How Does The 2020 Ford Explorer Compare Against Its Predecessor?

While it may not be as an iconic nameplate as the Mustang or the F-Series, the Explorer is still one of Ford’s most popular models, and was last year’s best-selling non-premium midsize SUV in the U.S.

So yes, it’s one of those situations where you as an automaker can’t afford to make any mistakes as far as its replacement is concerned, which is probably why Ford played it relatively safe when it comes to the design of this all-new 2020 model.

Was it a mistake?

Judging by your reactions in the comments section after the 2020 Explorer’s unveiling, it seems Ford has failed to impress you, our readers, with the styling of their latest SUV. While we’re not here to judge, we do understand it if anyone thinks the older model looks somewhat more rugged than the brand new one.

A once imposing front end has been rounded off a little bit, gaining smaller headlights, new grille design and a more angular bumper. It’s new, but somehow doesn’t look tremendously modern, which goes double for the rear-end design – although that’s what makes it instantly recognizable as an Explorer, for better or worse.

Thankfully the profile does look sharper, with a slightly sloped roofline and a more dynamic shoulder line. In a way, the Explorer looks like it lost weight, which it actually did, roughly 113 lbs (51.2 kg).

Safer and more luxurious

Even though this isn’t a premium product (that’s Lincoln’s job), it’s easy to see that compared to its predecessor, or any other Explorer for that matter, the 2020 model boasts a much better built interior, evident by the absence of hard plastics on the upper and lower dashboard, at least on the Platinum version. You also get dual-zone automatic climate control, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster if you pay extra, to go with the 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment display, which looks way better than the old 8.0-inch screen.

Then there’s the available heated front and second-row seats, 14-speaker B&O sound system, wireless smartphone charging, 10-way power passenger seat or the twin-panel moonroof. It’s hard to argue in favor of the old cabin, let’s leave it at that.

As for safety, the 2020 Ford Explorer comes with pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection as standard, as is forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. You also get lane-keeping assist, rear view camera, automatic high-beam headlights and blind spot information with cross-traffic alert. Pay extra and you gain adaptive cruise control too, a reverse brake assist system, plus Active Park Assist 2.0.

To be fair though, the 2019MY Explorer did pretty well for itself too in this department: Adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning, Active Park Assist, from 180-degree camera, Lane keeping system with lane-keeping aid and lane-keeping alert, the Reverse Sensing system and more.

Time to let us know which of the two you like best, as well as which model you feel will prove more successful for Ford, in the long run. All we’ll say is that matching the old fifth-generation Explorer’s sales numbers going forward is not going to be easy.

  • LJ

    It’s fine. The exterior re-styling may be conservative, but the interior is a big improvement. This thing will sell like hotcakes.

    • charlotteharry57

      Doubt it will sell any more than the current one.

      • LJ

        Well, the current one sells like hotcakes, so…

        • cbATL

          Correct – the current Ford Explorer is the fastest selling in SUV in the US and the design is 7 years old.

          • mkole1964

            I’m not sure what “fastest” means because it sure doesn’t mean best. The Grand Cherokee, Wrangler, Cherokee, Rogue, Equinox, etc. all outsell it.

          • Bullitt2605

            It does not compete with any of those models and none of those manufacturers has anything that can compete with the Explorer.

          • FordMopar

            Different class!

          • Karl

            Obviously he meant mid size SUV/CUV!

  • ThisDecepticonWillFU

    It’s like the Ford Explorer went from being a Texas Instruments pocket calculator to a Samsung phone in one night.

    • ErnieB

      And that’s a very good thing! Well that tablet is too big, but at least they have different sizes.

  • Bash

    So per the photo above, the rhythm says that the next one will be a complete new. That’s what it says, right?

  • DE32W

    Hey Ford, how about you fix the following first?

    1) Cornea burning, glare-y af reflector LED headlights. Seriously. F-150, F-250, Explorer, etc. IIHS failed you for good reason on the headlights.

    2) Interior design and materials. Why does this interior look like someone grabbed a circa-2009 car and slapped on a 2019 tablet? I’m not sure why Ford has very cheap interior plastic that looks and feels plastic. The Edge is the worst offender. Ditch that touchscreen or integrate it better.

    3) Make your seat leather not feel thick and tough as a cow with psoriasis.

    That being said, well done on rear wheel drive, powerful engines, and adding all the safety equipment.

  • Rocket

    The styling is sufficiently evolutionary in my opinion. It’s both instantly recognizable as an Explorer but clearly different. The interior, on the other hand, is not instantly recognizable, and that’s a good thing.

    There are going to be a lot of preowned current gen Explorers hitting the market in a few months. A LOT!

    • charlotteharry57

      Unless the economy tanks. Also, I don’t think it’s different enough for your prediction to come true.

      • Rocket

        With improved safety, packaging, efficiency and capability, plus a wider trim selection, including a hybrid? Sure it will. Only a serious economic downturn or massive quality issues will prevent this thing from selling in big numbers. I guess we’ll know soon enough.

