New Explorer ST promises power, driving fun and capability

Ford’s new 2020 Explorer has already raised some eyebrows with its rear-wheel drive platform and proportions, as well as its unusual front fascia. But even if you aren’t fond of the way the regular Explorer looks, then the new Explorer ST might change your mind, since it just adds another layer of aggression.

2020 Ford Explorer ST has 400 HP, wants to be taken seriously as a performance SUV
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But let’s talk engines first - under the Explorer ST’s hood lies a 3.0-liter EcoBoost turbo V6 that makes a claimed 400 horsepower and 562 Nm / 415 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels on all models through a ten-speed automatic transmission which Ford describes as “quick-shifting,” so we assume it’s been tuned to give snappier responses compared to how it behaves in other applications.

No zero to sixty time is quoted, though, but Ford does tell us its top speed is 230 km/h or 143 mph.

But since the vehicle weighs just over 2.1 tons or 4,700 pounds, a realistic benchmark sprint time is probably somewhere in the five-second region.

2020 Ford Explorer ST has 400 HP, wants to be taken seriously as a performance SUV
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You can distinguish the Explorer ST from lesser models via its unique blacked out mesh grille up front, unique bumpers and rims, lower bodyside details, as well as the ST badges that adorn its grille and tailgate.

At the back it gets quad exhausts and they really give it a particularly sporty look, as do the blacked out 21-inch rims which hide big brake rotors and red calipers.

There’s also a distinct lack of chrome that really gives it a bit of a menacing demeanor, as all details that would have been chrome on other models are finished in satin black on the ST.

Inside you’ll notice the special ST-branded sports seats, but the rest of the interior seems to be very similar to other Explorer trim grades.

Buyers will be able to opt for two packs called the ST Street Pack and ST Track Pack, but Ford doesn’t detail them separately, simply saying they add the bigger brakes with the red calipers - it doesn’t mention each pack’s specifics.

2020 Ford Explorer ST has 400 HP, wants to be taken seriously as a performance SUV
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The regular 2020 Explorer is set to reach showrooms this summer, with a starting price of just over $32,000, but we don’t know if the ST will be available from the start and how big a price premium it will carry.

But is Ford holding out for an even hotter version of the Explorer? I mean the Explorer ST is motivated by a 3.0-liter V6 turbo, yet the Blue Oval does have a larger and more powerful 3.5-liter V6 turbo it could use to that end. It’s the unit powering the F-150 Raptor, an application where it makes 450 horsepower - a derivative of this engine also powers the new Ford GT supercar and it makes even more power in that (647 horses).

The 3.5-liter therefore has plenty of power to give, so maybe a 500+ horsepower variant of it could power a completely hypothetical Explorer RS. This is pure speculation, but it’s maybe not as far fetched as you may think because the market for high-powered performance SUVs is booming, frankly, and this Explorer RS would have the same performance level as, say, a Porsche Cyenne Turbo, yet it would be considerably cheaper to buy. Food for thought...

Further reading

2020 Ford Explorer
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Read our full review on the 2020 Ford Explorer.

2016 Ford Explorer High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2016 Ford Explorer.

Six Generations of the Ford Explorer
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Six Generations of the Ford Explorer

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