2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid Performance Review


Performance: 6.3

The 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid doesn't have the most responsive powertrain, though it delivers quick enough acceleration and a solid amount of power. The transition from electric to gasoline power is far from seamless, and the brakes are spongy and grabby. Ride quality is great, but many competitors handle better. As for fuel economy, estimates have not yet been released.

  • "In an attempt to betray the Explorer's bulk, the steering falls back to that Seventies vibe: absurdly light and entirely devoid of feedback when you're not in the ST. As if it is designed to lull hapless drivers into sedateness, whose lazy motoring experience can be bolstered by the suite of autonomous gadgetry." -- Jalopnik
  • "The hybrid offers a bit more output, at 318 horsepower combined, but its added weight offsets that so its acceleration feels about equal to the turbo-four's from our seat-of-the-pants perspective. But the hybrid's lack of refinement is a letdown; perhaps the rough transition between electric and gas power and the spongy brake pedal can be solved with better tuning." -- Car and Driver
  • "But the biggest surprise comes with the Hybrid. After just an eyeblink delay, flooring the throttle from a stop generates a stronger jump off the line than in either of the gas models, with it running about even with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost thereafter. All share the same 10-speed automatic transmission, which kicks down fairly quickly for more passing power when the throttle is stabbed at speed." -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

The Explorer Hybrid features a 3.3-liter V6 engine and an electric motor that combine to put out 318 horsepower and 322 pound-feet of torque. A 10-speed automatic transmission comes standard. The powertrain delivers ample get-up-and-go, and this Ford is reasonably quick off the line. However, engine responsiveness is hit-or-miss at lower speeds, and the switch from electric to gasoline power is noticeable to the point of obtrusiveness.

EPA fuel economy estimates are not yet available for the 2020 Explorer Hybrid, but Ford claims this SUV has a 500-mile range. With its 18-gallon gas tank, that works out to just under 28 mpg.

When properly equipped, the Explorer Hybrid can tow up to 5,000 pounds. Trailer Sway Control, which reduces unwanted trailer movement on the road, comes standard. Two-and-a-half tons is a decent tow rating for a hybrid SUV, as some rivals like the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, can only tow up to 3,500 pounds. More than just a solid rating, the Explorer Hybrid doesn't feel strained when towing.

  • "The Explorer Hybrid … relies on battery-only power at parking lot speeds, the engine kicking in when you're up and moving on the road. The Explorer Hybrid certainly doesn't leap off the line, but it gets up to speed quickly enough, and offers ample power for cruising and passing along the open highways of my test route." -- CNET
  • "Ford says the electric motor can produce 221 pounds-feet of torque by itself for assisting launches, but the transition from electric to gasoline power isn't smooth. It sort of drives like hybrids used to; there are weird surges in power and some accelerator lag. … The Hybrid performs much better once it gains momentum, where the powertrain feels more responsive between 20 and 60 mph. Jumping up a quick 20 mph to pass or shoot up an on-ramp is cleaner and more predictable. The problem is that you generally do a good amount of stopping and starting while driving, and even swapping through the Explorer's drive modes didn't help its off-the-line slip-ups. It's also worth noting that the Hybrid's V-6 sounds coarse and gets quite loud as it revs, reminiscent of older four-cylinder engines." -- Cars.com
  • "Ford put a lot of effort into designing this 318-horsepower hybrid drivetrain, the Explorer's first ever system, modular and flexible and soon to be implemented across more trucks and SUVs. At parking lot speeds, the electric-only operation works as intended. Yet, that gasoline engine awakens with a jarring mechanical cough." -- Jalopnik
  • "It's rated to tow 5,000 pounds and was not even breathless during a stint with a 3,500-pound trailer behind us." -- Motor Trend

Handling and Braking

The Explorer Hybrid rides smoothly over all road surfaces, and occupants are nicely insulated from bumps in the road. This is a heavy SUV, and you feel it in the corners. While most reviewers say the vehicle has good steering feel, the Explorer's noticeable body roll diminishes the sense of athleticism you'd expect from a rear-wheel-drive vehicle. The brakes are also grabby, which is a complaint with some other hybrids.

You can opt for a terrain management system that lets you choose different settings to adjust driving dynamics to the surface you're driving over. This system also comes in handy if you choose to venture off the pavement. The Explorer Hybrid isn't a dynamic, go-anywhere off-roader like some SUVs, but it can handle its own. Rear-wheel drive comes standard, and four-wheel drive is available.

  • "There was congruency between the Platinum and Hybrid's suspension and steering feel. The Explorer's steering feel was my favorite part – it comes with sufficient weight and feedback, and I never felt disconnected from the road, which was important because the suspension allows a lot of body roll. With the move to a rear-drive platform and the softness in the suspension, the new Explorer drives more like a truck than the old one. You can feel the weight of the vehicle shifting in turns, especially over the rear wheels. … When driving straight, however, the softness of the suspension does make it comfortable." -- Cars.com
  • "That 4,969-pound curb weight is very noticeable when behind the wheel, though. Not only does the Hybrid feel like a heavyweight compared to a rear-drive Explorer XLT, there's a sense of road-crushing solidity not unlike high-end luxury models like an Audi Q7. That's not a terrible thing when it comes to ride quality – the highway ride was excellent despite the Hybrid wearing standard 20-inch wheels – but it does dull some of the athleticism inherent with the new Explorer's rear-wheel-drive platform." -- Autoblog
  • "Ride comfort is generally excellent, as the new layout's improved weight distribution and longer wheelbase give the Explorer a sense of composure that it has never had before. A new four-wheel independent suspension expertly filters out the bumps, and yet the cabin remains steady on the truly wavy and uneven pavement. Even on coarse asphalt ruined by studded winter tires, road noise is nicely muted. As for the steering, it maintains a confident sense of straight ahead even in the face of strong crosswinds and truck-rutted pavement. Steering effort builds smoothly when it's time to turn, and the Explorer arcs through willingly. The weight of the heavier variants is noticeable, though, particularly the all-wheel-drive hybrid. Still, a sense of athleticism comes through. It's nothing like Olympic caliber, but the Explorer does react like it spends time in the gym. Be it cruising the interstate or heading into the hills, we could drive this all day." -- Edmunds
  • "The redesigned Explorer's shorter overhangs make it more agile off road, with a 20-degree approach angle to better help it get up and over obstacles. The Hybrid can ford up to 18 inches of water, and the available hill-descent control keeps the Explorer nice and steady on a 45-degree slope (though the system is pretty noisy). The Explorer isn't a serious off-roader, but it's nice to know plenty of capability is baked in, for those who like a good off-the-beaten-path adventure." -- CNET

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