With 400 horsepower on tap and a top speed of 143 mph, this isn’t one of those boring family SUVs, instead the 2020 Ford Explorer ST is a near perfect combination of a practical SUV with the heart of a sports car. It’s perfect for that driver that wishes they could sign on the dotted line for a Mustang, but that also have to be prepared for those Saturday excursions to soccer practice with the kids.
The 2020 Explorer is the first Explorer to get the ST badge that was formally only applied to the Focus ST and Fiesta ST. It’s the replacement for the old Explorer Sport and thanks to a new rear-wheel drive platform, the Explorer ST is the sportiest Explorer yet.
We already love the fact that the Explorer has switched to a sportier rear-wheel drive platform, but Ford also managed to pull the wheels more than six inches to the corners, while the overall length of the 2020 Explorer only increased by just over an inch. The weight distribution has also improved with only 51.3 percent of its weight at the front, compared to 54.9 percent with the last generation Explorer.
What does this all equate too? A sportier, more aggressive Explorer. Thanks to its shorter overhangs, sculpted body and sleek roofline, the 2020 Explorer now looks more muscular. The Explorer ST also get massive 21-inch black wheels to complete the more aggressive look.
At the heart of the Explorer ST lies a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 with 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft. of torque, which is 35 more hp and 65 more lb-ft. of torque than the old Explorer’s twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6. The 3.0-liter V6 is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive in the Explorer ST.
Besides the upgraded engine, the Explorer ST also gets stiffer springs, bigger anti-roll bars and sportier dampers. Ford also tweaked the electric power steering system to give it more feel. There are also seven driving modes: Normal, Sport, Eco, Trail, Deep Snow and Sand, Slippery, and Tow/Haul.
On the road, the 3.5-liter V6 packs a nice punch and it’s noticeably quicker than the old engine with a 0-60 mph time in the low 5 second range. The 10-speed automatic does sometimes feel like it sometimes can’t decide which gear to be in, but turn the dial to the Sport mode and the powertrain has no issues figuring out what it needs to do. In Sport mode the soundtrack is excellent, the throttle response is instant and the transmission does a better job of keeping the engine in the powerband.
With 400 horsepower on tap, there’s no denying the fact that the Explorer ST can pick up speed fast, but there are some issues that prevent it from being a full fledged high performance SUV. For starters, the transmission can sometimes feel a bit lazy to downshift and the steering feedback could be a little better.
You can also add upgrades, like the ST Street Pack ($995) or the ST High-Performance Pack ($1,595), which adds 21-inch wheels, high performance brakes with larger rotors, and red brake calipers.
Inside the Explorer ST gets unique leather seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel with the ST logo and special floor mats. Compared to the last Explorer, the sixth-generation Explorer’s interior has been significantly improved with higher quality materials, a 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. The overall look and feel of the interior does feel a bit more luxurious, but there are still some hard plastic bits that we could do without.
To keep the family safe, the 2020 Explorer ST comes standard with a long list of driver assistance technologies, like adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, lane keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, a blind spot monitor with cross-traffic alert, reverse brake assist. The rear view camera also features a unique built-in washer to keep it clean.
The Explorer ST also gets the Active Park Assist 2.0 system that makes it easy to park. Simply press a button to activate the system and drive past a parking spot so that the sensors can detect if it’s a good spot, then shift it into neutral to let the system do the rest of the work. The system takes over the steering, braking and acceleration to pull you perfectly into a parking spot. Once you’re ready to leave the system can also pull you out of the parking spot.
The 2020 Ford Explorer ST starts at $55,935.