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2020 Ford Explorer Performance

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2020 Ford Explorer Performance Review


Performance: 7.2

After a full redesign for 2020, the Ford Explorer is now a rear-wheel-drive based SUV (four-wheel drive is optional). Its new platform affords it better handling compared to the previous generation. It's comfortable and responsive and comes with a choice of three powerful turbocharged engines, along with a hybrid variant, which we review separately. The base engine's fuel economy is one of the best in the midsize SUV class.

  • "The crossover's handling and power are perhaps the best parts of this new Explorer." -- Autoweek
  • "… it felt composed in the corners, where body roll (or lean) never got excessive. … All we felt was good acceleration and excellent overall composure." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Like various luxury cars that have a comparable all-wheel-drive layout, the Explorer maintains the balance and overall feel of a vehicle with rear-wheel-drive architecture. Even if its steering isn't particularly feelsome and the suspension pretty springy, there's an underlying sense of composure and even athleticism when hustling it along that you're just not going to get in the Tellurides and Pilots of this world." -- Autoblog

Acceleration and Power

The Explorer comes with one of four powertrains. Three are turbocharged EcoBoost engines that are energetic and enjoyable and move this large vehicle with ease. The 10-speed automatic transmission that is paired with each engine shifts quickly and accurately. The hybrid model features a 3.3-liter V6 engine and an electric motor that produce a combined 318 horsepower. We review the Explorer Hybrid separately.

The base engine is a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder. This 300-horsepower engine is commanding enough to satisfy most shoppers. It gets 21 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, which is above average for a midsize SUV.

Inside the Explorer Platinum is a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that makes 365 horsepower. It earns an EPA-estimated 18 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

This same-size engine powers the Explorer ST, but it has been tuned to produce 400 horsepower. That makes it one of the most powerful engine options in this class. It gets the same gas mileage as the Platinum.

  • "Dynamically, the Explorer fares well. The base 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine – which might seem 'small' for a 3-row crossover – provides surprisingly good performance, at least with only the driver aboard. Only if the throttle is floored from a stop does it feel 'tame,' and that feeling disappears quickly as turbo boost comes in. The same can be said for the 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6, though it's notably stronger under all circumstances. Ford says the ST can run the 0-60-mph dash in just 5.5 seconds – believable, based on our drives – which would make it one of the quickest 3-row crossovers on the market." -- Consumer Guide
  • "We have no complaints about any of the engines. Even the 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder that comes in the base, XLT and Limited models feels at least as strong as the competition. In fact, it feels even more flexible because of the extra gears and smart shifting of the 10-speed automatic. The Platinum's 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 is strong, and the high-output 3.0-liter EcoBoost in the Explorer ST kicks it up another notch." -- Edmunds
  • "Just how does the turbo 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine feel in this new longitudinal rear-biased application? In a word: fine. The new Explorer XLT felt amply powered, able to merge onto freeways with ease and sustain highway speeds without breaking a sweat. All the while, the 10-speed automatic upshifted with a metronomic regularity." -- Kelley Blue Book

Handling and Braking

The base Explorer comes standard with rear-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive is available in the base, XLT, and Limited trims and is standard in the Platinum and ST.

On the highway, the Explorer feels more athletic than the average midsize SUV. It has a comfortable ride, though the cost of having a softer suspension is some body movement on twisty roads.

  • "The 2020 Ford Explorer offers a nice balance of ride and handling, with the proper amount of overall ride compliance and cornering composure for such a tall conveyance. Whether equipped with rear-drive or the available all-wheel-drive system with front-axle disconnect, it gets around twisty mountain roads as well as any big SUV (and probably with much less understeer than most front-drive-based competitors), even if its heft can't overcome the law of physics." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "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. … 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. … Be it cruising the interstate or heading into the hills, we could drive this all day." -- Edmunds
  • "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
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2020 Ford Explorer

MSRP: $32,765 - $58,250

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