2020 Ford Explorer: Exploring the (near) future of driving

The Explorer from Ford has earned numerous accolades since 1991 when it was first launched. Now into its sixth generation, what started out as a truck-based SUV comes across as a more car-like vehicle.

By: | Published: January 4, 2020 5:55 AM

It’s used as a police interceptor vehicle in the US, it’s one of the largest selling SUVs in America, it’s one of the longest-running SUV nameplates … the Explorer from Ford has earned numerous accolades since 1991 when it was first launched. Now into its sixth generation, what started out as a truck-based SUV comes across as a more car-like vehicle with refined ride quality and semi-autonomous driving features. We drive the Platinum 3.0-litre EcoBoost V6 variant of the 2020 model in the US.

What is the 2020 Ford Explorer?

The sixth-generation Explorer is a rear-wheel-drive model, and that means certain parts from the engine bay have perhaps moved under the body, and that leads to a shorter front end, bigger wheelbase, and more cabin space. Certain original design features have been retained—for example, the A and B pillars are blacked out, the C pillar is body-coloured, and then there is a D pillar as well that is blacked out to merge with the rear glass.

How big is the cabin?

Even from the standard of the massive cabins the Americans are used to, the 2020 Explorer is quite spacious, especially the second row captain seats. More than space, however, what defines the cabin is smart space management—for example, the doors have two levels of storage, upper perhaps for a juice box and the lower for water bottles, and the centre console has multiple storage areas. Then there is a third row as well. And with all seats upright, there is still some room for luggage.

For the driver, the controls are both easy to read and easy to reach. However, certain bits of chrome inside the cabin reflect sunlight, which can be irritating, and the wireless phone charging pad is not horizontal, but at a particular angle, and if you brake hard the phone dislocates from the pad.

Which engines power it?

There are four models—XLT, Limited, ST, Platinum—and three engine options: 2.3-litre EcoBoost, 3.0-litre EcoBoost V6, 3.3-litre Hybrid. All are mated to 10-speed automatic gearbox with SelectShift capability (Ford’s dual-clutch transmission).

What defines the 2020 model?

The Explorer gets Ford’s Terrain Management System, which has seven drive modes controlled through a single dial on the centre console. These are: normal, trail, deep snow/sand, slippery, sport, tow/haul and the new eco mode. The Explorer can tow trailers weighting more than 5,000 pounds, or about 2,300 kg. But where the SUV stands out is semi-autonomous driving—Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+ is standard and you don’t need to pay extra. Prices in the US start from $36,675 (XLT), $48,130 (Limited), $54,740 (ST) and $58,250 (Platinum), depending on the engine choice and the trim level.

What is Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+?

It’s a suite of features that help make driving easier. Some of these include:
BLIS, or blind-spot information system with cross-traffic alert: While BLIS alerts the driver if there is any vehicle in the Explorer’s blind spot (an area that cannot be directly observed by the driver), cross-traffic alert detects traffic, if any, when you’re backing out of a parking spot.

Lane-keeping system: It scans vehicle position between road markings, and alerts when the Explorer starts to drift.

Adaptive cruise control: It detects and automatically adjusts to speed limit signs on the road. It also follows the vehicle ahead at a predefined speed, and if that vehicle brakes, it applies brake to your Explorer until it comes to a complete stop.

Reverse brake assist: It detects moving and stationary objects behind when you are reversing, and can apply brakes.

Active park assist: In parallel parking and reverse perpendicular parking, all you need to do is get near the parking spot, shift into neutral, apply brake and engage the Active Park Assist button. The Explorer will automatically park itself.

There are others as well, like hill descent control, evasive steering assist, pre-collision assist, etc. While Ford might never launch the Explorer SUV in India, it would do well to introduce to the country—in cars it is co-developing with Mahindra—certain semi-autonomous driving features the Explorer has.

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