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Mark Phelan: 2020 Ford Explorer uses luxury-vehicle engineering to offer performance

January 14, 2019

   

DETROIT ó Ford threw away the rulebook when it developed the new 2020 Explorer SUV, using engineering thatís more frequently seen on luxury and high-performance SUVs than family-carrying three-row vehicles.

The new Explorerís architecture has more in common with sporty SUVs and off-roaders like the Range Rover Sport and Jeep Grand Cherokee than with its predecessor and competitors such as the Chevrolet Traverse and Toyota Highlander.

The Explorer seats six or seven, depending on whether the middle row of seats has a bench or two captainís chairs. Ford claims easy rear-seat access with one-touch operation for the middle seats.

Many more features

The base model will cost $32,765, $400 more than the 2019 model, despite adding standard features including automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, blind-spot alert, power tailgate, LED head and taillights, post-crash braking to keep the vehicle from ricocheting into secondary impacts, and steering that subtly compensates to keep the vehicle going straight in crosswinds.

The 2020 Explorer goes on sale this summer, and fuel economy figures will be announced later in the year.

The Explorer will be able to tow up to 5,600 pounds, 600 more than a Traverse or Highlander.

Ford also plans to offer a fuel-saving hybrid model and a sporty Explorer ST with more power and other performance upgrades. Details on those models will be announced Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The Explorer is based on a rear-wheel-drive architecture ó family haulers including the Highlander, Traverse and Pilot have front-wheel-drive base models. Ford expects most sales to have four-wheel drive.

The Explorer shares its architecture with the Lincoln Aviator luxury SUV that goes on sale later this year. Ford builds both vehicles in Chicago.

Quicker, more fuel efficient

The switch to a rear-drive based chassis is a radical move. Ford expects it to pay off with better handling, a more even weight distribution, sporty proportions and more.

Ford knows handling and acceleration are low priorities for most buyers of three-row SUVs, but believes an advantage in those areas could be a crucial edge as the market for SUVs gets more crowded.

Rear-drive vehicles have a reputation for better performance but smaller interiors and worse fuel economy than front-drive based vehicles, but chief engineer Bill Gubing says the 2020 Explorer has more passenger and cargo space and better off-road capability.

Ford said the new model is about 200 pounds lighter and will get better fuel economy than the 2019 Explorer.

The Explorerís 4wd system has nine driving modes, with settings for everything from sporty driving to trailering; deep snow and sand; and off-road trails.

Ford will use those features and capabilities to pitch the Explorer as a gateway to family adventures.

Key features on the 2020 Explorer:

Base 300-horsepower, 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine

Optional twin-turbo 3.0L V6 with 365 hp and 380 pound-feet of torque

10-speed automatic transmission

Improved off-road capability

Fuel-saving hybrid model

ST model with performance and styling tweaks

Optional 10.1-inch tablet-style touch pad

Rotary shifter

Power-folding rear seats

Automatic steering, braking and power application during parallel and perpendicular parking. All the driver has to do is press a button while the SUV parks itself.

Room to lay a 4-by-8-foot sheet of plywood flat in the rear

Acoustic glass and noise cancellation for a quiet interior

Massaging, heated and cooled front seats

980-watt, 14-speaker B&O audio

 

 



 

 

  McClatchy-Tribune Information Services