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Recently Driven

2020 Ford Explorer Platinum

By: Ron Corbett, APA Staff Writer      

Bright grille finish is unique to the Platinum trim  

History
The first-generation Explorer, a body-on-frame, traditional sport utility vehicle, debuted as a 1991 model. The next major change was for 2002 when the nameplate gained independent rear suspension. Leveraging its then ownership of Volvo, the Explorer that went on sale for 2011 was underpinned by Volvo’s unibody, front-wheel drive architecture. The Volvo-based model was on the market for nine long years, being replaced by a new Ford design for 2020. Ford kept the unibody structure for its new Explorer but returned to a rear-wheel drive biased drivetrain.

Model mix
All 2020 Explorers are equipped with all-wheel drive and there are a variety of engines to be found under their hoods. The base engine is a 300 horsepower 2.3L turbo four that is standard on the XLT and Limited trims.The Limited can be had with a 318 horsepower 3.3L-V6 hybrid powertrain. The 400 horsepower 3L-V6 turbo powers the ST trim, while the Platinum model uses a 365 horsepower version of this engine. Power reaches all wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission.

 Vehicle tested  Ford Explorer Platinum
 Body style  Four-door crossover
 Engine  3L-V6 turbo (365 horsepower)
 Transmission  10-speed automatic
 Base MSRP  $64,599
 Price as tested  $66,749
 NRCan combined fuel economy  11.8L/100 km
 Observed fuel economy  14.9L/100 km

  

The new Explorer looks fresh and original 

Styling
With Ford have issued a number of elegant, but derivative vehicles, like the Ford Escape and Lincoln Corsair, over the last year or so, it is encouraging to see Ford issue a fresh and original vehicle in the new Explorer. The much longer, 159 mm (6.3 inch) wheelbase within a very similar stem to stern dimension leads to excellent proportions. Ford’s new crossover looks athletic and purposeful. Each of the four Explorer trims displays a unique frontal styling treatment.  

Interior
The Explorer’s dashboard utilizes gentle twin arcs that sweep from the doors to the dash centre stack. The now-ubiquitous dash screen resides at the top centre of the dashboard on lesser trims but our Platinum tester was equipped with a very tall (12.1 inches), vertically arrayed infotainment screen. Below the screen are very simple audio controls with knobs for volume and tuning and a horizontal bar for channel or track selection. Below the audio panel are the climate controls which use toggles for temperature and push buttons for fan speed, distribution and other functions. The transistor film technology (TFT) gauge package facing the driver can be configured in a number of different ways and provides good clarity. Gear selection is via a rotary dial that is now a nearly universal fitting in newer Ford vehicles.

The overall styling theme of the Explorer’s cabin is traditional good taste. Nothing surprises but everything just looks right and there is little most observers would change.

The front seats are very large, comfortable, and on our tester, cooled as well. The middle-row seat is generously-dimensioned and supportive, and, with the much longer wheelbase for 2020, legroom is expansive. Third-row access is reasonable for the young and supple, made easier by the entry-pads built into the floor of the car. Third-row seat comfort and room are about the same as they are in the Traverse-Enclave twins from GM, which previously had the best third-row accommodations in the segment. Luggage space is good with the third-row seat arrayed to accept passengers, growing to generous with the Explorer in two-row mode. With the middle-row seat folded down, cargo space is impressive.

Our leather-clad Platinum tester had subtle two tone black and cranberry leather seating, and genuine open- pore wood accents on the dash. Fit, finish and materials meet or exceed segment expectations.

Configurable transistor-film-technology (TFT) has crisp graphics  

Large format (12.1 inch) infotainment screen works well but looks a bit like somebody left their tablet in the vehicle  

Roomy, comfortable front cabin of the new Explorer  

The three sections of the back seat can be moved fore and aft individually. The rear seat is very comfortable and occupants have vast legroom. Step pads just inside the doors ease third-row seat access  

Third-row seat is roomier for 2020 

Reasonable cargo space when the third-row seat is arrayed to accept passengers 

Good space with the third-row seat folded. The 33/33/33 split second-row seat aids versatility   

Performance
Our test Explorer was powered by a Platinum-exclusive 365 horsepower version of the 3L turbo V6.

