engines, and a lengthy list of standard safety features. Though it's much improved, the Explorer is up against some outstanding rivals and places near the bottom of our midsize SUV rankings.

Pros & Cons

  • Impressive standard safety and tech features
  • Broad, airy cabin
  • Lots of cargo space
  • Lineup of powerful, refined engines
  • Bland interior in lower trims
  • So-so upgraded infotainment system

Is the Ford Explorer a Good SUV?

The Ford Explorer is an OK midsize SUV. The good news is that its 2020 redesign includes significant changes, and the result is a much improved three-row SUV. The Explorer is built on a new platform that improves its handling, makes it feel airy inside, and boosts its towing capacity. Its engines – including a lively and fuel-efficient turbocharged base four-cylinder – are among the most powerful in the class.

In most models, the Explorer now comes with only six seats. Its second-row captain's chairs provide a nice amount of legroom, can quickly slide forward, and offer space in between for kids to jump back to the third row.

Even the base trim comes with an impressive number of standard features. These include a highly praised infotainment system that quickly connects to your smartphone, thanks to standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Explorer's standard advanced safety features are on par with those of the Toyota Highlander and include a forward collision prevention system.

Despite these perks, the redesigned Explorer has a hard time competing with many of its well-rounded rivals that offer roomier third rows, better upgraded infotainment systems, and more stylish interiors while also costing less.

Should I Buy the Ford Explorer?

Though the Ford Explorer will meet the needs of most midsize-SUV shoppers, it may not be the best choice.

One of the Explorer's most prominent drawbacks is its price. The MSRP for its trim levels range from about $37,000 to around $58,000. That means you'll spend thousands more for this SUV than if you were to buy a Mazda CX-9 (starting at $32,280), Subaru Ascent ($31,995), Kia Telluride ($31,690), or Volkswagen Atlas ($30,895). All four of these SUVs score higher than the Explorer in our rankings, and all can carry at least seven people.

Compare the Explorer, CX-9, and Ascent »

Should I Buy a New or Used Ford Explorer?

Ford's best-selling midsize SUV commences an all-new generation with the 2020 model year. The new Explorer presents a bevy of improvements compared to the outgoing generation. It changes from a front-wheel-drive to a rear-wheel-drive platform, which improves its towing capacity and handling abilities. It's also newly available as the Explorer Hybrid, which we review separately.

The redesign brings drastic changes to the cabin. Only six seats are available in most trims, down from the previous seven-seat standard configuration. Cargo space behind the second-row seats grows from the previous model's 43.9 cubic feet to 47.9 cubic feet.

New technologies include the introduction of the Co-Pilot360 driver-assistance bundle. This standard safety suite includes blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, a rearview camera with a lens washer, automatic high-beam headlights, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, and post-collision braking. Of these features, the 2019 Explorer only comes standard with the rearview camera, though many of the remaining features are available as options in all but the base trim.

You can likely save money by opting for an older Explorer, but you'll be missing out on some appealing changes.

Be sure to read our 2018 Explorer and 2019 Explorer reviews to help make your decision. You can also check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts on used vehicles.

Compare the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Explorer »

We Did the Research for You: 11 Reviews Analyzed

Our goal is to make shopping for your next car as easy as possible. You'll find everything you need to know about the Ford Explorer in our comprehensive review. It combines concrete data (like fuel economy estimates, horsepower specs, and cargo space dimensions) with 11 professional Ford Explorer reviews.

Why You Can Trust Us

The Best Cars team – a division of U.S. News & World Report – has been reviewing cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007. With more than 75 years of combined automotive experience, our editors, writers, and analysts rank a wide variety of new and used cars and issue three annual awards: Best Cars for the Money, Best Cars for Families, and Best Vehicle Brands. To keep our recommendations unbiased, we decline expensive gifts from carmakers, and a third party handles our advertising.

How Much Does the Ford Explorer Cost?

Pricing for the 2020 Explorer starts at $36,675 for the base trim, and the MSRP for the top-of-the-line model starts at $58,250. See our Which Ford Explorer Model Is Right for Me? section below for full details on trim levels and standard features.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Ford dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Ford deals page.

Ford Explorer Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Ford Explorer or Ford Edge?

Like the Explorer, the Ford Edge is a midsize SUV, but it only has two rows of seats and a five-person capacity. It's a good option if you want to spend less, as its MSRP starts at around $30,000, and it also comes standard with the Co-Pilot360 safety suite. Stick with the Explorer if you want a third-row seat, a larger cargo area, or more powerful engine options.

Which Is Better: Ford Explorer or Chevrolet Traverse?

Overall, the Chevrolet Traverse is a better SUV than the Explorer. It has a lower starting price (by around $6,700), more cargo space, roomier rear seats, and the ability to carry seven or eight passengers. That said, pick the Explorer if you want brisker acceleration or the ability to tow up to 5,600 pounds. In comparison, the Traverse can only pull up to 5,000 pounds.

Compare the Explorer, Edge, and Traverse »

Explorer Interior

How Many People Does the Explorer Seat?

