Ford Explorer ST vs Dodge Durango SRT Drag Race – Can a $600 Tune Beat America’s Fastest 3-Row SUV? (Video)

Gain 100 hp and 165 lb-ft with just software (and a little ethanol)

This video is sponsored by our friends at 5 Star Tuning. Check out their website here to get improved performance from your SUV or truck!

It’s a turbo V6 versus giant V8 boxing match!

If you want some serious grunt to haul your groceries and frighten your children, you’re pretty well catered for. Even most “ordinary” three-row SUVs have decent power these days, but performance SUVs have really come into their own. In this video, we have one such contender, the 2020 Ford Explorer ST. It faces off against the reigning champion of powerhouse family haulers that is the 2020 Dodge Durango SRT. With 475 horsepower of old-school Hemi V8 muscle, is the twin-turbo V6 Explorer really a match?

Perhaps not right out of the box. But what about when you tune the Explorer ST? 5 Star Tuning brought Andre out to their testing ground in South Carolina to find out just how much difference a performance tune makes.

2020 Ford Explorer ST
Out of the box, the Ford Explorer ST makes 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque.

Stock Explorer ST vs. Durango SRT

It’s worth noting that FCA provided the Dodge Durango SRT, and the SUV is completely stock. Even so, the massive, naturally-aspirated 6.4-liter Hemi V8 produces 475 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. Power routes its way to all four wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission. The Durango SRT is no featherweight, tipping the scales over 5,500 pounds, but it has enough brute force to make for a shockingly fun and fast family hauler.

The 2020 Ford Explorer ST, on the other hand, is over 800 pounds lighter. It weighs just over 4,700 pounds and also has all-wheel drive. This time, there’s a 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 engine under the hood, producing 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque, at least stock. The Explorer ST uses Ford’s now ubiquitous 10-speed automatic transmission.

Put the two stock cars against each other, and it’s a close result. On an 1/8-mile run, the Explorer managed 8.96 seconds at 78.68 mph, while the Durango put up an 8.48 second time at 82.41 mph. Reaction times varied by about eight hundredths of a second (.16 seconds for the Explorer against .23 seconds for the Durango). In terms of 0-60 times, the Durango clocked up 5.0 seconds flat with Andre at the wheel. The Ford Explorer managed the sprint in 5.72 seconds near sea level.

This tuned Explorer ST is more of a beast thanks to an E50 performance tune. [Photo: 5 Star Tuning]

5 Star E50 tune

With only software updates, the folks at 5 Star Tuning eked out a substantial power boost over the stock Explorer ST. On an E50 tune (E85 mixed with 93 octane premium gasoline), the white Explorer ST in this video gains 100 horsepower and 165 lb-ft of torque at the wheels. Mind you, Ford’s 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft figures are rated at the crank.

With the E50 tune, the Explorer ST managed 412 horsepower and 536 lb-ft of torque at the crank, versus the stock setup’s 311 horsepower and 371 lb-ft figure. Official figures of 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque are calculated before power loss through the drivetrain to the ground. [Image: 5 Star Tuning]

Put the tuned Explorer ST on the track against the Durango, and it’s certainly faster. But by how much? As it turns out, the E50 tuned version managed the 1/8-mile run in 8.08 seconds at 88.02 mph — nearly a full second faster than stock. The Durango, for its part, managed an 8.63 second run at 81.52 mph this time around. In the 0-60 run, the tuned Explorer ST threw down a 4.8 second time, even though the car does hop a bit off the line with so much more torque.

In later runs, both stock and tuned Explorer STs put down even faster times. The tuned version did the 1/8-mile race in 8.05 seconds at 86.85 mph, while the stock version managed 8.9 seconds at 79.38 mph. The 0-60 time was blisteringly quick, at 4.5 seconds.

The full results (best runs)

Car1/8-mile time1/8-mile speed0-60 time
Durango SRT8.48 sec.82.41 mph5.0 sec.
Stock Explorer ST8.9 sec.78.68 mph5.7 sec.
Tuned Explorer ST8.08 sec.88.02 mph4.5 sec.

While the two SUVs lean toward performance, the Explorer ST is more affordable than the Durango SRT off the bat. The 2020 Dodge Durango SRT starts at $64,490 including destination. Ford priced the Explorer ST at $55,935, leaving about $10,000 of wiggle room between the two. As equipped, the Durango SRT we tested is closer to $71,000, while the Explorer ST was around $60,000.

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