2020 Ford Explorer ST | Finally, a Real Performance SUV from Ford

2020 Ford Explorer ST | Finally, a Real Performance SUV from Ford


I know that title may be a bit harsh, but if you read our review of the somewhat lackluster 2019 Edge ST you’ll understand its meaning. That version of the Edge was marketed as the first SUV from Ford Performance. Other than the nice styling, that car was a let-down. Ford really needed to do something special to redeem their efforts to produce a true performance SUV. Enter the 2020 Ford Explorer ST.

Check out our video review:


Let me get this out of the way right up front. I was extremely excited to see that the newest version of the venerable Ford Explorer was returning to a Rear-Wheel-Drive based architecture. In my humble opinion, RWD is simply superior from a driving dynamics standpoint than a FWD design. For the ST model, the Ford Performance engineers took advantage of this drivetrain change and produced what I consider the first real performance SUV from Ford.


The new Explorer's styling makes it look much wider than the outgoing model. We especially like the headlights.

So how good is the Explorer ST? I wish I could give to a complete answer, but sadly I didn’t get as much time with ExST as I would have liked. However, even with minimal seat time you can instantly tell that the drivetrain is really dialed in. The 3.0L EcoBoost V6, first introduced in the Lincoln Continental, is a very potent little engine. With twin turbos supplying 400HP and 415lb-ft of torque to the excellent 10R80 automatic transmission and AWD system you’re left 4,700 pound family truckster than can make the 0-60 sprint in the low 5.0 second range. Add a little tuning and those power numbers can increase dramatically. We’ve seen sub-4 second 0-60 times and the ¼ mile knocked out in the low 12s. Mix it up with some ethanol blended fuels and you have companies like Livernois Motorsport throwing down over 450HP and 525lbft to the wheels. That’ll get your attention.


For you guys hoping to see a Coyote under the hood of an Explorer eventually, it looks like it might be a tight squeeze.

Ford Performance also worked over the suspension tuning. They managed to make this heavy truck feel sporty, but not at the expense of ride quality. The AWD system and decent factory tires provide ample grip. In fact, you’ll probably find that the limits are much higher than you would expect from a 3-row SUV. I’d go so far as to say that is the overall theme of the performance aspects of Explorer ST, surpassing your expectations. And that theme extends to the braking system as well, which a can bring all that fast steel to a stop in a respectably short distance.


The Explorer's suspension is more aluminum intensive than previous models.
Ford has been steadily improving the interiors of their new cars for years, and the new generation of Explorers is no exception. The materials choices are very nice, and the quality is nicer than the previous model. Front and center is a large vertically mounted touch-screen. It acts as the control center for the navigation, entertainment, and climate control systems. The black leather seats are supportive and comfortable, and the heated steering wheel is a welcome addition during a polar vortex. Second row passengers are treated to heated reclining captain’s chairs, and power points to charge your devices can be found throughout the cabin. If you like a sun roof in your ride, Ford has you covered there with a massive panoramic unit. If you haven’t sat in a new Ford lately, check out the new Explorer. I think you’ll like it.


The interior is much better than earlier Fords. There's still room for improvement, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

As for the styling, this is another area where Ford got it right. The new Explorer has a much larger and refined presence that the old one. The ST adds the expected blacked out wheel and grill, while also carrying on the tradition of minimal chrome accents. It certainly carries the ST styling DNA that we’ve become familiar with in the Focus and now greatly missed Fiesta ST models. The Explorer ST looks properly aggressive without veering into over-the-top territory. This is a vehicle that knows its intended purpose and audience.


This center mount vertical screen is possibly one of the worst touch screen integrations I've seen in any vehicle. Most of the apps make very poor use of the massive amount of available screen real estate.
And, as in the case of out tester, when you’re spending just north of $59,000 you expect a quality product. Ford again delivers there. The fit and finish of our truck was as good as any I have seen from the Blue Oval. While some new Fords have some features that appear to have been cheapened by the bean counters, the Explorer ST seems to have avoided much of their wraith. You get excellent LED lighting, a quality stereo, super performance, snappy styling, and premium level fit-and-finish. The Explorer engineering and design team should be proud. They’ve put together a new Ex-Truck that should solidify Ford’s place as the leader in the SUV market for years to come. And the team at Ford Performance just added the cherry to the sundae with the ST model. Get out and try one for yourself.


The full digital cluster is very nice, but the image does lag when changing modes.


The console controls are logically laid out and have a fairly quality build. I especially like the inductive charging pad behind the drive mode buttons.


The body and chassis structure make use of large amount of aluminum, such as this rather strong looking extruded brace.


The 2020 Explorer ST cuts a strong stance from any angle.


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