Rear-Drive Explorer Returns!

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Every now and again, some good news crops up. Here is some very good news:

The next-generation Ford Explorer will be a real SUV again.

Not (yet another) crossover SUV.

Unlike the current car-based Explorer, the 2020 model – which will be available this summer – reverses course and returns to a rear-drive configuration (with 4WD available optionally).

The current Explorer is a FWD-based ride, kin to the Taurus – with a light-duty AWD system available optionally.

Rear-drive (and truck-type 4WD, with low-range gearing) are heavier-duty than FWD and AWD systems. Ford says the 2020 Explorer will be able to tow as much as 5,600 pounds – a 600 pound increase over the current model and much more than same-size (and car-based) FWD crossover SUVs.

It will also reportedly have best-in-class second and third row headroom and when the first and second rows are folded, the space will accommodate 4×8 sheets of plywood. All trims will come standard with a powered rear liftgate, an eight-inch LCD touchscreen, in-car WiFi and Ford’s CoPilot 360 suite of driver-assistance systems.

An iPad-style 10.1 inch touchscreen will be available optionally.

But this big ‘ute will come with a very small engine – Fords 2.3 liter turbo four, already in several other Ford vehicles, including the Mustang.  It will deliver big engine torque and horsepower numbers, though: 310 ft.-lbs. and 300 hp.

The optional engine will be a turbocharged 3.0 liter V6 making 365 horsepower and 380 ft.-lbs. of torque.

Both engines will be paired with a ten-speed automatic, with RWD standard and “Intelligent” 4WD available optionally. There will also be an SVT high-performance version, which will debut either this fall or in the spring of 2020.

Ford says the new Explorer’s base price will be $33,860.

Given the dearth of real SUVs – as opposed to the superabundance of crossover SUVs, especially in the mid-sized segment – this is more than merely good news.

It is happy news!

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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21 COMMENTS

  1. I wouldn’t have one of these, just because they remind me of pig-mobiles. I don’t even want to drive what those cock-suckers drive; granted though, being RWD and designed for fleet use(pigs and other Uncle agencies) it’ll be the most durable and reliable vehicle of Ford’s (or any American manufucturer’s) line-up.

    Well that, and…do I see a touchscreen in there? I wouldn’t have a vehicle with a touchscreen. Why have a $2K+ piece of hardware to replace a $15 switch? Especially when that “upgrade” makes you take your eyes off the road?(Notice how the accident and fatality rates are the same lately as they were 40 years ago, despite the cars being “so much safer” for the last umpteen years?).

  2. I do still love my 13 Infiniti G37s coupe. The 3.7 VHR engine is pretty wild. I’ve massaged the suspension a bit, and now it”s a fun and fast ride. There are plenty of mechanical controls, as well as some remote electronics, and voice command. but it really is a drivers car, as well as luxurious. I do miss my old 70’s musclecars, but my buddy has one.

  3. Nice move Ford. I think a big reason they did this was the cops wanted RWD and now a lot more of them will buy it. The bigger engine option is also probably cop spec related.
    When we recently went shopping for a mid-sized SUV. The current Explorer and GM’s versions all lost because of FWD. They didn’t even get a look. My wife drove the V6 and V8 Grand Cherokee and she smiled when she drove the V8. It’s actually more responsive/fun than my 300 V8 because it has slightly taller rear gears.
    The Explorer will now get a look from us next time but it’s going to be hard to beat the GC V8 if it still exists next gen which I believe is coming soon as well.
    I’m not fan of all the new small-turbo’d engines so I hope FCA keeps their great V8 going in a lot of their cars.

    • Hi Chris,

      No question, the AGWs will like the RWD layout – but then, so will we, so it even out! I agree with you on the GC; it’d be my pick as well. A V8 is (to me) always preferable in a truck or SUV.

  4. Ford blew it on the body design. That diagonal B Pillar evokes GM/chevvie styling cues.

    A likely deal killer for many Blue Oval loyalists.

    • I’m looking at the sloping roof line and thinking: “Those owners aren’t going to be buying many big-screen TVs with the reduced cargo opening”

  5. Meh. The last BOF Explorer with the 4.6L 3-valve V8 could tow up 7,130 pounds. That generation is also relatively simple to repair and does not spy on me or control my driving.

    The Explorer has gradually morphed into a modern day Country Squire with the loss of its truck capabilities. It even once had actual front and rear bumpers until the 2002 model came out.

    • And those V-8, turn of the century, pre-“exploder” rep, Explorers were pretty much that era’s cool SUV ride. Those engines sounded….for that time….Just Right!

  6. I suppose reusing that tried-and-true 3.5L V6 would have been too conservative. Best to throw a new turbo’d 6 in there to make things more exciting. Since more technology is exciting and desirable. I do wish they would have placed the iPad directly above the instrument cluster. That way I don’t have to turn my neck when texting, or ordering pizza from my app, or changing my song, or using navigation, or doing whatever it is I need to do besides look at the road. I’ll use the iPad’s camera and the forward collision warning to ensure I don’t hit the car I’m tailgating.

    One good thing about them canceling all their cars is that they have no investment in new FWD platforms, so everything will be RWD based, right?

    • I don’t understand the oversized IPAD instrument clusters and displays going into cars. Some of them look like you have no visual clearance to the road without being distracted by some blinking flashing doo-hicky. Give some simple low key gauges. But as you mention, the rise of IPAD cars has grown with the ‘please drive for me and wipe my ass while you are at it’ technology.

      • I personally think that in the future, people looking back at the interior designs of cars today, will rate this period as one of the worst. The touchscreens look so out of place and disgusting. Perhaps aftermarket radio makers will cash in on making non-touchscreen replacements for all of these cars when the screens eventually break.

        • The radio is so integrated into the rest of the car’s electronics these days I don’t even know if it’s even possible to install an aftermarket unit.

  7. The 2.3 and ten-speed were in the 2019 Ranger that I drove around the block. They’re a good combination – not once did it hunt for gears and it had good acceleration and gets better mileage than the competition. But I think the Explorer will be a heavier vehicle so if you can swing the extra cost, go for the turbo V6.

    Looking at the pics on the Ford website (look under “Future Vehicles”) there’s big gaps around the folded 3rd row seats so you will be losing power tools, small pets, etc. down in the cracks. I’m hoping the 3rd row seating is optional so we’d have a flat load floor. The 3rd row seats in my Lexus are bagged and stashed somewhere in the garage as the cargo room is more important to me.

    • I remember how irritated I was when I saw that concept. It was basically a Honda Pilot with a minivan sliding door and wheels only a gangbanger could love.

  8. Seems like all the improvements are on the technology and entertainment end. According to CNET anyways. Tail wagging the dog I guess, Ford and others trying to get buyers interested in attention grabbing, brain draining garbage to get them in the vehicle over traditional vehicles. If you can stomach it, you should see the crap being peddled in the automotive section of the CES show… (in car holodex games).

    • It’s like the sickening Nissan adds that proclaim, “we don’t just make cars; we make technology that moves you.”

      I don’t understand the fascination with in car electronic crap.

      • Hi Josh,

        Me either; but we’re outliers – we are interested in driving, which entails (among other things) ignoring various least common denominator traffic rules. The lowing cattle who obeeeeeeeeey are not interested in driving and so don’t do it. The sit and gape – and need to be entertained…

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