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First driving test of the Ford Explorer Hybrid 2020: a new type of explorer

When the Ford
Explorer launched about thirty years ago, the success was immediate. Since then, more than 8 million explorers have found a happy home. This completely redesigned sixth-generation 2020 Explorer should only enhance the SUV's appeal, especially for those looking for the convenience and efficiency of a hybrid.

The explorer may not be so different from his predecessor, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. The new model enhances the old look with a slightly more tapered roofline, nicely sculpted car body sides and a longer wheelbase with shorter overhangs at the front and rear. Thinner headlights and redesigned fog lights embellish the front fascia, although the rump of the Explorer remains largely the same as before.

The big change for 2020 is actually under the skin of the explorer. The longer wheelbase is provided by a new rear-drive platform, which is a big difference compared to the propulsion architecture usually used for crossover vehicles. The rear-drive platform makes the Explorer a little more fun to drive, with better overall maneuverability, meaning the SUV can tow up to 5,600 pounds.

The basic engine of the Explorer is a turbocharged, 2.3-liter EcoBoost I4, developing 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Going up from there, you'll discover a 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6, with a more robust horsepower of 365 horsepower and 380 lb-ft. The ST gets a more powerful version of this 3.0-liter engine, with 400 horsepower and 415 pounds – stay tuned for a separate review of this model later. Finally, we come to the brand new Explorer Hybrid, which is the version I'm testing in the interest of this first disc.

Electrified, not electric

Under the hood, the Explorer Hybrid features a naturally aspirated 3.3-liter V6, complemented by a 35-kilowatt-hour battery and an electric motor. The Hybrid offers a total power of 318 horsepower and 322 lb-ft of torque, and buyers can specify the electrified powertrain with rear-wheel drive or AWD. A 10-speed automatic transmission handles shift tasks.

The hybrid explorer does not allow me to choose when it uses electricity, but it runs all the time in its most efficient mode. It relies on battery power only at parking speeds, with the engine starting when you are moving and on the road. The hybrid explorer certainly does not jump over the line, but it is fast enough and offers enough power for cruising and along the clear roads of my test run.

The hybrid explorer represents a brand new model for Ford.

Emme Hall / Roadshow

The Hybrid does not fight either during a steep, winding or steep climb. The 10-speed gearbox does not chase gears and will happily skip one or two wheels if needed. On the descent, the regenerative brakes of the hybrid do not feel so different from the standard Explorer plugs, with a gradual pedal response and no tendency to grab.

Ford and the EPA do not yet have official fuel consumption data from the 2020 Explorer Hybrid, although the automaker estimates that the electrified SUV should be able to travel about 500 km between full fuel. Explorer has an 18-gallon fuel tank; my quick calculation gives me an estimate of 27 or 28 mpg.

While the powertrain itself determines the amount of energy used by the battery at all times, drivers can choose between Normal, Sport and Eco modes to adjust settings such as throttle switchover , the crossing points of the transmission and the sensations of the direction. In addition, a slippery mode improves traction in sliding conditions and drag, deep snow and sand modes help the explorer to cross more difficult terrain. Finally, a pull / tow mode keeps the transmission in a higher gear for more power when towing a trailer. It should also be noted that if non-hybrid Explorer models can tow as much as the aforementioned 5,600 pounds, the Hybrid is limited to 5,000 pounds. Yet, it's a bit more than just a Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which is supposed to tow only 3,500 pounds.

All is well in the earth

The shorter overhangs of the Explorer, redesigned, make it more agile in off-road, with an approach angle of 20 degrees to help better overcome obstacles. The Hybrid can let up to 18 inches of water, and the available hill descent control keeps the Explorer nice and stable on a 45 degree incline (though the system is quite noisy). Explorer is not a serious all-terrain vehicle, but it is good to know that many abilities are available for those who love off the beaten path adventures.

The new Michelin SelfSeal tires are standard on my hybrid all-wheel drive tester. These rollers feature a natural rubber cured inside the tire, which serves as a sealant sealant to fill most tread punctures and can help slow down leaks. Unlike some flat tiresSelfSeal tires, which have a very stiff sidewall, do not compromise traction or ride quality. Even with large 20-inch wheels, the Hybrid does not collapse on potholes and offers a smooth ride. And hey, if you cut the side of a huge rock, the Explorer always comes with a spare tire.

Each Explorer comes with the Ford Co-Pilot 360 Driver Assistance Suite, which includes elements such as Blind Spot Monitoring and Lane Keeping Assistance. The Hybrid, however, comes standard with the Assist + package, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane centering technology, recognition of speed limit signs, and evasive steering assistance.

The petrol-electric powertrain is only available on the Explorer Limited version. It comes standard with LED headlights and taillights, rain-sensing wipers, heated and cooled front seats, second-row heated captain's seats, and a third-order fold-down seat. electric. seats. Speaking of which, the second row seats fold quickly for easy access to the third row, though the return is quite difficult for the passengers. Fold down the seats and you'll get a cargo area of ​​up to 88 cubic feet and a large enough area to carry plywood sheets of four by eight feet.

Overall, the interior is not much different from before, with the exception of optional 10.1-inch portrait-oriented infotainment. The My Limited Hybrid model, however, comes with a standard 8-inch screen, a built-in navigation, a Wi-Fi and Apple CarPlay access point and a Wi-Fi access point. 39, Android Auto. A wireless charger is also standard on this version, and a multitude of 12-volt, USB-A and USB-C ports are scattered throughout the cabin.

My big screen, you have (possibly)!

Nick Miotke / Roadshow

An optional 12.3-inch digital gauge group is an optional technical feature, featuring a feature called Quiet Screen, which displays only a small amount of information to reduce distractions. Consider this as a modern version of Saab's former Night Panel feature.

In general, the Ford Explorer 2020 represents a nice improvement over its predecessor. This is by no means a huge leap forward, but it's because the fifth-generation model was already decent and appreciated by consumers. If I can file a complaint, it is that the hybrid transmission is quite noisy even with the active noise cancellation technology of the Explorer.

The Hybrid is also quite expensive: $ 52,280 to start or $ 57,975, all loaded like the one you see here, including $ 1,095 for the destination. Yes, it is based on the Limited version, but keep in mind that the aforementioned Highlander Hybrid starts at around $ 37,000. Heck, even the three rows Lexus RX 450h is less expensive.

It's pretty, but it's expensive too.

Emme Hall / Roadshow

However, you can save a few dollars by opting for the basic XLT model, starting at $ 36,395. A non-hybrid limited edition starts at $ 48,130 and platinum at $ 58,250. The novelty of 2020 is an ST variant for fasting families, starting at $ 54,740.

Nevertheless, I have no doubt that the Explorer – and its hybrid variant – will be well received by buyers thirsting for SUVs. It looks great and brings together all technology buyers in this segment, while providing better driving dynamics and even more off-road driving and transportation capabilities. The Ford Explorer was already a solid offering in the mid-size SUV segment, and this 2020 model only enhances these attributes.

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