Oh, mama, this is good.
It used to be that buying a 7 seater SUV meant giving up luxury and value-added extras, especially for second and third row passengers. That’s changed in the last few years, and Ford has led the way with the Explorer, which has become the best-selling 3-row SUV in the US. So the challenge of redesigning the 2020 Ford Explorer was a big one. How do you make something like this better?
We just got a look at the new Explorer and it is ready to knock your socks off. It’s now lighter, leaner, roomier, and with even stronger construction. And Ford expanded the model lineup so there’s a model for every taste, even including a hybrid model that is like no hybrid you’ve ever driven before.
I was able to test drive of the 2020 Ford Explorer through Oregon and Washington State. The mountains. The raging rivers. The crisp, clean, clear mountain air. Wow! The drive gave me the chance to get to know the new Explorer, which is even more spectacular than the setting. I chatted with some of the engineers and technicians who designed the vehicle to learn how they came up the specifics of the design and how they thought about every single detail. It was pretty amazing.
What Does It Cost?
The base model of the 2020 Ford Explorer, simply called the Explorer, has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $32,765, plus an additional $1,095 destination fee. The Explorer XLT is a better equipped model with LED signature lighting, 18-inch aluminum wheels, heated exterior mirrors and a quieter cabin which starts at $36,675. The Limited model comes in at $48,130 and adds evasive steering assistance, wireless phone charging, a 360-degree front camera, and rain-sensing wipers have been added. Go up to the 2020 Ford Explorer ST for the most powerful trim level, including adaptive cruise control, enhanced (hands and feet free) active park assistance and a unique ST grille. The ST trim starts at $54,740. For a true luxury experience, upgrade to the 2020 Explorer Platinum, starting at $58,250. It adds all the luxurious touches including adaptive LED headlamps, reverse brake assist, and a larger, more powerful engine.
Who is This Car For?
- Adventure seekers
- Large families
- People who tow boats or trailers
- Families who want the option of a hybrid without giving up space
- People who need space to store bulky equipment or oversized items
- Drivers who envision driving on a variety of terrain
Ford took a ‘Human Centric’ Design Approach, Starting With the People Who Will Drive, and Ride In, the Explorer
In the past, car designers made cars they loved. Ford’s designers focused on making a vehicle their customers would love. So, they first had to figure out who their customers actually were and what they really wanted. They did extensive ethnographic and storytelling research to determine their core customer. They found their core customers are:
- Average age is 40 years old
- Average income is about $120,000
- About 45% have children living at home
- Most include a dog as part of their family
Sound familiar? They learned that the drivers of Ford Explorers are looking for shared experiences. These Explorer drivers don’t want a vehicle that is used to just schlep the family to activities around town. They want a car that lets them share their passions with each other. With space to be together, they also want the room and technology to be able to separate themselves as well. These customers don’t want to have to give up performance capability for more fuel efficiency or vice versa. They want a 7 seater SUV that doesn’t force them to make any compromises. The engineers at Ford then took all this information and data and used it to design every inch of the 2020 Ford Explorer.
What’s New in the 2020 Ford Explorer?
It would honestly be easier to tell you what’s NOT new in the 2020 Ford Explorer. But some of the upgrades are just sensational, including:
A New Sportier Design
The 2020 Ford Explorer’s new rear-wheel-drive architecture gives this 7 seater SUV a sportier, more athletic design that is super appealing. It also increases it’s on- and off-road capability in all kinds of weather and on all kinds of terrain. The change also gave it 600 pounds more in maximum towing capacity when properly equipped. Add the available 3.0-liter EcoBoost engine and you get up to 400 horsepower, the most powerful Explorer ever.
More Standard Safety Features. YAY!
In ALL models of the 2020 Ford Explorer, buyers will now get the traffic-sensing Ford Co-Pilot360 driver-assist features. It is standard on all models. Not only are they useful safety features, this suite of technology will help reduce stress when driving too. Ford Co-Pilot360 technologies include:
- Pre-Collision assist with automatic emergency braking, which includes pedestrian detection, forward collision warning and dynamic brake support
- Blind spot information system with cross-traffic alert
- Lane-keeping system
- Rearview camera with built-in lens cleaner
- Auto headlamps with auto high-beams
Other available technologies include Evasive Steering Assist, which provides steering support to help avoid a collision; and Post-Impact Braking which provides braking after a collision to lessen injury and damage caused by a secondary crash.
The available Active Park Assist 2.0 is particularly exciting. IT PARKS THE CAR FOR YOU. With one push of a button it handles all steering, shifting, brake and accelerator controls when parking parallel or perpendicular. This is seriously great.
Technology for Everyone, Even Third Row Passengers
Ford definitely put significant focus on the technology features of this 7 seater SUV. The recrafted, quiet cabin offers families more space to spread out and more useful technology to make the trip more enjoyable than ever. The standard 8 inch portrait-mounted touch screen with full-screen maps comes with SYNC 3, and FordPass Connect Wi-Fi service for up to 10 devices and more. Families will love the available PowerFold third-row seats and the new E-Z entry second-row seats, which allows for easy entrance and exit to the third row using just one hand.
Adventure-Ready All Wheel Drive
If you find yourself driving through different kinds of weather on various kinds of terrain, there are seven drive modes to help you master it. The all-new available terrain management system can help the driver tackle any adventure through an easy-to-use dial in the center console. For a 7 seater SUV, it impressively handles everything from steep inclines to moving water to sand. The modes include:
- Deep snow and sand
- Eco mode
5. An ST Trim Built For the Track
Even if you never find yourself on a race track, you still want to know that your car has power under the hood. With a specially tuned EcoBoost engine projected to generate 400 horsepower, you’ll have no problem passing cars on the freeway or getting a jump on the other lanes once the light turns green. And if you ever do find yourself on a track, the Explorer ST has a targeted top track speed of 143 mph. In a rear wheel drive SUV. Yes!
Explorer also offers an available 14-speaker B&O premium audio system to elevate your drive and hear your music as the musician intended it. You don’t always have to go premium to get more, though. Access to SiriusXM satellite radio is standard and comes with new touch screen graphics and functionality. This now even includes a display of the day’s sports scores.
Lead, Follow Or Get Off the Road
That must be what the Ford Explorer team was thinking as they put their muscle into the new Explorer. After all, it isn’t just the best selling 3-row SUV, it’s also the SUV that every other SUV targets when undergoing a redesign. And with the 2020 Explorer, it just got harder to follow the leader.
Disclosure: I was Ford’s guest for this test drive; travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.