The verdict: The 2020 Ford Explorer roared onto the three-row SUV scene this year sporting not only a significant redesign, but also adding the Ford Explorer Hybrid and performance Explorer ST to its lineup. In our hands-on testing, we found this three-row SUV to have ample room, but Latch system accessibility and third-row entry issues led to lower grades. For our Car Seat Check, we tested the 2020 Explorer four-wheel-drive Limited with captain’s chairs in the second row. Our test vehicle had six seats. The Explorer has a standard bench seat in the second row that increases seating to seven.
Does it fit three car seats? No
Related: Search Car Seat Checks
Take a look at how the Latch system and each car seat scored below in our Car Seat Check of the 2020 Ford Explorer.
- Third-row Latch: The lower Latch anchors in the third row are exposed and free from obstruction so they’re easy to see and use. The tether anchors aren’t well marked, however. There’s a Latch symbol stamp in the black plastic surrounding the tether anchors, but it’s small and difficult to see. Parents often forget to use the tether anchors, or they connect the forward convertible’s tether strap to a cargo tie-down instead of the anchor. Well-marked tether anchors help parents use the Latch system correctly.
- Third-row booster: The third row has two wide seats that allowed for easy installation of car seats. The seat belt buckles are on stable bases, which are easier for kids to use independently.
- Latch: We struggled to connect easily to the lower Latch anchors in the captain’s chairs. The lower anchors sit out in the open, but there’s a pocket of leather around each of the Latch anchors that made the connection difficult, especially on the inner anchors of both chairs. Also, the second row’s tether anchors aren’t well marked, which resulted in a lower grade for the forward-facing convertible.
- Infant seat: The rear-facing infant seat fit well in the second row’s captain’s chair, and there was no need to move the front passenger seat forward; our 5-foot, 8-inch tester had enough legroom. Muscle was required to connect to the lower Latch anchors.
- Rear-facing convertible: The captain’s chairs are narrow where the bottom seat cushion meets the back cushion, but our convertible car seat’s wide base just fit. The rear-facing convertible fit well overall once we dealt with Latch connection issues.
- Booster: Our high-back booster seat also fit well in the second row’s captain’s chairs, but the seat belt buckles sit flush with the seat cushion and are held in place with a leather strap. To use the seat belt, you need to do a bit of maneuvering to get the buckle into an upright position, which could be difficult for younger kids in booster seats.
- Third-row forward-facing convertible: In the third row, the forward-facing convertible also installed easily. We followed the owner’s manual instructions and threaded the tether strap under the head restraint and between the restraint’s poles. We had no problem connecting to the tether anchor, but it lost a grade because it’s not very visible, increasing the risk that parents won’t see it.
- Forward-facing convertible: In the second row, the forward-facing convertible seat fit well in the captain’s chairs, but we struggled a bit with the lower anchors, and the seat lost a grade because the top tether anchors aren’t clearly marked.
Third-row access: The Explorer’s step-in height is high, so younger kids will need a parent’s help to get into the SUV. To access the third row, simply hit a button on top of the captain’s chairs to have them fold forward and slide out of the way, creating a wide path. However, we found the seat to be extremely heavy and putting them back into position took some effort.
About Cars.com’s Car Seat Checks
Editors Jennifer Geiger, Jennifer Newman and Matt Schmitz are certified child safety seat installation technicians.
For the Car Seat Check, we use a Graco SnugRide Classic Connect 30 infant-safety seat, a Britax Marathon convertible seat and Graco TurboBooster seat. The front seats are adjusted for a 6-foot driver and a shorter passenger. The three child seats are installed in the second row. The booster seat sits behind the driver’s seat, and the infant and convertible seats are installed behind the front passenger seat.
We also install the forward-facing convertible in the second row’s middle seat with the booster and infant seat in the outboard seats to see if three car seats will fit; a child sitting in the booster seat must be able to reach the seat belt buckle. If there’s a third row, we install the booster seat and a forward-facing convertible. Learn more about how we conduct our Car Seat Checks.
Parents should also remember that they can use the Latch system or a seat belt to install a car seat, and that Latch anchors have a weight limit of 65 pounds, including the weight of the child and the weight of the seat itself.
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