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Ford puts muscle in their mid-size SUV with all-new 2020 Explorer ST AWD


2020 Ford Explorer ST AWD in Rapid Red Metallic

Our friends at Ford dropped into Dallas last week with a couple of their all-new mid-size 2020 Explorer SUV’s for us to look at and briefly drive.  Among them was the new ‘muscle’ in Explorer – the 2020 Explorer ST AWD.

With limited time available, after exchanging pleasantries, we made a beeline for a Rapid Red Metallic Explorer ST AWD at the front of the line.

2020 Explorer – at first glance – may look very similar to the version it replaces. The exterior changes are subtle including a longer wheelbase.  Where it is truly all-new is inside, underneath and beneath the hood – all enhanced with loads of new or enhanced technology.

Every bit as capable as Explorer has been – giving it a new rear-wheel drive (RWD) platform, four engine choices including a hybrid, 10-speed automatic transmission, Terrain Management, enhanced driver assist features or enhanced technologies and all-wheel drive capability – Ford has made it even better.

Did we mention more powerful?  Having spent time in the Ford Edge ST, we expected to be delighted with an Explorer ST.  Ford Performance has not disappointed us – powering the new Explorer ST AWD with a 400-horsepower twin turbocharged V6.

In the hour or so we had behind the wheel in and around West Village in Dallas– some of the phrases we would use to describe the 2020 Explorer ST AWD include: quiet and comfortable, roomy from front to back, responsive driving dynamics, quick and nimble, usable technology, lots of amenities and just plain fun.


As ‘Teased’

The 2020 Ford Explorer ST AWD we were able to ‘sample’ was in the optional Rapid Red Metallic Clearcoat with Ebony interior.  MSRP was $54,740. 

Options included the Rapid Red exterior paint and Twin Panel Moonroof.  The packages were Premium Technology with an audio upgrade, jumbo tablet touchscreen and multi-contour (massaging) front seats and the ST Street Pack featuring 21-inch machined aluminum wheels and performance brakes with Red painted calipers.

Delivered, this Explorer ST priced at $59,915.

Power Train

As noted, Explorer ST is a new model in the line.  Like the Edge ST, Explorer ST steps out boldly with its high output 3.0L Twin Turbo EcoBoost V6 power plant, boosted to produce a whopping 400 horsepower and 415 lb.-ft. of torque.

The power plant is mated to a rotary dial managed 10-speed SelectShift automatic transmission. Tuned for the amped up EcoBoost – the combination delivered an excellent drive around West Village and on short sprints down the interstate.  

The ST has a top (track) speed of 143 mph and – we are told – has 0-60 acceleration that pushes you back into its sport bucket seating. 

ST’s standard drive train is the Intelligent AWD system with front axle disconnect giving it rear-wheel drive bias in normal drive situations.   It features Ford’s Terrain Management System with seven driver selectable drive modes (ECO, Normal, Sport, Slippery, Trail, Deep Snow/Sand and Tow/Haul).

We drove in Normal around town – shifting to Sport during short dashes on the highway. In both Normal and Sport, the 10-speed – programmed to skip gears shifting up and down for optimum response – shifted quickly and effectively at all speeds. 

The ST is equipped with a sport-tuned suspension and brakes for high performance on the highway. 

In addition, the ST, featuring an 8.3-inch ground clearance, Hill Descent Control, decent approach and departure angles and the Terrain Management system, should deliver capable outback adventuring as well.

The fuel economy rating for the Explorer ST is 18/24 mpg city/highway and 20 mpg combined.  Not exceptional, but reasonable enough for us for this 4,700 pound three-row AWD SUV.


Tows Too

There is plenty of cargo room in Explorer. But, just in case your cargo includes a camp trailer, dirt bikes or kayaks, it tows too.

Our ST was equipped with a Class III Towing Package, Trailer Sway Control and Side Wind Stabilization.  Tow rated for 5,600 pounds and supported by the Tow/Haul drive mode in the Terrain Management system, we expect towing in Explorer will be a snap.



Our Explorer ST was equipped with the Premium Technology Package that added a jumbo 10.1-inch LCD vertical touchscreen tablet at the top of the center stack.

Notable also was the bright and crisp 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, HotSpot Modem, Wireless Charging Pad and 360-Degree Camera with Split View and Washer.

Other tech includes Ford Pass Connect with Wi-Fi connectivity (up to 10 devices) and the latest SYNC3 system.  Features include Apple Carplay, Android Auto and Waze Navigation capability and SiriusXM radio.


Did we mention the tunes?  Explorer for 2020 is now equipped with Bang & Olufsen (B&O) audio. This Explorer ST was equipped with the optional – and impressive – B&O 980-watt, 14-speaker system.  In the new quieter cabin environs, this sound system is ‘concert hall’ quality.

Driver Assist/Convenience

There are plenty of new or enhanced driver assist features on the new Explorer Including Co-Pilot360 and Co-Pilot360 Assist+.

Co-Pilot360 includes Auto High Beam headlights, BLISS Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane-Keeping Assist with Driver Alert, Rear View Camera, Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking including Pedestrian Detection, Forward Collision Warning and Dynamic Brake Support.

CoPilot360 Assist adds Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go, Lane Centering, Speed Sign Recognition, Evasive Steering Assist, Voice Activated Touchscreen Navigation with Pinch to Zoom Capability, Post Collision Assist, Reverse Brake Assist and Active Park Assist.



Other Stuff to Note

Some other stuff to note include seating for six with Captain’s Chairs in the second row and power folding bench in the third row.  Front seats are heated and ventilated. Second row seating is heated and power folding for easy third row access. The third row is power fold flat.

Some other comfort and convenience elements include Second Row Sunblinds, Tri-Zone Electronic Climate Control with Filtration and Rear Controls, Handsfree Tailgate, LED lighting – headlamps, tail lights, fog lamps and daytime running lights, power heated and auto-folding side mirrors and Individual Tire Pressure Monitoring.

2020 Ford Explorer Lineup

In addition to the all-new Explorer ST, the gasoline line includes XLT (MSRP $36,675), Limited (MSRP $48,130), the ST (MSRP $54,740) and Platinum (MSRP $58,250).  The Power plant for XLT and Limited is the 2.3L EcoBoost 4-cylinder.  Platinum is powered by a 3.0L EcoBoost V6 producing 365 horsepower with 380 lb.-ft. of torque.  As noted, the ST gets the high output EcoBoost 3.0L V6.

Explorer Limited is available as a Hybrid (MSRP $52,280) powered by a 3.3L hybrid V6 producing 318 combined horsepower with 322 lb.-ft. of torque.  

All 2020 Explorers are equipped with a 10-speed automatic transmission – SelectShift for the gasoline engines and modular for the hybrid.

The XLT and Limited (including Hybrid) are rear-wheel drive (RWD) with Ford’s intelligent all-wheel drive (w/front axle disconnect) available.  ST and Platinum come standard with Intelligent AWD.

Go to the 2020 Ford Explorer consumer site for more information or to build one your way. 

BONUS: Ford ST SUV Drive Experience

As an added bonus, the purchase of a 2020 Explorer ST includes a one-day ‘experiential’ performance driving training experience for the buyer and a guest at the Ford Performance Racing School in Park City, Utah near Salt Lake City. 

Caution: Expect to be very popular with your friends when you bring home that new Explorer ST.

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