2020 Ford Explorer's new RWD changes everything for the better
Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press Published 6:00 a.m. ET June 18, 2019 | Updated 10:32 a.m. ET June 18, 2019
Detroit Free Press Article
SKAMANIA COUNTY, Washington – Hypesters and hucksters have drained the term “clean sheet of paper” of much meaning when it comes to new products, but it applies to the 2020 Ford Explorer SUV.
Ford has scrapped the formula that made the three-row, family-carrying Explorer one of its most popular models for a decade and created an SUV whose engineering has more in common with vehicles from BMW and Mercedes than traditional competitors from Chevrolet, Honda and Toyota.
Based on a couple of days driving on- and off-road in Oregon and Washington, the result is a comfortable interior, strong performance and appealing features.
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The 2020 Explorer should be on sale any day now. Ford’s assembly plant in Chicago is shipping them to dealers, but Ford can’t sell them until it gets a certified fuel economy rating from the EPA.
A change in drive and engine direction
The new Explorer has a rear-wheel-drive-based architecture and optional all-wheel drive. That’s a major change from the outgoing model, which had base models that were front-wheel-drive and optional AWD.
That means the 2020 model’s engine lines up in the same direction as the vehicle, while the 2010-19 Explorer engines sat crosswise, on the line between the front wheels.
In engineering terms, the 2020’s engine is called “longitudinal” or “north-south,” while the old Explorer had a transverse or east-west engine.
Why the change?
Pickups, and most luxury and performance vehicles, tend to have longitudinal engines because the layout lends itself to more power, better handling and towing.
Power and handling haven’t been a big deal to Explorer owners, but Ford is betting that’ll change as more and more SUVs crowd the market and automakers look for every advantage they can claim when they say theirs is different and better.
Features and prices
Here’s some of what you can expect from the 2020 Ford Explorer:
Seating for six or seven.
Prices from $32,765 to $58,250. The base model isn’t expected to go on sale til December, though. At launch, price will start at $36,675, excluding destination charges.
Up to 5,600 pounds towing.
A base 300-horsepower, 2.3L turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
360- and 400-hp twin-turbo V6s in the Platinum and ST, respectively.
A hybrid with 310 hp and a battery under its floor to preserve passenger and cargo space. There’s no immediate plan for a plug-in hybrid.
A 10-speed automatic transmission.