2020 Ford Explorer: Now Rear-drive, This SUV Aims to Blend In

Wednesday night, Ford pulled the wraps off its all-new 2020 Explorer at an event held, quite appropriately, at Detroit’s Ford Field. The model is a complete redesign of America’s all-time best-selling SUV.

Since the introduction of the original, Ranger-based Explorer, over eight million units have found American homes. With that heritage in mind, the 2020 Explorer adopts a rear-wheel drive platform for the first time in a decade, with more attention paid to power, space, and capability.  At the same time, Ford added new technology to assist owners who’ve managed to escape the daily grind.

The theme of Ford’s 2020 Explorer reveal was the “Great American Road Trip” (and fulfilling one’s #wanderlust). One of Ford Field’s end zones, normally occupied by Bears and Vikings, was turned into a high tech video screen full of 3D wizardry.

A video of various Ford families discussing what road trips mean to them was the lead-in to a new Explorer driving on a graphical representation of America the Beautiful. Cue Ford CEO Jim Hackett and Executive Vice President Jim Farley…

While Ford redesigned the 2020 Ford Explorer from the ground up, you might not know it after just a passing glance. The design is clearly more evolutionary than revolutionary. If you were to place the new Explorer next to the previous generation, the average consumer would have no idea which one is rear-wheel drive. The new model features carryover design cues like angled C-pillars, blacked out A-pillars and D-pillars, plus that Land Rover-like look America seems to love. The grille is now bigger and more pronounced, while the longer wheelbase and longitudinally mounted engine improves the Explorer’s proportions.

Underneath, the 2020 Explorer’s new architecture led to a more athletic stance and what Ford claims is improved on- and off-road handling. A new engine lineup features a pair of EcoBoost entries – a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that’s standard kit on base, XLT and Limited models, and a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 powering the Explorer Platinum. These engines send their power through Ford’s soon-to-be-ubiquitous 10-speed automatic transmission. The 2.3-liter engine is projected to produce 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, while the 3.0-liter engine is estimated at 365 horsepower and 380 lb-ft. Two other powertrains, earmarked for Explorer Hybrid and Explorer ST, will be announced at a later date.

In terms of capability, the new Explorer sees an increase in tow ratings. Vehicles equipped with a 3.0-liter EcoBoost can tow up to 5,600 pounds, a 12 percent increase over outgoing models with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost. New models outfitted with a 2.3-liter EcoBoost and Class III Trailer Tow Package can tow up to 5,300 pounds (versus the 3,000 pounds in today’s similarly equipped model).

Inside, Ford recrafted the Explorer’s cabin with more space and technology. The first thing you’ll notice is the available 10.1-inch touch screen mounted in portrait configuration. This screen uses capacitive glass, like most smartphones, providing quicker response times and features like pinch zoom and screen customization. A more traditional 8-inch touchscreen comes standard on lesser trims. Both feature the Ford Sync3 infotainment system.

The tech onslaught doesn’t stop there. An available wireless charging pad allows customers to juice up compatible mobile devices, while up to four USB ports, including new type-C outlets, provide power for next-generation mobile devices. Up to three 12-volt outlets and a 110-volt outlet are also available. 2020 Explorers also offer an available 980-watt, 14-speaker B&O premium audio system.

One of the biggest additions to the new SUV is Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 suite, offered as standard equipment. This bundle of safety technologies includes Pre-Collision Assists with Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alerts, a lane keeping system, a rear-view camera with built-in lens cleaner, and auto headlamps with auto high-beams. Despite all of this being standard, the base Explorer’s price only increases around $400.

Ford’s betting on utilities and trucks in a big way. The Explorer is Ford’s first completely revamped utility since the company announced the cull of all cars not bearing the Mustang name, and it’s hard to image the 2020 Explorer not continuing the historic nameplate’s sales success. It’s a new product in a familiar package, packed with features SUV buyers want.

Manufactured at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant, the 2020 Explorer appears in showrooms this summer. While pricing won’t be be announced until a later date, the company wanted everyone to know the model’s starting point: $32,765.

[Images: Adam Tonge/TTAC]

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