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2020 Ford Explorer Review: The Mainstay SUV Gets a Makeover

How does the redesigned three-row SUV stack up in the face of increased competition?

It’s new from the ground up, with rear- and all-wheel drive options and a range of engines that includes turbocharged four- and six-cylinder variants with up to 400 hp...and even a hybrid capable of 28 mpg.

Christian Wardlaw

In 1991, Ford arguably kicked off America’s love affair with SUVs when it launched the Explorer, which was essentially a stretched Bronco II with a set of rear doors. Today, the Explorer is more or less the patriarch of one of the most hotly-contested markets. Midsize SUV competition is rapidly increasing, and new offerings like the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade aim to tempt buyers away from their current SUV of choice.

Now, the completely redesigned 2020 Ford Explorer arrives, intent on keeping the company at the top of the midsize SUV heap.

It’s new from the ground up, with rear- and all-wheel drive options and a range of engines that includes turbocharged four- and six-cylinder variants with up to 400 hp...and even a hybrid capable of 28 mpg.

Those updates carry a lot of promise, which raises two key questions:

Is this the best Explorer Ford has ever built?

Is the Explorer still the best in the midsize SUV class?

To find out if this is the best Explorer Ford has ever built, and if it’s still the best midsize SUV on the market, I flew to Portland, Oregon (at Ford’s invitation). I fiddled with the new infotainment system and enjoyed the massaging front seats. I tried out the driver assistance and collision avoidance technologies. I even, ahem, explored the SUV’s off-roading capabilities, then towed a 4,500-pound load with the Explorer Hybrid.

Explorer Features

Christian Wardlaw

Highlights

Ford Explorer is new from the ground up for 2020, with rear- and all-wheel drive options and a range of engines that includes turbocharged four- and six-cylinder variants with up to 400 hp... and even a hybrid capable of 28mpg.

$623/mo
3.26% APR·60mos
$33,350 Dealer Advertised Price·$1,000 Down Payment
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Consumer Ratings and Reviews of the Ford Explorer from KBB.com

3.7

★★★★★

Overall Consumer Rating

Comfort

4.2 out of 5

Performance

4.0 out of 5

Quality

3.5 out of 5

Reliability

3.6 out of 5

Styling

4.6 out of 5

Value

3.1 out of 5

Based on 25 consumer ratings for the 2020 - current models as of 02/11/2021.

5.0 out of 5 stars
★★★★★

Fun and lots of compliments

12/23/2019

Look forward to driving daily. Strangers approach with compliments. Lack of torque steer from the rear wheel drive is wonderful. The low rpm driving torque is very well done. I thoroughly compared to European, korean and Japanese, as well as caddy and gmc. So many good choices but the massage seats and overall redesign package cinched it for us. The platinum and st versions have lots of tech, but are pricey. The xlt 4wd base model with 2.3 EcoBoost was impressive however, and with a very reasonable price. We opted for the st for features and the very exciting 3.0 EB.
4.0 out of 5 stars
★★★★★

Value if you pick the right trim

12/18/2019

Lot of people mention a high price associated with this new Explorer. I just got a well equipped XLT for under $38K. The power is sufficient. The usable space is great. And the visibility is amazing. No other vehicle comes close. Even the Explorer's brother the "Aviator" was difficult to see out the windshield and A pillars. It doesn't seem to have the artificial engine sound pumped into the cabin through the speakers in the XLT trim. So you get to hear the "buzzy engine" as another reviewer put it. The turning radius is surprisingly tight and overall handling good. However, the ride quality can be a little stiff. If you have the drive mode set to "sport" be prepared to know that the engine will hang onto a lower gear longer than you think it needs to.
5.0 out of 5 stars
★★★★★

My 3rd Explorer and I've Loved Them All!

01/18/2021

My first Explorer was a brand new 2016 Platinum and it was a great car. In 2020 I traded it in for the all new 2020 ST model with 400 HP. I loved that car and it saved my life. I was hit in the rear so hard that my 11 month old ST was totaled. I was able to walk away from the accident without any injury. Thank you Ford! I then bought a 2021 Platinum to replace the ST. I've only had this new Platinum for about 4 months but it is just as fun, comfortable and a joy to drive as my previous models. Before buying the 2021 Explorer I personally test drove a Hyundai Palisade, Volkswagen Atlas, Dodge Durango and Audi Q7. They are all nice vehicles but I still choose the Explorer. The Palisade and Atlas don't have the power that the Explorer does. The Durango feels cramped and is an old design. The Q7 is very nice but frankly underwhelmed me.

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