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2019 vs. 2020 Ford Explorer: What’s the Difference?

The Ford Explorer is a trusted name in family SUVs. It has long served as a midsize SUV that is versatile enough to handle the daily commute, family road trips, some occasional off-roading, and just about anything else you could ask of an SUV this size. The Explorer is all-new for 2020, and the new generation brings with it some big changes, but it retains all of the virtues people have come to love about this trusty Ford.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s new for the 2020 Explorer.

2019 Ford Explorer vs. 2020 Ford Explorer exterior


The exterior design of the new Explorer is evolutionary. It’s not radically different from its predecessor, but rather it advances the design of the 2019 model to make it more modern. The 2019 and 2020 models are almost identical in size, with the new model being just one inch longer. See the 2019 Ford Explorer models for sale near you

The 2020 Explorer has a bit more visual variety than the 2019 model. The look of the new Explorer can change quite a bit depending on which trim you choose. For example, each trim on the 2020 Explorer has a different grille unique to each model, and the ST trim has black accents, red badging, and special wheels that hint at its sportiness. See the 2020 Ford Explorer models for sale near you

2019 Ford Explorer vs. 2020 Ford Explorer interior


Both the 2019 and 2020 Explorer models have interiors which are practical and reasonably roomy, but they also have an interior design that some might consider a little drab. In the case of both model years, interior material quality can get very nice as you work your way up the trims.

Interestingly, most models of the 2020 Explorer have six seats with second-row captain’s chairs, while the 2019 model was mostly the opposite. For 2019, most trims of the Explorer came standard with seven seats, and second-row captain’s chairs were an option that cost extra. For 2020, the second-row captain’s chairs become standard, and if you want seven seats with a bench in the second row, that will cost you extra. Most drivers will consider standard second-row captain’s chairs to be a good thing, but if you really want to maximize seating capacity, you might have an easier time finding what you’re looking for with a 2019 model.

The Explorer offers above-average cargo space. The 2019 model actually has a little more cargo volume than the 2020 model when all of the seats are folded up. However, when you fold down the third row of seats, the 2020 model has a little more room behind the second row.

2019 Ford Explorer vs. 2020 Ford Explorer mechanicals


The 2019 Explorer has three different engines available, and the 2020 model has four. One of the biggest differences between these two generations is that the 2019 model has standard FWD, and the 2020 Explorer returns to its roots of rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is optional for both.

2019 Ford Explorer Engines

  • 3.5-liter V6 making 290 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque; 17 mpg in the city/24 mpg on the highway

  • 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-four making 280 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque; 19 mpg city/27 mpg hwy

  • 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 making 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque; 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy

2020 Ford Explorer Engines

  • 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-four making 300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque; 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway mpg

  • 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 making 365 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque; 18 mpg city/24 mpg hwy

  • 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 (ST) making 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque; 17 mpg city/23 mpg hwy

  • 3.3-liter hybrid V6 making 318 hp and 322 lb-ft of torque; 27 mpg city/29 mpg hwy

Other than the hybrid variant of the new Explorer, every 2020 Explorer is turbocharged. As you can see by the numbers, the new and improved family of engines available under the hood of this Ford improves both performance and fuel economy. We’re very impressed by the satisfying blend of gutsy power and frugal efficiency from the new base engine of the Explorer, which will be enough to satisfy most drivers. However, those craving better performance will be right at home with the new Explorer ST.

2019 Ford Explorer vs. 2020 Ford Explorer tech


The new Explorer is much more generous with standard safety technology than the outgoing model. The 2020 Explorer comes standard with the Co-Pilot360 driver assistance tech suite, which includes blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic high-beams, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, and post-collision braking. The 2019 model has a similar, but less sophisticated system available called the Ford Smart & Safe package, and it’s available as an option on every trim but the base model.

The base infotainment system in the 2019 Explorer is a pretty basic 4.2-inch screen with Bluetooth, a USB port and not much else. If you get a 2019 Explorer, we really recommend upgrading to the user-friendly SYNC 3 system with a bigger screen and many more features, like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. As for the 2020 Explorer, an 8-in screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is standard, and you can upgrade to a huge, vertically-oriented 10.1-in screen which, unfortunately, cuts into a convenient cubby that makes a nice spot for your phone.

2019 Ford Explorer vs. 2020 Ford Explorer pricing


These two years of the Explorer have very similar starting prices. The 2019 Explorer has a starting MSRP of $32,365, and the 2020 model starts at $32,765. The high end of the 2019 Explorer gets into the mid-$50k range, while the 2020 model can cross the $60k mark. The Explorer Hybrid can be had in the Limited trim starting at $52,280.

2019 Ford Explorer vs. 2020 Ford Explorer conclusion


The new Explorer brings with it plenty of upgrades to justify going with the newly updated model over its 2019 predecessor. It retains many of the qualities of the previous model, like good performance and a family-friendly interior with a roomy cargo hold, and it improves on those qualities. We love the added standard safety tech and the newly available ST and Hybrid models, which add some variety to the Explorer’s model range. Find a 2019 Ford Explorer for sale or Find a 2020 Ford Explorer for sale

Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt is an author specializing in Oversteer content, new car reviews, and finding the best car, truck, and SUV deals each month. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Eric can often be found exploring the north woods on his 1983 Honda Gold Wing when the weather allows it. Father of four, husband of one, and unapologetic minivan enthusiast. Eric mastered driving stick by having a 3-cylinder Chevy... Read More about Eric Brandt

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