Editor’s note: This story, based on insider tips and educated speculation, was published in advance of the debut of the 2020 Ford Explorer. The vehicle was revealed Jan. 9 by the automaker. Official specifications and other information are available here: 2019 Detroit Auto Show: Ford’s 2020 Explorer Most Powerful Ever
An all-new Ford Explorer is expected to make its debut early next year, perhaps at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January.
The new model is critical for Ford. The Explorer, first debuted in 1990, is one of the top-selling models in the automaker’s lineup. It arrives at a time when U.S. buyers increasingly prefer SUVs and crossovers over smaller sedans and cars.
The Explorer will need to fight to retain market share. New vehicles such as the Hyundai Palisade, Mazda CX-9 and Volkswagen Atlas have recently entered the large crossover segment. Meanwhile, competitors like the Honda Pilot and Chevrolet Traverse have issued updated designs.
Here’s what we know about the 2020 Ford Explorer:
What does the 2020 Ford Explorer look like?
The design of the all-new 2020 Ford Explorer is an updated version of the current Explorer styling. The crossover features a new front grille, headlights and rear design. But the look is not a complete overhaul; in fact, the overall silhouette and major styling features are largely the same.
The new Explorer uses a long, modern side profile that tapers its roof toward the back for a sleek appearance. Up front the grille is widened and the headlights move farther inward so that they intrude into the grille. Lower air intakes are located in the same place as the current generation but with slightly edgier angles. Higher trims will have LED fog lights and a front skid plate. The rear brings an updated look to the taillight shape and a tailgate bar that no longer extends the width of the hatch. Aggressive touches include a more dynamic rear aero spoiler and four exhaust tips on some models.
What trim options will the 2020 Ford Explorer have?
The current Explorer is available in base, XLT, Limited, Sport and Platinum trims. Spy photographers have spotted the Explorer Platinum undergoing testing in Michigan. They have also captured prototypes of an upcoming Explorer ST, a high-performance version of the 2020 Explorer that could replace the current Explorer Sport. The new Explorer ST will be in the same vein as its smaller Edge ST sibling.
What engine choices will the 2020 Ford Explorer have?
Ford is expected to continue its practice of matching EcoBoost engines with a 10-speed automatic transmission across its portfolio. The new 2020 Explorer will likely offer a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder as the base engine, a 3.3-liter V6 with a possible hybrid option and a 3.0-liter EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 for higher trims.
As for the sporty Explorer ST, expect one of Ford’s high-output EcoBoost engines – either a version of the 2.7-liter four-cylinder in the Edge ST or a detuned 3.5-liter V6 from the F-150 Raptor. The new Explorer ST could boast more than 400 horsepower.
Is the 2020 Ford Explorer capable?
The Explorer is historically a very capable vehicle. Early models sported a rugged body-on-frame platform until Ford switched to a crossover unibody structure in 2011 for improved ride quality and fuel economy.
The current 2018 Explorer comes with flush roof rails as standard and offers optional raised roof rails on higher models. Ground clearance is 7.8 inches; behind the third row of seats is 21 cubic feet of storage capacity.
The Explorer also has a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds and a maximum payload rating of 1,717 pounds. Given that the all-new 2020 Explorer is expected to increase power under the hood and could use lightweighting techniques to reduce its weight, it should be capable of improved towing and payload ratings.
Is the 2020 Ford Explorer fast?
The new Explorer will be powered by an array of turbocharged engines matched to a quick-shifting 10-speed transmission also used in the Mustang sports car. But the biggest difference may be underneath the skin.
The Explorer now shares a new architecture with the upscale Lincoln Aviator that is based on rear-wheel drive and suitable for all-wheel drive. That marks a change from the current Explorer and its front-wheel drive preference. Front-wheel drive is optimal for fuel economy. Rear-wheel drive delivers better handling and more exciting driving dynamics, especially when combined with punchy engines.
What does the interior of the 2020 Ford Explorer look like?
Spy photographers also managed to snap images inside a 2020 Explorer prototype. The interior design appears stately and comfortable without taking large leaps into futuristic styling that may alienate some buyers. There are soft-touch surfaces on the dashboard and surrounding trim, while metal and plastic buttons control the vehicle’s electronics. Notable features include a rotary shift knob, a large color touchscreen and plastic paddle shifters.
The Explorer interior looks derivative of the stunning interior of the new Lincoln Aviator with similar lines and button placement. The Aviator’s components appear slightly more integrated and posh, while the Explorer focuses on functionality and storage.
Where will the 2020 Ford Explorer be built?
The 2020 Explorer will be built at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant alongside the Lincoln Aviator.
When will the 2020 Ford Explorer go on sale?
The 2020 Ford Explorer is expected to go on sale in early 2019.