The just-introduced 2020 Ford Explorer doesn’t stray too far from the formula that put it in the driveway of millions of consumers. Instantly familiar but more rakish and attractive than the outgoing model, the 2020 Explorer hits all the marks needed to remain relevant: It’s approximately 200 pounds lighter, can tow up to 5600 pounds, features updated infotainment and connectivity anchored by an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and is built on an entirely new longitudinal-engine platform featuring rear- or all-wheel drive. It’s bound to make the suburbs a happier and prettier place, if not a more exciting one. As for excitement? That’s where the Explorer ST comes in.
Developed in conjunction with the Ford Performance division, the ST starts with a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 borrowed from the maker’s luxury division, Lincoln. Rated at 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque, it’s essentially the engine that appears in a handful of Lincoln vehicles; the only way to get it in an Explorer is to order the ST. The 10-speed automatic transmission, also used in the regular Explorer, is similar to the unit already in use in Ford’s Mustang and F-150, so it should have no problem shuffling the output to the ST’s standard all-wheel drive. Selecting Sport mode alters the shift mapping and throttle response for maximum acceleration right up to the ST’s claimed 143-mph top speed.
Ford isn’t talking performance numbers yet but is quick to say the Explorer ST will be quicker than a Range Rover Sport HSE with the 380-hp supercharged 3.0-liter V-6. For the sake of highly unscientific comparisons, Land Rover says the Range Rover Sport runs from zero to 60 mph in a claimed 6.8 seconds, a figure the Explorer ST should have no problem beating based on our previous experiences with the engine. Our 2017 Lincoln MKZ clobbered the zero-to-60-mph run in 4.8 seconds, and the same engine, albeit with 15 lb-ft less torque, propelled all 4555 pounds of our 2017 Lincoln Continental to 60 mph in five seconds flat. Hell, a previous-generation 2017 Explorer Platinum with the EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6 made the zero-to-60 sprint in 5.8 seconds. Even taking into account the 2020 Explorer’s extra mass and frontal area, we expect it to post a sub-six-second time with ease.
Specially tuned dampers and springs are on hand to sharpen the handling, and, for those who require maximum performance from their three-row family hauler, an ST Street Pack and ST Track Pack are available. While we don’t have the full download on either ST Pack yet, we do know that they both include 21-inch aluminum wheels and upgraded brakes with red-painted calipers. A blacked-out grille, lower body-side details, and roof-rack side rails send a subtle message to the neighbors that this suburbanite isn’t averse to throwing down. ST-exclusive leather seating seating and interior trim team with a chunky, flat-bottom heated steering wheel bring the sporty feel inside. ST logos reside on the steering wheel and seating.
The Explorer ST also comes equipped with a standard Class III hitch to ensure that you and your bass boat can get to the lake in record time. Active Park Assist 2.0, which not only handles steering inputs but also accelerator, braking, and gearshift inputs, is also included as standard. There’s no word yet on pricing, but it should come in a fair bit higher than the current Explorer Sport’s $47,720 starting price.