Ford unveiled the all-new 2020 Explorer SUV ahead of this year’s North American International Auto Show and while the styling does take a marginal step forward in modernity, don’t let that hide the massive leaps and bounds lurking under the sheet metal. It’s evolution hiding a revolution. And all of that comes with only a $400 jump in price to $32,765.
A complete rework of the Explorer from the ground-up was always in the cards, especially with the announcement of the similarly Lincoln Aviator. Since the Explorer shares Lincoln’s platform that means the three-row Ford is going back to rear-wheel-drive with optional all-wheel-drive. The performance Ford can now tap into is one thing, but the new architecture allows for engineers to lighten up the design of the Explorer’s front-end, but most importantly, it yields more interior space for each of the three rows of seats.
Under the hood, the base, XLT, and Limited Explorer models will get the potent 2.3-liter twin-turbocharged I-4 making its way into all of Ford’s trucks and SUVs and is good for 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. The Platinum trim level gets the EcoBoost V6 which churns out 365 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque and, with the help of the rear-wheel-drive architecture, the Platinum can tow up to 5,600 lbs. There will also be an ST and Hybrid model, but performance specs for those trims will be announced in Detroit, next week at NAIAS.
Along with the increase in space, the interior gets a few modern touches and influences from the Lincoln side of the family. You can choose to have the second row as a bench seat or two captain’s chairs. The 10.1-inch touch screen infotainment system — while it looks like someone just tacked their iPad to the dash — is pretty intuitive and compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Waze navigation and runs through a 14-speaker B&O premium audio system.
Design-wise, it’s a relief to see Ford make the switch to a rotary-dial gear changer and move away from the traditional clunky automatic levers. The 12.3-inch all-digital instrument cluster is also a neat little touch. Each of the seven drive modes gets its own animation and mode-specific
dial layout. One thing that lets the interior down is the leather Ford decided to use on the steering wheel and seats. It looks almost identical to the upholstery in the ’94 Explorer my buddy had in High School. Weird ’90s reference, but okay, Ford.
Now that Ford is committing to make 90 percent of its lineup trucks and SUVs, it’s good to see the models they’re putting out are something to be proud of. If the Ford continues to use Lincoln as a foundation for the rest of its products, it’s easy to assume the more affordable brand will see similar success and warm receptions.