Ford is expanding their ST performance SUV lineup with the all-new 2020 Ford Explorer ST. It joins the Edge ST that is also on sale now. How does the most powerful Explorer and the quickest ST car ever drive? This is the first drive review.
2020 Ford Explorer
The new 6th-generation Explorer is riding on a new rear-wheel-drive platform. While the overall exterior dimensions remain largely the same as the previous Explorer, the wheelbase is stretched by more than six inches. The longer wheelbase allowed Ford to push the wheels out to the corners, change the style, and also improve the ride and stability of this family hauler.
Before we get to the Explorer ST, here is a quick rundown of the new Explorer engine options. Under the hood is a lineup of four distinct powertrains.
The base Explorer is powered by a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is rated at 300 horsepower on 93-octane premium fuel.
The next level of power is a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 with a rating of 365 horsepower, once again on premium fuel.
Next up is the all-new Explorer Hybrid that is powered by a naturally aspirated 3.3-liter V6 engine and a 44 horsepower electric motor for a combined system output of 318 horsepower. Check out this full driving review of the Hybrid with a trailer.
All of these engines are mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. There are not CVTs in the new Explorer, and that is a good thing.
2020 Ford Explorer ST
Let’s dig deeper into the new Explorer ST. Some people say that Ford should not be putting an ST on the Explorer, or any SUV / crossover for that matter. Personally, I am open to the idea of a high performance SUV. Other manufacturers have offerings in this space. For example, the Dodge Durango R/T or SRT.
Ford is taking the new Explorer upmarket with more available technology, options, and power choices. Higher performance is part of this equation.
Under the hood of the ST is a specially tuned 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 with 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque. All Explorer STs come with performance-biased AWD that can send 100% of the torque to the rear wheels or up to 50:50 torque split front to rear.
Ford says the new Explorer ST is the quickest 0-60 MPH ST car yet. The 0-60 MPH is stated at 5.5 seconds. The top speed is listed at 143 mph. For comparison, a Ford Focus ST has a 5.9 seconds 0-60 MPH time.
When I first heard that Ford specially tuned the Explorer ST’s suspension and made it about 10% stiffer, I was a little concerned that it will be a bit harsh to drive on regular roads. That is not the case. The Explorer ST ride feels about the same as a standard new 2020 Explorer. That is to say, it’s stable on the highway, and comfortable over rougher roads.
What makes the ST stand out is its very confident cornering performance. The overall weight distribution and the rear-wheel drive bias of the AWD system combine with a stiffer suspension and stickier all-season tires for a fun experience on a tight mountain road. It’s not a tiny sports car, but it drives much smaller than it actually is.
The 2020 Explorer ST will start at $54,740. For comparison, Dodge Durango R/T AWD starts around $48,000. The Durango SRT starts at $64,000.
The new 2020 Ford Explorers are starting to ship to dealers now, so you should be able to get them soon.