The engine is incredibly strong, flexible and mechanically smooth, but perhaps not as sonically “remote” as intended buyers would like. Fuel economy of 14.9L/100 km during our time with the car reflect its lively acceleration, hefty weight and brick-like aerodynamics. Mediocre fuel economy likely won’t be a purchase objection for buyers who can contemplate the purchase of a vehicle this expensive.

The Explorer’s 10-speed-speed automatic transmission gets its job done without fuss.

The Explorer’s four-wheel independent suspension delivers a firmly compliant ride that isolates occupants from any and all road shock.

The Explorer combines a comfortable ride with stable handling that pampers occupants and delivers a feeling of stability to the driver.

Though not the last word in road feel, the Explorer’s steering is nicely weighted, precise and tracks well on the highway.

Braking is secure, but pedal effort is quite high and some drivers would prefer more initial bite once braking is commenced.

Other than an engine some might label “enthusiastic” and others might determine to be bit intrusive when accelerating briskly, the Explorer, with well suppressed wind and road noise is a quiet vehicle and a superb highway cruiser.

The rear-wheel drive biased architecture of the new Explorer really delivers a different, and engaging, driving experience.

The Explorer’s powerful air-conditioning and cooled front seats kept occupants cool during intensely hot weather experienced during our time with the vehicle.

The Bang and Olufsen audio equipment delivered very good sound quality but perhaps the firm is not as sharp as it was when they were the standard for sound quality in the 60s and 70s.

The massive, vertically-oriented infotainment screen displays legible graphics and employs Ford’s very good SYNC3 operating system.

Pricing
All-wheel drive is standard on all models this year. The 2.3L turbo four is standard on the $45,199 XLT and the $52,199 Limited trims. A 365 horsepower 3L turbocharged V6 is found under the hood of the $64,599 Platinum trim, with a 400 horsepower version of the same engine providing power in the $59,099 ST model. The Limited is offered with a 3.3L-V6 hybrid for $5000 extra. Even the base XLT is equipped with the Ford CoPilot 360 active safety suite. Though the Limited is priced $7000 more than the XLT, it includes many popular features such as adaptive cruise control with stop and go, a lane-centring device, a name-brand audio system, navigation and leather seating, that most seek, and is good value. The ST swaps the 2.3L turbo four for a 400 horsepower V6 turbo, but at $6900, it is very expensive for what you are getting. The Platinum trim, motivated by a 365 horsepower version of the turbo V6, is luxuriously equipped but overpriced. Our Platinum test model, with options such as the $1000, 21” Premium wheels, $200 floor liners, the $500 second-row bench seat and $450 Rapid Red paint, topped out at $66,749. The Explorer is an exceptional lease value for 2020.

Reliability
The 2020 Explorer is all-new from the ground up which does introduce an element of caution for those contemplating the purchase of one. There were some complaints about various aspects of the vehicle when it launched last fall but the example the APA experienced was fault free and rigorously assembled. The basic warranty on the Explorer is three years/60,000 kilometres, with the powertrain covered for five years/100,000 kilometres.
 

One of the most attractive and most original vehicles from Ford in a long time 

Summary
The last Explorer, based on the previous-generation Volvo large car platform, was around a very long time but was kept up to date and sold very well right up to the end. This new, Ford-designed Explorer is a quantum leap above the previous vehicle in terms of looks, cabin design, room and materials, to which is added a good measure of driving enjoyment. The new Explorer is a well-developed vehicle and its rear-wheel drive-based architecture makes it the only modern vehicle (the Dodge Durango is now too old to be considered) in its segment in terms of layout and also in the way it drives when compared with its front-wheel drive based competitors.