The Explorer is a three-row SUV that seats six people in its standard configuration. The rear seats include a pair of captain's chairs in the middle row and a split-folding bench with room for two in the third row. An optional second-row bench seat is available in select models, which expands the seating capacity to seven.

Inside, the Explorer feels broad and airy. There is enough legroom in all three rows for adults, though the low placement of the third-row cushion could be uncomfortable for taller passengers. The second-row seats fold and slide forward. These are heavy for small children to move, but little ones can easily jump between the captain's chairs to reach the rearmost seats.

Explorer and Child Car Seats

The 2020 Ford Explorer has two complete sets of LATCH car-seat connectors in the second row and two complete sets in the third row.

Explorer Interior Quality

This midsize SUV probably won't win any interior design awards, but it is well-constructed and comes with a nice array of soft-touch materials. Lower trims are a bit plain, while fully loaded models come with upscale touches like perforated leather upholstery and massaging seats.

Explorer Cargo Space

Cargo space is generous and convenient in the Explorer. It has 18.2 cubic feet behind the third-row seat, 47.9 cubic feet behind the second row, and up to 87.8 cubic feet with all rear seats folded. Helpful touches include a standard power liftgate and an optional hands-free liftgate. The optional cargo management system includes storage bins underneath the floor and a reversible cargo floor with carpet on one side and vinyl on the other.

Explorer Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The Explorer comes with either an 8-inch touch screen or a vertically oriented 10.1-inch touch screen. This is one of the rare times when the base system is better than the upgrade. This is partly because of how the larger screen splits to display Apple CarPlay or Android Auto underneath the vehicle’s settings. In theory, it's a great layout, but in reality, the system isn't as user-friendly as similar interfaces, like those found in Ram vehicles, for example.

Also, having the larger screen means giving up storage underneath the display, which is otherwise a convenient spot to stow your phone. Ford also gets a few grumbles for its stingy amount of USB ports. There is only one regular USB port in each of the first two rows and no ports for third-row passengers.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto?

Read more about interior »

Explorer Performance

Explorer Engine: More Powerful Than Most Rivals

There are four powertrain options for the 2020 Explorer: a base turbocharged four-cylinder engine, two twin-turbocharged V6 engines, and a hybrid variant. We go into more detail on the hybrid's driving dynamics and fuel economy in our separate Explorer Hybrid review.

The trio of nonhybrid options are lively and smooth. The entry-level 300-horsepower four-cylinder is more powerful than the average base engine in a midsize SUV. So equipped, the Explorer joins highway traffic with ease and leaves little reason to upgrade to the optional V6.

Off-the-line launches are noticeably quicker in any model powered by the twin-turbo V6. The sole gearbox choice is a 10-speed automatic that is responsive and on point.

Explorer Gas Mileage: Fuel-Sipping SUV

The Explorer’s base engine is one of the most efficient among nonhybrid SUVs this size. The rear-wheel-drive model gets 21 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. Four-wheel-drive models with the base engine see each rating decline by one. Fuel economy for the twin-turbo V6 engine is estimated at 18 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

Explorer Ride and Handling: Balanced

The Explorer has composed handling, with easy steering and a comfortable ride. Just as with other three-row SUVs, you will notice some body roll when cornering, though many critics also feel that this Ford is more athletic than many of its competitors.

The redesigned Explorer boasts improved handling compared to the previous generation, in part because the SUV is now rear-wheel-drive based (older models were front-wheel drive). Some reviewers liken the Explorer's driving experience to that of a truck-based vehicle with a body-on-frame architecture, given its heft and propensity for body lean.

Explorer Towing Capacity

Properly equipped Explorers can tow up to 5,600 pounds. Not only is that significantly more than the 2019 Explorer, but it is also a higher towing capacity than what most midsize SUVs offer.

If you need to tow more, consider a larger Ford. For example, the Expedition is a large SUV that can tow up to 9,300 pounds. The Ford F-150 is a full-size pickup truck with a maximum towing capacity of 13,200 pounds.

Read more about performance »

Explorer Reliability

Is the Ford Explorer Reliable?

J.D. Power gives the 2020 Explorer a predicted reliability rating of three out of five. That's about average for the industry but a little below average for the class.

Ford Explorer Warranty

Ford covers this midsize SUV with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Explorer Safety

Explorer Crash Test Results

At the time of writing, neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has crash tested the 2020 Ford Explorer.

Explorer Safety Features

Ford bundles its standard advanced safety features in the Co-Pilot360 package, which contains blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, a rearview camera with a lens washer, automatic high-beam headlights, post-collision braking, and a pre-collision system with forward collision warning, forward automatic emergency braking, and pedestrian detection.

Ford MyKey is also standard. This system includes additional seat belt reminders, and it encourages safe driving by letting you do things like set speed and audio volume limits for secondary drivers. It's a helpful tool for parents of teen drivers.

Adaptive cruise control with lane-centering and stop-and-go capability is available. Other options include speed sign recognition, evasive steering assist, active perpendicular and parallel park assist, reverse brake assist, a 360-degree parking camera, a blind spot information system for when you are towing, and rain-sensitive windshield wipers.

