Most significant changes: Equipment shuffling throughout the trims
Price change: Price changes fluctuate depending on trim level, but they are all down versus the 2020 Explorer; base prices are down slightly, but the top (Platinum) trim’s price decreases significantly, for example.
On sale: Now
Which should you buy, 2020 or 2021? 2021, as prices decrease, unless you find a steeply discounted 2020.
Ford redesigned its Explorer SUV for 2020, and the family hauler now rides a rear-wheel-drive platform (all-wheel drive is optional) instead of the front-drive platforms ubiquitous in this class. For 2021, the three-row SUV gets some minor changes, most notably equipment and packaging tweaks, along with lower prices.
Related: 2020 Ford Explorer: Everything You Need to Know
For 2021, the Explorer’s entry price decreases to $33,470 (all prices include destination) in base RWD trim, down from last year’s $34,010 starting price. In fact, prices decrease throughout the trim lineup. Most significant is the price change for the top trim, called the Platinum. The 2020 Explorer Platinum ran $59,495, which drops to $55,725 for 2021. Compare the model years here.
A new XLT Sport Appearance Package, available with the XLT trim, adds exterior styling elements such as 20-inch Carbonized Gray-painted wheels with matching gray bars and a mesh grille insert, along with extra bodyside cladding, dual exhaust tips and other badges. Interior additions include diamond instrument panel appliques, slate seats with contrast stitching in all rows and specific door panel inserts.
Other changes to the 2021 lineup are more minor. The XLT trim gets standard heated front seats. Some exterior changes that affect all trims include more wheel designs, finishes and sizes (from 18 to 21 inches), and a host of new exterior paint colors: Atlas Blue, Iconic Silver, Rapid Red Metallic Tinted Clearcoat, Rich Copper Metallic Tinted Clearcoat, Silver Spruce and Star White Metallic Tri-Coat.
Most of the SUV carries over unchanged into model-year 2021, including its powertrains. The base engine is a turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder that makes 300 horsepower and 310 pounds-feet of torque, and it’s paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission and standard rear-wheel drive; four-wheel drive is optional. The uplevel engine is a 365-hp, turbocharged 3.0-liter EcoBoost V-6 that makes 380 pounds-feet of torque; all-wheel drive is standard. The Explorer Hybrid, meanwhile, uses a 3.3-liter V-6 engine and 35-kilowatt electric motor that produce 318 combined hp and 322 pounds-feet of torque.
In Cars.com’s 2020 Three-Row SUV Challenge, the 2020 Ford Explorer finished fourth place out of seven contenders. Judges were impressed by the SUV’s handling and well-behaved powertrain, but it lost points for interior space, comfort and value.
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