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Mark Phelan: 2020 Ford Explorer uses luxury-vehicle engineering to offer performance

Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Business News

DETROIT -- Ford threw away the rulebook when it developed the new 2020 Explorer SUV, using engineering that's more frequently seen on luxury and high-performance SUVs than family-carrying three-row vehicles.

The new Explorer's architecture has more in common with sporty SUVs and off-roaders like the Range Rover Sport and Jeep Grand Cherokee than with its predecessor and competitors such as the Chevrolet Traverse and Toyota Highlander.

The Explorer seats six or seven, depending on whether the middle row of seats has a bench or two captain's chairs. Ford claims easy rear-seat access with one-touch operation for the middle seats.

Many more features

The base model will cost $32,765, $400 more than the 2019 model, despite adding standard features including automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, blind-spot alert, power tailgate, LED head and taillights, post-crash braking to keep the vehicle from ricocheting into secondary impacts, and steering that subtly compensates to keep the vehicle going straight in crosswinds.

The 2020 Explorer goes on sale this summer, and fuel economy figures will be announced later in the year.

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The Explorer will be able to tow up to 5,600 pounds, 600 more than a Traverse or Highlander.

Ford also plans to offer a fuel-saving hybrid model and a sporty Explorer ST with more power and other performance upgrades. Details on those models will be announced Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The Explorer is based on a rear-wheel-drive architecture -- family haulers including the Highlander, Traverse and Pilot have front-wheel-drive base models. Ford expects most sales to have four-wheel drive.

The Explorer shares its architecture with the Lincoln Aviator luxury SUV that goes on sale later this year. Ford builds both vehicles in Chicago.

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