It may not look markedly different from the previous generation, but the Explorer has been completely redesigned for 2020. We enjoy its agile handling and spacious, quiet cabin, but the clunky transmission, noisy engine, and stiff-edged ride leave it with a middling rank among three-row midsized SUVs. Further, some comparably equipped rivals, such as the Hyundai Palisade and Subaru Ascent, cost thousands less.
The Explorer's rear-drive-based platform (most competitors are front-drive-based) contributes to its newfound handling chops and improved tow rating—5,300 pounds on our test vehicle. Our all-wheel-drive Explorer proved adept through corners, with responsive steering and firm suspension that gave drivers confidence. Ride quality is less compliant than many rivals, though, and it transmits frequent jiggles into the cabin.
The 300-horsepower turbocharged engine has plenty of oomph to get the Explorer up to speed quickly, yet, at 21 mpg overall, this four-cylinder doesn't have a fuel economy advantage over some of its smoother V6 competitors. Low-speed shifts from the 10-speed automatic transmission are noticeably rough, and the engine sounds raspy when accelerating—both missteps that make the Explorer seem unrefined.