Explorer LT Hybrid 4WD
NEW YORK ó Itís
raining at New Yorkís LaGuardia Airport as I write this, and
itís led to massive delays for Delta Airlines. Nearly five hours
after I was scheduled to depart, I am still waiting to board,
something that will allegedly happen four hours from now. Never mind
the flight after mine has boarded and left; I have to wait. And what
does the airline have to say about ruining my life today?
ďSo sorry for the
delay, but itís raining. So sorry.Ē
that when airlines make these routine SNAFUs, they get away with
impunity. In contrast, when automakers make the slightest little
slip, thereís hell to pay. And so, here I sit, hour five of a
nine-hour delay because itís raining.
Drivers handle rain
ó and worse ó somewhat better than airlines do, and indeed this
is what has made SUVs such as the Ford Explorer the vehicle of
choice for so many motorists. With four-wheel drive and an 8-inch
ride height, Explorers shrug off any weather.
So itís big news
when the Ford Explorer gets a top-to-bottom redesign, as it has for
front-wheel-drive Volvo XC90 platform it had formerly used, the
Explorer uses new rear-wheel drive architecture, although all-wheel
drive is available. The switch can be seen in the new vehicleís
updated styling, with front wheels with little front overhang,
lending a sportier air to the Explorerís gently sloping roofline
and sharper lines, although its look isnít radically different
from whatís come before.
Base LT, XLT and
Limited models come with a 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged
four-cylinder engine that produces 300 horsepower, while the sporty
ST and fully optioned Platinum trims get a 3.0-liter EcoBoost
turbocharged V-6 engine that produces 400 horsepower in the ST and
365 horsepower in the Platinum.
For the first-timer,
a Hybrid with a normally aspirated 3.3-liter V-6 and an electric
motor that produces 318 horsepower and can tow 5,000 pounds. Base
LT, XLT, and Limited trims come with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive,
while ST and Platinum models come solely with all-wheel drive. A
10-speed automatic transmission is standard.
Opting for the V-6
engine also brings with it a larger 20-gallon fuel tank; other
models make do with an 18-gallon tank.
Among drivelines, the
Hybrid appears to be the best compromise. The base EcoBoost suffers
from turbo lag off the line, and at speed it revs higher in the rev
range than the other power plants offered, with an engine note that
constantly reminds you that itís the base driveline. This also
results in more shifting from the transmission, although shifts are
very smooth. In contrast, the ST and Platinum offer effortless
acceleration. The ST is very much the raucous frat boy ó athletic,
strong, and always ready to party ó while the Platinum is sober,
self-assured adult and nearly as fast as the ST.
Still, it seems the
Hybrid is the ideal driveline. While only slightly more powerful
than the 2.3-liter EcoBoost, the combination of a normally aspirated
V-6 and the electric motorís instant torque availability lends it
a peppy feel off the line, as well as at speed. And it offers a
greater driving range on a single tank of fuel. It has more power
than most drivers will need, and will keep them happy when its time
to fill the tank, which is smaller than in other Explorers.
remarkable that Ford has engineered a rear-wheel drive hybrid, which
allows them to dial up driving fun while also providing a remarkably
tight turning radius. It also doesnít restrict how much horsepower
they can add to the two-wheel drive variants, something that isnít
true of front-wheel drive crossovers.
Ford officials say
there is little suspension tuning difference among the different
Explorer models save the ST. However, there appears to be a
difference since the base 2.3-liter EcoBoost driveline is lighter
than the others offered, particularly the Hybrid and its
naturally-aspirated 3.3-liter V-6 with battery pack and other hybrid
bits. The added weight settles the ride compliance, whose soft
nature and greater body motions can be unsettling. By contrast, the
ST is far more vigorous and is the most fun to drive of the bunch,
although none are as fun to drive as you might expect.
Up to seven
selectable drive modes tailor the Explorerís response to road
conditions on demand, while Ford Co-Pilot360, a suite of
driver-assist technologies, is standard. Active Park Assist 2.0, is
available, which automatically parallel or perpendicular parks the
Explorer without driver intervention.
While itís parking
itself, youíll find the Explorerís first two rows comfortably
offer good leg and headroom, although the third row is best left to
children or friends you intensely dislike. The cushion is inches off
the floor, ensuring that adults have a knees-up seating position.
That said, the STís front thrones could use more side bolstering.
As youíd expect, lower trim levels get a second-row bench, while
upper trim levels get captainís chairs.
The instrument panel
has a simple design and is easy to use at first glance. The steering
wheel controls work well, once youíre familiar with the layout.
The 8-inch infotainment screen is adequately sized, but the screen
graphics take up too much space. Platinum and ST models get a larger
screen thatís more helpful, but the space-robbing graphics that
are problematic on the smaller screen only grow in size on the
Better are the little
touches throughout the interior, the vertically tilted wireless
charging pad thatís nestled under the lip of the center console
bin, keeping it safe from spilling beverages, or the flat surface
between the second row seats and the doors that make entry top third
aside, the 2020 Ford Explorer proves very satisfactory as an
all-wheel drive family bus, with handsome styling, good handling and
the latest in technology.
It sure beats flying.
2020 Ford Explorer LT
Base price: $52,280
DOHC six-cylinder engine
EPA fuel economy
(city/highway): Not available
18.2-87.8 cubic feet
Ground clearance: 7.9
Curb weight: 4,969