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2020 Ford Explorer Arrives on a New Rear-Wheel-Drive Platform

While the 2020 Ford Explorer doesn’t look dramatically different compared to the version on sale today at first glance, the automaker has changed pretty much everything about the popular SUV right down to the chassis design – introducing a new rear-drive platform.


Tonight at Ford Field, the 2020 Ford Explorer made its grand debut ahead of the formal introduction set for next week’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit’s Cobo Hall. This Explorer is all-new inside and out, but the most significant change for the new generation of the legendary SUV nameplate is the shift from front-wheel-drive to rear-wheel-drive.

The 2020 Explorer rides on Ford’s CD6 chassis platform and in standard form, it is a rear-wheel-drive SUV. All-wheel-drive is available on every model while being standard on some, but the bottom line here is that the new Ford Explorer has returned to its rear-drive roots. With that drivetrain reconfiguration comes new dimensions, with a longer wheelbase leading to more interior space, but the exterior has been massaged to provide sleeker lines with the same basic look that has proven to be so popular with the current models.

The 2020 Ford Explorer will be offered in base, XLT, Limited, Platinum, Limited Hybrid and ST trim, but we will have to wait until next week for the details of the Hybrid and ST. Today, we bring you a look at the drivetrain options of the all-new Explorer excluding Hybrid and ST and over the course of this week, we will bring you a closer look at the many features of this new sport utility vehicle.

2020 Explorer Power
The standard engine on the base, XLT and Limited models is a new 2.3-liter EcoBoost that is projected to deliver 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. The standard engine in the new Explorer Platinum is the 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 that is projected to offer 365 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. Provided that the company hits those projected numbers when the official figures are announced, this will be the most powerful Explorer ever – both with the entry level engine and the twin turbo V6.

The new 10-speed automatic transmission is standard with both engines and while rear-wheel-drive is standard on the base model with optional all-wheel-drive, AWD is standard on the Platinum with the 3.0L EcoBoost V6. In other words you cannot get the premium V6 engine with rear-wheel-drive, but the base 2.3-liter can be equipped with rear- or all-wheel-drive.

Intelligent Drive
The 2020 Ford Explorer comes standard with the selectable drive mode system, with the rear-drive models have five settings (normal, sport, trail, slippery, tow/haul and eco) while the models with the intelligent all-wheel-drive system have seven settings, adding deep snow and sand modes. Ford promises that the combination of the rear-drive architecture, the refined suspension setup, the drive mode system and the Intelligent all-wheel-drive system will make this Explorer the best on-road and off.

Greater Capabilities
We know that the rear-drive chassis will offer improved driving dynamics while likely being quicker and faster thanks to the increase in power, but it will also allow the 2020 Explorer to be more capable than the outgoing models. When properly equipped, the 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 will offer up to 5,600 pounds – up 600 pounds from the current Explorer with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost – while the 2.3-liter base engine can tow 5,300 pounds. For comparison, the current base Explorer with the front-drive chassis can tow just 3,000 pounds, so the “base engine” benefits the most from the shift to rear-drive.

Stay tuned for more details on the 2020 Ford Explorer, but the key takeaway from tonight’s Detroit debut is that the all-new SUV is truly new from top to bottom with a rear-drive chassis that promises improved driving dynamics and improved capabilities.