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First Drive: 2020 Ford Explorer ST with Abdullah Khatib

Ford's 2020 Explorer ST is not only a great looking full-size SUV - but it’s one of my favourite road trip companions. Here’s why.

With 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque under the hood, the turbocharged V6 of the 2020 Explorer ST is one of the most athletic competitors in its class…

The last time I drove the Ford Explorer (Platinum) was in 2018, and I really enjoyed it as a road trip machine, mostly because of how comfortable it was. Longer distances didn’t feel all that bad – and every feature I could have needed was at my disposal. This time around, I felt the same way – but I didn’t want to stop driving.

With 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque under the hood, the turbocharged V6 of the 2020 Explorer ST is one of the most athletic competitors in its class (which is only surpassed by the Dodge Durango SRT, boasting a 6.4L HEMI V8 with 475 hp). That didn’t matter too much here, because I wasn’t pushing the vehicle to it’s limits – and I really wanted to enjoy everything this SUV had to offer – which was plenty. As for its acceleration, it was surprisingly strong – and more than I expected initially. For a bigger vehicle, I didn’t think I could hit 0-100 km/h as fast as I did while on the highway ramp (around 5 seconds). I would have loved to take it on the track, but perhaps for another time.

I would have been surprised if the ST version of the Explorer had lost its utilitarian qualities to compromise for luxury or comfort.

Beyond it’s driving capabilities, the Explorer is a great looking vehicle with lots of utility. Most of Ford’s newer models bring about that aspect, but with the size and feel of this full-size SUV, it’s more apparent. With that in mind however, I would have been surprised if the ST version of the Explorer had lost its utilitarian qualities to compromise for luxury or comfort. I found that it did a good job of meshing many of those things together fairly well – making a good all-around vehicle. 

It’s worth noting that the trunk space isn’t what it used to be (at least to me in comparison with the previous generation, especially when the third row seats are up).

Observing the Exterior

Aesthetically speaking, Ford has refined various parts of the Explorer’s exterior since the last generation. To start, the updated silhouette really enforces the sport SUV’s identity, with a streamlined and evolved design that you can’t help but appreciate. It’s not significantly different from its predecessor, but I would say that it advances the design of the previous model to make it feel more modern. 

Size wise, it hasn’t changed much – with Ford only adding about an inch to the 2020 model. It’s worth noting that the trunk space isn’t what it used to be (at least to me in comparison with the previous generation, especially when the third row seats are up). It does become a little more spacious when you do bring the seats down, which I preferred – since I didn’t have too many passengers. Many brands are squeezing in a 3rd row to frames which have traditionally been 2 row, however the functionality is useful as an option.

A Closer Look at the Interior

Now most – if not all – newer vehicles have impressive interiors nowadays, so I find it takes a few fine touches to make one stand out. From the moment you hop into the new Explorer ST, you will notice that it has a well-designed modern dashboard, complete with a 10.1” central touchscreen that’s really easy to navigate. Behind the steering wheel, another digital productivity screen (12.3”) is thoughtfully positioned to let you configure the look and function of your driving information.

It doesn’t end there: in the two front seats, the centre console offers neat enclosed space for recharging a smartphone (surface charger, so no cables needed), a gearbox knob (still getting used to these), and finally the ‘drive mode’ console, allowing you to shift into different driving configurations.

In my opinion, the most notable area of the interior is the massage seats. If you click the circular button on the side of the front seats, you pull up a module on the center touchscreen that allows you to setup different massage programs. It made the difference on the longer drives – and ultimately it’s really what sold me on the Explorer ST. The previous model also had the feature, but it was nice to jump back into the updated model and be able to experience a feature that I loved in the past. It’s clearly evident that comfort and luxury found their way into this sporty vehicle – and I’m all for it.

To ST or not to ST?

It boasts plenty of power, with tremendous space and ultimately brings on a lot more than you would think; and that can all be easily appreciated when driving this bad boy. 

With everything you’ve read so far, you’ll probably be able to tell by now that the 2020 Ford Explorer ST is a competitive SUV with lots to offer. It’s also much more compelling as an SUV than the similar Ford Edge ST. It’s twin-turbo V6 engine fit’s the SUV’s chassis very well – and the transmission, while being unpredictable at times – does a good job (based on our experience thus far). It’s worth mentioning that you need to take some time to choose your drive mode (and explore all), as the 2020 Explorer ST becomes more enjoyable when you see how it performs on all seven of it’s modes, ranging from eco to sport to off-road.

It’s not a perfect SUV – but in my opinion, the Ford Explorer ST 2020 deserves the ST name because of how much it offers (other people and fan opinions aside here as well). It’s worth giving a chance – as it offers a driving experience that tailors well to the enthusiast and the casual driver. 

The Verdict

Overall, the 2020 Ford Explorer ST is hands down one of the most enjoyable drives of the SUVs I’ve had the chance to drive this year. It boasts plenty of power, with tremendous space and ultimately brings on a lot more than you would think; and that can all be easily appreciated when driving this bad boy. 

It goes without saying that the Explorer ST is quite the standout SUV, especially when compared to others in its class. But in order to push this vehicle to its limits and appreciate its full potential, it does take a bit of time behind the wheel to get fully immersed in what it has to offer. 

You can build and price the vehicle on the Ford Canada website.

Check out the review on my site. Thanks for reading!

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Abdullah Khatib

Abdulla Khatib 🇱🇧|🇨🇦 💬: inspiring the millennial gentleman ✉️: abdulla@musclesandtussles.com 💼: @shopify 📌: toronto

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