Base price for the 2020 Ford Explorer XLT is $44,199.
This is the 6th generation of the Ford Explorer.
The Explorer is one of the best-selling SUVs of all time.
The Ford Explorer is one of the most famous, or infamous, SUVs on the continent. Despite a rough start back in the early 1990s, it proved to Ford that its call to upgrade the Ford Bronco II into a more family-oriented vehicle was the right one.
By the end of the Explorer’s 3rd generation, in 2005, Ford was preparing for a product convergence that would see the end of the Freestar minivan and the arrival of the Edge. While this truck was larger than the previous one, its new platform and suspension were remarkable improvements. But the product decisions decidedly began the Explorer’s transformation into a soft-roader to bridge new gaps for its 4th iteration. Perhaps it’s this moving further away from its roots that ousted the Explorer from my personal list of recommendations. If anything, this and the competition from the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Kia Telluride, Dodge Durango and Nissan Pathfinder sent it out of mind.
Strong Exterior Presence
Now, all-new for 2020, Ford has invested heavily in the Explorer in order to appeal to design-conscious buyers. It’s no secret that the 2011-2019 Explorer was bloated on the outside but it did one thing far better than the new SUV.
Physically, the new 2020 Ford Explorer looks extremely muscular. The broad grille and sharp headlights flow into a tall and commanding beltline. In fact, so high is this line that looks minuscule, which it is in comparison. The rear ends in complete simplicity, and it works. One of the keys to making my tester as compelling is the optional 21-inch wheels that come at a price.
Priced High, And Too High
On the subject, the base 2020 Ford Explorer XLT starts at $44,199, making it one of the most expensive midsize 3-row SUVs. Granted, it is well-equipped but it’s quite a leap over the Mazda CX-9’s $39,900 with AWD or compared to the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas’ expected price with AWD of just over $40,000. Even so, this trim stands as the best deal in the Explorer’s lineup.
The $51,199 Limited and $58,149 Limited Hybrid surely have their merits as does the $59,099 ST. And here’s where my top-line Platinum slips in: $64,599 to start. On-screen and in real life, the list of features included with this trim justifies the price. It’s got a 10.1-inch touchscreen, cooled, heated and massing front seats, power 3rd row, power hatch, a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, a 14 speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, and loads more. With options such as the $1,000 21-inch wheels, paint, and a few other add-ons, my tester rang in at $66,949, or $2,051 less than a 2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve. And here’s where it hurts.
If you’ve ever been aboard a new Aviator or even the previous-generation Explorer, you’ll immediately notice and recognize the efforts put forth by Lincoln to make the cabin as enticing, and comfortable as possible. With the possible exception of space and the seats, the Explorer’s cabin is forgettable. At over $64,000 for the Platinum, the Explorer’s presentation should be far more upscale.
Keep in mind that even the $44,000 Explorer is outclassed by much of the competition. The less expensive Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot offer a much more attractive interior with better fit and finish as well as nicer material. In a few words, the Explorer’s interior is below-average.
The EcoBoost 3.0-litre V6 is, on the other hand, above average. In fact, nearly everything else about the 2020 Ford Explorer meets expectations. The Platinum Explorer’s output is rated at 365-horsepower and 380 lb.-ft. of torque compared to the ST’s (and Aviator’s) 400 and 415. Bottom line, there’s no difference in how quickly the SUV launches, which it does. It can also tow up to 5,600 lbs, which is a bonus.
The standard 10-speed automatic transmission is a genuinely capable unit, especially at ease with the power. It does occasionally have a hard time with low-speed decelerations as I experienced some botched 3-2 and 2-1 downshift. Driving the Explorer is a pleasant experience where the brakes are perfectly adequate, steering is responsive and quick and generally speaking, the ride quality is very good. The sole caveat comes from the suspension’s difficulty with managing mild road irregularities and the 21-inch wheels. There’s an extra judder in the suspension that should not be. The standard 18-wheels likely do not cause this, and it’s probably less apparent with the 20-inch wheels.
Cruising is what the 2020 Ford Explorer does best but unfortunately, spending the time onboard, face to face with the dashboard, tarnishes the experience. And at $65,000+ for the Platinum, there’s no reason for it. With options in this price range like the Acura MDX, Audi Q7, and a few others, the Explorer is completely outclassed. The same goes for the $44,000 XLT but at least it’s $20,000 cheaper.
I get the impression that Ford had to cut corners and cost in order to leave room for the Lincoln Aviator. In my opinion, it’s a far more alluring room to be in, and in contrast with the Explorer, it’s worth the price of admission.