He noted that the vehicle also offers a "really cool" new feature: side wind mitigation.
The 2020 Ford Explorer has folding third-row seats and easily adjustable second-row seats that are kid friendly and also allow drivers to create a flat-floor cargo area that's wide enough to fit standard 4-foot building materials.
Crucial for Ford
The launch of the latest Explorer comes at a crucial time for Ford, said Eric Noble, a product development consultant and professor of vehicle technology at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.
"If the F-series is Ford's bread, Explorer is the butter," he said. "And they've clearly worked very hard to keep it that way."
Still, former buyers may be fickle, analysts warned.
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"The Ford Explorer was introduced to a consumer base in 1990 that was desperate for a mass market four-door SUV. It had its best years before there were many competitors with comparable product, selling over 400,000 per year from 1998 through 2002, peaking at 445,000 in 2000," said market economist Jon Gabrielsen. "But its average sales per year since then, after so many competitors have entered the field, has been about 200,000 per year, compared to 350,000 per year average in the first dozen years."
Competitors have a stronghold on the market now, and Ford may find it challenging, analysts have said in recent months.
The new Explorer is expected to share its mechanical systems with the upcoming 2020 Lincoln Aviator luxury SUV and appear in showrooms this summer. They will be built at Ford's Chicago assembly plant.
Explorer established an early reputation for safety features with a brake light mounted at the center of the rear window, a feature not mandated for light trucks until the 1994 model year; standard rear antilock brakes; side-door intrusion beams; energy-absorbing steering column and steering wheel, and an impact-activated fuel pump shutoff switch.