Ford recently showed us the new 2020 Explorer at a special unveiling event at Ford Field in Detroit, with the automaker unveiling the completely new, rear-wheel-drive SUV to the world. But two versions were missing, with the media sworn to secrecy about these models until their unveiling at the 2019 North American International Auto Show today. They're two models that are completely new to the Explorer lineup but which could expand its appeal into some new buyers' minds.
Related: More 2019 Detroit Auto Show Coverage
If You Wanna Go Fast, Go ST
The most exciting news is for people interested in sporty performance from their SUV: the 2020 Explorer ST. While the top Explorer Platinum trim level is more about luxury, the ST will be about excitement. It features a more powerful twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter EcoBoost V-6 making 400 horsepower and 415 pounds-feet of torque (the Platinum tops out at 365 hp), mated to a performance-tuned 10-speed automatic transmission hooked up to standard four-wheel drive.
The Sport mode in the new ST adjusts a multitude of items, including engine note, shift schedule, and throttle and steering response. Optional bigger, vented brake rotors can be fitted, while larger brake calipers with bigger pistons help haul the ST down from speed with authority. Ford says that the new Explorer ST will be the fastest SUV on the market for less than $60,000 — a claim we're certainly going to put to the test once we get our hands on one.
You can identify an ST through its more aggressive bodywork, with a unique grille and gloss-black accents from front to back, including the wheels. Quad exhaust tips out back are another giveaway (although how four exhaust ports correlate with a V-6 engine is math beyond my ken). Inside, a unique interior is fitted, with City Silver stitching on the leather seats, door, steering wheel and dash trim, and a flat-bottom sport steering wheel. Faux carbon-fiber trim replaces the faux wood trim on the dash, and the overall effect is one of somber sportiness. All of the Platinum's premium features are present in the ST, such as the fully digital 12.3-inch dash, one-touch E-Z Entry second-row captain's chairs, power-folding third row and more.
If You Wanna Go Far, Go Hybrid
Along with the first-ever high-performance version of the Explorer will be the first-ever hybrid version. Two trim levels of hybrid will be available, Explorer Hybrid and Explorer Limited Hybrid, depending on what level of luxury appointments and standard equipment you require.
All hybrids get a 3.3-liter naturally aspirated V-6 engine mated to a 35-kilowatt electric motor that's been sandwiched into the standard 10-speed automatic transmission. It replaces the gas tank under the second-row passenger's seat with a 1.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack — too small to be a plug-in hybrid like its new 2020 Lincoln Aviator Plug-In Hybrid cousin, but big enough to allow the Explorer Hybrid to operate like a true gas-electric hybrid. More importantly, it allows the Explorer to be a full hybrid without compromising the interior passenger or cargo room in the slightest.
Limited electric-only mode is expected, but improved fuel economy should be forthcoming — although Ford declined to say exactly what the new Explorer Hybrid is expected to achieve mileage-wise other than it should be able to reach more than 500 miles of range on a single tank of gas. It won't be a slouch in the towing department, however, with Ford also saying that the Hybrid will be able to tow 5,000 pounds when properly equipped — around 1,500 pounds more than the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.
The ST and Hybrid versions of the Explorer should appear sometime after the basic, regular Explorer goes on sale later this summer. No pricing is yet available for these trims, but we're assuming that the ST will cost just less than $60,000, given Ford's claim of it being the fastest SUV you can buy for under that amount.
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