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Growing Market for Performance-Based SUVs Proven with Ford Explorer ST

One in five Ford Explorers sold opt for the ST performance trim. This, plus a new XLT Sport Appearance Package add to the value of the best-selling SUV in the country as Ford adds youthful buyers.

The Ford Explorer is the all-time best-selling SUV in America. As the Explorer enters its 30th year in production, Ford is soon to celebrate the 8 millionth Explorer sold in the U.S. That’s quite an accomplishment for Ford. Having the top-selling pickup truck and the top-selling SUV is a feather in the cap of the Blue Oval, for sure. But Ford isn’t just taking that for granted. Rather, they’re making a concerted push to make the Explorer have broader appeal.

The Ford Explorer ST has impressive performance

With 400 horsepower, the 2020 Ford Explorer ST is surpassing Ford’s sales expectations, proving that there’s a growing market for performance SUVs. Explorer ST is accounting for 21 percent of overall Explorer sales.

“Ford ST stands for performance for enthusiasts, and Explorer ST is no exception,” said Craig Patterson, Ford SUV marketing manager. “We believe once drivers feel the power and refinement of our first-ever Explorer ST, performance bred from racetracks around the world, demand will only grow stronger.”

The Explorer’s rear-wheel drive architecture makes it more nimble, more athletic and sportier. Additionally, the Explorer has 600 more pounds in maximum towing capacity when properly equipped. The 3.0-liter Ecoboost engine is remarkable for the amount of power and performance it can provide this large SUV. As I wrote earlier this week, Ford has done wonders with power and performance from their Ecoboost technology and it’s certainly making the Explorer ST exciting too.

Ford to introduce XLT Sport Appearance Package for 2021 Explorer

Ford is adding a new XLT Sport Appearance Package this summer for the 2021 Explorer, featuring unique Carbonized Gray-painted 20-inch wheels with matching grille, skid plates and hood lettering, and finished with dual chrome exhaust tips.
Interior highlights include unique ActiveX Light Slate two-tone seats with accent stitching, matching the center console lid and door trim panels. Previous offerings of this popular appearance package accounted for one of every four Explorer XLT models sold and returns as more young SUV buyers are entering the showroom.

“Our Sport Appearance Package offers a new styling dimension for Explorer XLT customers,” said Patterson. “It has always been a favorite among our younger customers looking for a more energetic design and feel at a great value.”

Three decades ago, Ford revolutionized the automotive industry by creating the SUV. Now 30 years, that same SUV, appropriately named, continues to flourish while it also evolves to attract new, younger drivers. Even performance-oriented consumers can opt for the Explorer ST and enjoy its sporty performance. According to Ford, eighteen percent of new Explorer buyers are 18 to 35 years old, while 46 percent are 36 to 55 years old.

2020 Ford Explorer ST rear tail light

“Ford changed the game three decades ago with the civilized, all-purpose utility vehicle refined with easy-to-use electronic 4x4 controls and luxury packages like the Eddie Bauer edition,” said Patterson. “Families flocked to the new platform, leaving their boring minivans behind – and we’re seeing history repeat itself all over again.”

Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. In addition to being a nationally syndicated automotive columnist, Jimmy has been published in a compilation book about children growing up with disabilities, where he shared his own very personal experience. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


Digitaldoc (not verified)    February 4, 2020 - 4:58PM

Imagine that folks like their SUV's with some performance. Perhaps Nissan, GM, Toyota and Subaru should apply this concept to their compact and subcompact offerings as well that can barely get below 10 secs in the zero to sixty run.

Mark Day (not verified)    February 6, 2020 - 3:30PM

We’ve been through this in the past – Ford, and others, produced high- performance in their large cars. They now repeat with larger SUVs. The Pontiac GTO was what got the past performance ball (and sales) rolling – not the large Bonneville.
To Ford: for performance, concentrate on the compact Escape-size, with a V6.
Also, I won’t be purchasing any vehicle that can’t have the ridiculous auto stop/start permanently disabled.