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2020 Honda Pilot vs. 2020 Ford Explorer: Which Is Better?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Eric Brandt January 2020
  • The 2020 Ford Explorer is all-new and the 2020 Honda Pilot got a face-lift last year.
  • The Explorer has more engine options (including a hybrid) but the Pilot is more affordable.
  • Both are family-friendly crossovers with three rows of seats.

If you're shopping for a practical 3-row crossover, there's a good chance the Ford Explorer and the Honda Pilot have shown up on your shopping list. These are two trusted names in family transportation and the Explorer is all-new for 2020 with some big changes making it more competitive with the pragmatic Pilot.

Let's take a closer look at the differences and similarities between these two SUVs and find out which is better.

Exterior

Both of these SUVs speak their respective corporate design languages very well. Frankly, neither of them are particularly exciting to look at, but these are both more about practicality than they are about flashy styling. That said, the sporty Explorer ST and the moody Pilot Black Edition both look pretty cool in their own ways. These two crossovers are very similar in size with the Ford being just two inches longer than the Honda.  

Interior

The Pilot and the Explorer both have three rows of seats, but they have different maximum seating capacities. The Explorer seats up to seven and the Pilot seats up to eight, since the Honda's third row has three seats and the Ford's third row only has two. In both SUVs, seating is airy and comfortable in the first two rows while third-row legroom is a little cramped, but acceptable for adults on short drives or for kids on long road trips. As for cargo space, the Explorer has a little more room than the Pilot. See the 2020 Honda Pilot models for sale near you

Both of these crossovers have modern, refined interiors, especially in the higher trims. They both feel a bit cheap on the low end, but when you graduate to more expensive trims you're treated to more premium materials and more modern technology. The best way to find out which interior is a better fit for your family is to check them both out in person and load everyone up. See the 2020 Ford Explorer models for sale near you

Mechanicals

The Pilot only has one engine option, but the Explorer has four. The Pilot has standard front-wheel drive (FWD) with available all-wheel drive (AWD) and the all-new Explorer has returned to its roots with standard rear-wheel drive (RWD) and available 4-wheel drive (4WD).

2020 Honda Pilot Engine

  • 3.5-liter V6; 280 horsepower, 262 lb-ft of torque; up to 20 miles per gallon in the city/27 mpg on the highway

2020 Ford Explorer Engines

  • 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-4; 300 hp, 310 lb-ft of torque; 21 mpg city/28 mpg hwy
  • 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6; 365 hp, 380 lb-ft of torque; 18 mpg city/24 mpg hwy
  • 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 (ST); 400 hp, 415 lb-ft of torque; 17 mpg city/23 mpg hwy
  • 3.3-liter hybrid V6; 318 hp, 322 lb-ft of torque; 27 mpg city/29 mpg hwy

Despite only having four cylinders, the turbocharged base engine in the Explorer beats the Pilot's V6 in both performance and fuel economy. From there, you can crank up the performance of the Ford with two variants of a twin-turbo V6 or make it more efficient with its frugal hybrid option. Although the Honda only offers one engine, it's a good engine that's earned a reputation for reliability and for striking a good balance between performance and efficiency.

Technology

The Explorer and the Pilot are both generously appointed when it comes to standard safety technology. In the Pilot, you get the Honda Sensing driver assistance technology suite as standard equipment on every trim. Honda Sensing includes automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, road-departure warning and adaptive cruise control. In the Explorer, you get standard Ford Co-Pilot360, which comes with blind spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic high-beams, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, and post-collision braking.

The standard infotainment system in the Pilot is a bit of a bare-bones 5-in unit that doesn't offer a lot of features. If you're shopping for a Pilot, we recommend upgrading to the optional 8-in screen which adds Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The Explorer comes standard with a nice 8-in infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and it's upgradable to a 10.1-in vertical tablet-style screen.

Pricing

The Pilot has a starting MSRP of $31,550 and the Explorer starts at $32,765. Since the Explorer has higher-performance engines available, the maximum price goes up to the high-$50k range while the nicest Pilot goes to right around the $50k mark.

Conclusion

The best reason to consider a Pilot over an Explorer is if you really want or need that extra seating capacity. However, if you don't need eight seats, the all-new Explorer is the better crossover in many ways. It has a more powerful and more efficient base engine, more standard technology and multiple engine options so you can pick the one that's perfect for you. Find a Honda Pilot for saleor Find a Ford Explorer for sale

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2020 Honda Pilot vs. 2020 Ford Explorer: Which Is Better? - Autotrader
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