DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. is seeking to broaden the appeal of the venerable Explorer by better listening to the customers who have made it the nation's best-selling utility vehicle all time.
The automaker says Explorer buyers asked for more interior space, towing capability and performance. The sixth-generation Explorer, introduced late Wednesday ahead of the Detroit auto show, will deliver on those customer wishes, Ford says.
The 2020 vehicle, on sale this summer, was redesigned on a new rear-wheel-drive, unibody platform that gives it sportier styling and what Ford engineers describe as better handling. The seven-passenger crossover can tow up to 5,600 pounds -- 600 more than the outgoing version -- and has best-in-class second- and third-row headroom, Ford claims.
"We built it around the way people use the car," Bill Gubing, the Explorer's chief program engineer, said at a briefing ahead of Wednesday's reveal. "Even the smallest features are designed from a customer perspective."
The 2020 Explorer will be more expensive than the current version, but Ford contends that customers are willing to pay the higher prices for more content and capability. It starts at $33,860, including shipping, $400 more than the 2019 Explorer, but the base model includes more than a dozen new standard features, including a power liftgate, Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of driver assist technology and Wi-Fi connectivity.
The base engine, a 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline-four, is expected to get 300 hp and 310 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with a 10-speed transmission. Buyers can upgrade to a 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 on the high-end Platinum trim that's expected to get 365 hp and 380 pound-feet of torque. Intelligent four-wheel drive is available.
Ford also plans to offer a hybrid Explorer and a high-performance ST version, which replaces the Sport trim. Ford has not yet released details on those variants.
"It's our broadest-ever lineup," said Craig Patterson, Ford's marketing manager for the Explorer. "We're expanding what the role of the SUV is."