    • looking at it head on it reminds me of the new Rav4.

  • charlotteharry57

    Except for the rear, which was clearly better on the ’19, I’m not sure I prefer one over the other exterior-wise. BUT, Ford just can’t get this one right on the interior. The ’19 has the Fusion-inspired dash, with the infotainment screen too low. The new one has that oversized, hideous tablet slapped on a circa-90s dash..

    • FordMopar

      The tall 10.1″ portrait tablet from I read in other sites is only for Platinum trim. XLT and ST trims will have normal landscape 8″ screen in place.

  • ErnieB

    This might just be my next SUV! The comparison shows a much improved interior and the evolutionary exterior, while not wow, is nice. I hope the seats are also more comfortable.

    • cbATL

      Me too.

  • Paul

    I think they did a pretty good job with it.The exterior of the new one and the interior of the old one is how I’m going.

    • except that damn tablet. it’s quite the eyesore.

      • FordMopar

        Did you see the interior of ST trim? The tablet is turned sideways with 8″ screen. This tall 10.1″ portrait tablet is for Platinum trim only, I believe.

  • FoxJ30

    – I’ve only ridden in the current Explorer a couple of times, but I never felt that the interior was problematic
    – Is the new one all-new? The proportions of the rear look a little different, but the detailing is very similar
    – Looking at that picture of all of the Explorers lined up, all I can say is WOW that car’s gotten big. These things are behemoths, even compared to the BoF 3rd and 4th gen models.

    • designer_dick

      Yes, it’s all-new. The old car was built on Ford’s D3 platform, which is a derivative of Volvo’s ancient, FWD P2 platform, while the new one is built on Ford brand new RWD CD6 platform.

  • Bob Hissom

    This will be my next vehicle (or the Aviator). If they would darken the casing on the drivers lights. They stick out way too much . Reminds me of Predator mandibles. Everything looks great. Especially the ST.

  • I can’t understand how Ford can design the Mustang, the GT, make the current Lincoln Lineup, be behind the rebirth of Jag, Land Rover, Aston Martin and Volvo… And still come up with boring cars and SUVs. Ok this interior is more modern, but “let’s put a big screen in the middle to modern!”. It seems Ford can’t design a Car or SUV without looking for inspiration in the brands it used to own. Ok this one pretends less than the previous to be a Range Rover… But it’s boring.

  • Look at Ford’s lineup… take out the pick up trucks, GT, Mustang… It’s full of inspirations from the brands they sold.

  • Disgusting! The old model was at least handsome in some sense. New model looks like it’s winning at chubby bunny

  • MarketAndChurch

    It actually looks really good, but pictures can’t really capture that.

  • Thetruthísntalwayspopular

    I wish they’d been a lot bolder with it. It already looks like it needs replacing. The interior is somewhat ruined by that large and awkward looking screen sticking right up like that. What does Ford really stand for today? What is it’s identity? This car says to me that they don’t really know themselves.

  • Miknik

    Rear 3/4 views look almost identical, like those “why bother” facelifts popular nowadays; If anything, the wider chrome strip that is visually continued in the rear lights looks more modern on the old one;

  • EL CHAPO THA GREAT

    This new explorer is a laughable asf. The old looks better, but they are still unreliable as ever.

  • john1168

    In every way, the new one will be better than the old one. Except the front of the old one looks WAAAYYYY better than the new one. And the old one had lots of room for improvement on the front end appearance.

    The old one, being based on the Taurus platform, was a packaging nightmare. Such a big vehicle and no interior room at all.

    I hope Ford puts a limited slip rear differential in the new one and bigger brakes on the ST would be nice too.

  • Pissed Canuck

    Can’t wait for the 400 horse Explorer ST.

  • ztamg04

    The old one looks way better, same with the old version of the Ford Edge. Ford has now ruined the explorer for me. Oh well.

  • Liam Paul

    ha sell one for 23k , just a basic one, auto ac no power, not everyone can afford new when their so loaded

  • Shane Watson

    Ford needs to really consider the Explorer more like the original 1990s version. 2011-current Explorers are just another crossover, not a true SUV. Sadly the partnership with Eddie Bauer ended a decade ago. I even have a bag from them after getting one with the V8 engine with the permanent AWD. The new-2020 Aviator comes close to that, minus the downward sloping roofline. I mentioned something similar to this on Ford’s Social website a number of years ago and they deleted it. It was odd to say the least.

  • ZYGIUS

    So new Explorer have face from old Edge?…

  • MarketAndChurch

    A vast improvement in a direction different than what I – and everyone else – was expecting the explorer to evolve in… which is nice, being surprised in a good way. I have too admit, I wasn’t too hot on it at first, but seeing more and more videos of it, I think it looks really good.

  • john1168

    Mechanically, the new one is vastly superior to all prior Explorers in every way. Visually though, it fails to impress. Particularly the front end. The front is terrible looking with the way the headlights join up with the grille. Just a couple of minor adjustments to the front styling would make a world of difference but until then, no thanks.

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