We’ve already mentioned the new Ford Explorer and its return to a rear-wheel-drive based chassis, among many other improvements. Now Ford is introducing its two most significant Explorer models in the 2020 lineup: The 400-horsepower ST and the 26-mpg Hybrid.
The most powerful Explorer ever
The ST model uses the same twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 found in the Police Interceptor and Lincoln Aviator, propelling the Explorer from zero to 60 mph in about 5.7 seconds. (The Police Interceptor, which weighs about 150 pounds more than the Explorer ST’s stated curb weight, achieved a 5.8-second 0-60 time in Michigan State Police testing.) And, due to the previously-mentioned rear-drive architecture, the all-wheel-drive ST should be seriously balanced for handling. Inasmuch as a 4700-pound SUV is capable.
Aiding those efforts is an ST-specific suspension tune, with new springs, dampers, and anti-roll bars. Larger front brakes are also part of the equation. Visually, the ST is the meanest of the Explorer lineup, with a black mesh grille and other trim peices. Inside, a flat-bottom steering wheel continues the sporty theme, as does the Sport drive mode that gives more immediate steering and throttle response.
A hybrid that tows 5000 pounds
Ford says the Explorer Hybrid will have an EPA-estimated range of more than 500 miles in the rear-wheel-drive model. With a 19.3-gallon gas tank, that works out to at least 26 miles per gallon for the combined rating. The most fuel-efficient version of the outgoing Explorer was rated at 22 combined mpg. The Hybrid model also tows up to 5000 pounds. Customers in wintry regions will appreciate the option to get the Hybrid model with all-wheel drive.
The Hybrid was part of the plan for this new rear-drive architecture from the beginning, so adding electric boost comes with no penalty in cargo space. A lithium-ion battery pack sits under the second row seats, and the hybrid assist motor is wedged in between the 3.3-liter V-6 and 10-speed automatic transmission. Total system output according to Ford is 318 hp and 336 lb-ft of torque. Using the same Michigan State Police testing as a guideline, a heavier version of the Explorer Hybrid managed zero to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds.
The full Explorer lineup, including the ST and Hybrid, will be in showrooms later this year.