Read more about safety »

Explorer Dimensions and Weight

The Explorer is around 16.7 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 4,345 to 4,969 pounds.

Where is the 2020 Ford Explorer Built?

Ford builds the 2020 Explorer in Illinois.

Which Ford Explorer Model Is Right for Me?

The Explorer comes in four primary trim levels: XLT, Limited, ST, and Platinum. There is also a hybrid model available. One of the main differences between the trims is the standard powertrain. The XLT and Limited trims feature a 300-horsepower four-cylinder engine. Rear-wheel drive is standard, while four-wheel drive and options such as a tow package are available.

The ST and the Platinum trims come with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that produces 400 and 365 horsepower, respectively. Both come only as four-wheel-drive SUVs.

The hybrid model, which is based on the Limited trim, features a 3.3-liter V6 engine and an electric motor that produce a combined 318 horsepower. We review the Explorer Hybrid separately.

For the best combination of features and price, go with the XLT. It comes nicely outfitted with an impressive set of advanced safety features, has a well-equipped infotainment system, and includes essentials such as power-folding second-row seats. Though you get niceties such as leather upholstery and a premium sound system with the Limited trim, it costs an additional $11,500 or so compared to the base XLT.

Ford Explorer XLT

The XLT starts at $36,675. Its cabin is outfitted with cloth upholstery, second-row captain's chairs with power-assist fold, a 50/50 split third-row bench seat, tri-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, remote start, and a power liftgate.

The Explorer comes with the SYNC 3 infotainment system, an 8-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, two front-row USB ports (one standard, one USB-C), two second-row USB ports (one standard, one USB-C), satellite radio, and a Wi-Fi hot spot.

Standard safety features include the Ford MyKey safe driving system, rear parking sensors, and Co-Pilot360, which is detailed above.

Ford Explorer Limited

A touch of class is added to the Explorer Limited ($48,130). It gets leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a 10-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, heated second-row seats, power-folding third-row seats, and a heated steering wheel. Technology upgrades include a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, a household-style power outlet, and wireless device charging.

Additional safety features come in this trim, such as a 360-degree parking camera, front parking sensors, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, and Co-Pilot360 Assist+, which contains adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, lane centering, speed sign recognition, evasive steering assist, and voice-activated navigation.

A hands-free liftgate and power-folding mirrors are also included in this trim.

Ford Explorer ST

The Explorer ST ($54,740) is the sport-oriented trim, replacing the previous generation's Ford Explorer Sport. It has black exterior styling elements, a sport-tuned suspension, four-wheel drive, and a tow package. This trim also gets sport seats, perforated leather upholstery, reverse brake assist, and active park assist for parallel and perpendicular parking.

Ford Explorer Platinum

The top-of-the-line Platinum edition starts at $58,250. It builds off the Limited trim, adding tri-diamond perforated leather seats, a leather-wrapped interior, a twin-panel moonroof, adaptive headlights, reverse brake assist, and active park assist for parallel and perpendicular parking. The Platinum is available only with four-wheel drive and comes with the tow package and front and rear skid plates.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Ford dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Ford deals page.

See 2020 Ford Explorer specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2020 Ford Explorer does a lot of things well. It has two rows of comfortable seats, a third row with enough space for the occasional adult, lots of cargo space, powerful engines, a smooth ride, and a ton of standard features. On the downside, it costs thousands of dollars more than higher-ranked midsize SUVs that can make similar claims, and its interior materials don't quite match its lofty price. At least consider a few other vehicles before settling for this Ford.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • There's a lot to like here, but it's not a grand slam home run. The new 2020 Ford Explorer rides, handles and accommodates passengers much better than the one it replaces, and it is dynamically superior to its crossover competition. The hybrid offers unexpected benefits that extend beyond fuel economy, too. But it can get expensive in a hurry, and the interior materials don't quite match the price." -- Edmunds
  • … its rear rows aren't as spacious as the class leaders', its cabin quality is unremarkable, and there's room for tech feature improvement. Its basic functionality as a family hauler is sound, but ultimately surpassed by top rivals. Yet, the new Explorer balances that with unmatched capability and performance, plus a driving experience that's different, and often better, than everything else. In the end, it makes for a far more noteworthy choice than if it was just another me-too crossover." -- Autoblog
  • Its (sic) roomier, more fuel efficient, and it's equipped with many more standard safety features. Although it feels more like a high-riding wagon than before, the rear- and all-wheel-drive 2020 Ford Explorer has an inherent robustness we can all appreciate, along with a variety of powertrains to help this SUV meet various needs. … Whether your 3-row midsize SUV needs are rooted in soccer games, sporty driving or stakeouts, the 2020 Ford Explorer has a lot to offer." -- Kelley Blue Book

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: October 4, 2019

Strong, but Falling Demand: The Ford Explorer is one of the best-selling midsize SUVs through the third quarter of 2019. However, it’s still being outsold by the class sales-leading Jeep Grand Cherokee by about 36 percent. In addition, Explorer sales have dipped by 31 percent this year compared to the same period in 2018.

Research more buying advice »
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