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2020 Ford Explorer Review

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A staple for Ford Motor Co. since 1990, the Explorer is a common sight on American roads. Ford sold more than 261,571 of the mid-size SUVs in 2018, 10% of which were police vehicles. The all-new 2020 Ford Explorer offers better gas mileage, more room and new powertrain options — including a twin turbo V6 and a hybrid — but at a price. This three-row SUV is more expensive than rivals and offers fewer safety features at the base trim level. 

2020 Ford Explorer pricing and trims

The lowest manufacturer’s recommended price (MSRP) for the Ford Explorer is $36,675, but that amount goes up by more than $20,000 for the Platinum trim. 

That’s because each trim has the features of the trim below it plus additional features as you work your way up the trim ladder. So if you get the ST trim, you have all the features from the XLT and Limited trims, plus new ones for that trim level. The exception with the Ford Explorer is that the Platinum trim replaces the sport branding that’s on the ST trim with Platinum branding and doesn’t include the sport suspension feature. 

Trim XLT Limited ST Platinum
Base MSRP $36,675 $48,130 $54,740 $58,250
Standard Features Lane Keep Assist, Driver Alert, Power Liftgate, 18″ Aluminum Wheels, Push-Button Start, Seats 7 Ford Co-Pilot 360™ Assist, Voice-Activated Navigation, Leather Seats, Forward Sensing System, Seats 6 Active Park Assist, Paddle Shifters, 20″ Aluminum Wheels, Trailer Tow Package, Intelligent 4WD Twin-Panel Moonroof, Platinum Branding, Tri-Diamond Perforated Leather Seating, Accent Stitching

*All MSRPs are the lowest base price for each trim. Feature list is not exhaustive.

What are the seating options? The third row in the Ford Explorer only has two seats. The XLT trim is able to seat seven with a bench seat in the second row. However, on the Limited trim and above, there are two captains chairs in the second row instead of a bench, which increases ease of access to the third row and comfort for second-row passengers but reduces total seating capacity by one. If you need a lot of seating, you could check out even more best three-row SUVs.

What are the engine options?

    2.3L EcoBoost engine. Standard on the XLT and Limited trims, this is an inline, four-cylinder engine with Auto Start-Stop technology. 

    3.0L EcoBoost V engine. Standard on the ST and Platinum trims, this V6 engine with Auto Start-Stop technology gives 365 horsepower to the vehicle. On the ST trim, twin turbos bump it up to 400 horsepower. 

    3.3L Hybrid Engine. The Ford Explorer Limited is available with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine or as a hybrid vehicle with 318 horsepower and an EPA-estimated range of more than 500 miles between fill-ups. The hybrid option drives the Limited price over $50,000, more if you want the hybrid plus four-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive is available on every trim, including the XLT. 

What’s next? You may be able to find a Ford Explorer for a price lower than MSRP depending on when and where you shop for your vehicle. Look around online and compare prices before you head to a dealership. If you are shopping for a vehicle, remember to shop for a vehicle loan, too. Potential lenders include Ford financing, your bank, credit union or online lender. You could also fill out an online form at LendingTree and get up to five potential auto loan offers from lenders, depending on your creditworthiness. It does not hurt your credit to apply to several lenders any more than it does to apply to one, as long as you do the applications within a window of 14-days. 

2020 Ford Explorer safety

The crash test results for the 2020 Ford Explorer aren’t yet published. But the 2019 Ford Explorer had mixed results. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association rated it five stars, noting five complaints. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it two of the lowest ratings possible for the Explorer’s headlights and its performance in a passenger-side crash test. 

Ford Co-Pilot 360™

Ford’s basic suite of safety features includes:

  • Automatic high beam
  • Blind spot information system with cross-traffic alert
  • Lane-keeping system
  • Pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, including pedestrian detection.
  • Forward collision warning
  • Dynamic brake support

Ford Co-Pilot 360™ Assist

This is Ford’s group of advanced driver safety features. It’s standard on the Limited trim and above of the Ford Explorer. It includes all of the features in Ford Co-Pilot360™ plus: 

  • Intelligent adaptive cruise control with speed sign recognition
  • Evasive steering assist
  • Voice-activated touch screen navigation system
  • SiriusXM™ Traffic and Travel Link

MyKey. Ford’s MyKey technology comes standard on the Ford Explorer. It allows drivers to program the car so that the vehicle will recognize a specific key and apply limitations when it is in use. For example, parents or employers could apply settings so that when a teen driver or employee uses the car, there is a maximum restriction on speed and radio volume, the radio is muted until the driver buckles up and driving aids such as blind spot detection cannot be deactivated.

Of course, no safety technology replaces safe driving habits, so keep alert when on the road. 

2020 Ford Explorer competitor comparison 

Despite its popularity, the Explorer faces some stiff competition. Out of these mid-size SUVs, a mix of 2019 and 2020 models and all three-row vehicles except the Murano, the Ford Explorer has the highest starting price and not as many active safety features on the base trim. To have the entire Ford Co-Pilot360™ Assist package, you would have to buy the Limited trim, which starts at $48,130, but the Honda Pilot’s active safety package is standard on the base trim for $31,450.

Vehicles 2020 Ford Explorer 2019 Honda Pilot 2020 Chevrolet Traverse 2019 Volkswagen Atlas 2019 Nissan Murano
Base MSRP $32,365 $31,450 $29,930 $30,895 $31,270
Expert Scores N/A 4.4 4.4 4.2 4.1
Standard Features Lane Keep Assist, Driver Alert, Power Liftgate, 18″ Aluminum Wheels, Push-Button Start Honda Sensing Safety and Driver Assist Suite, Push-Button Start V6 Engine, WiFi Hotspot, 8 Passenger Seating, Teen Driver System Forward Collision Mitigation, Blind-Spot Monitoring, LED Automatic Headlights Automatic Emergency Braking, 8″ Touch Screen; Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
Fuel Economy city/highway/combined 21/28/24 MPG 20/27/23 MPG 18/27/21 MPG 17/24/19 MPG 20/28/23 MPG

*All MSRPs are the lowest base price for each model. Expert score averages Kelley Blue Book (KBB) and Edmunds expert ratings when available. Standard technology refers to features included in the lowest trim level for each model at no extra cost (not an exhaustive list). Fuel economy is combined city/highway mileage as defined by the EPA.

While the 2020 Ford Explorer is so new that experts haven’t yet reviewed it, the 2019 Explorer had a 3.8 in the category of expert scores. 

The bottom line on the 2020 Ford Explorer 

You might like the Ford Explorer if you’re looking for a mid-size SUV with decent fuel economy and you’re loyal to the Ford brand. You might not like it if you’re looking for more safety features and stronger crash test results at a lower starting price. If safety is a top priority on your car-shopping checklist, look at the best family cars for 2019.


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