Ford Explorer Hybrid signals the start of a big electrified push

Kelley Robertson
January 15, 2019

On Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Ford introduced the 2020 Explorer hybrid and ST models to give Americans more options in the showroom.

Engineers say the top speed of the monster has also increased to 143 miles per hour (230 kph), with the help of the quick-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission.

The full Explorer family, which follows on the heels of the hot-selling new Expedition, goes on sale this summer. When engaged via the Selectable Drive Mode dial in the center console, the steering system tightens for sportier reaction, the gas pedal responds more aggressively, gears hold longer and shift quicker, and an enhanced engine note plays through the cabin. Ford will offer both ST Street Pack and ST Track Pack upgrades, with 21-inch aluminum wheels and red-painted brake calipers, and differing levels of performance brakes.

Visually, the ST sets itself apart from the regular SUV with a black mesh grille insert, liftgate appliqué, lower bodyside details, roof-rack side rails, and unique skid plate elements.

The ST replaces the Explorer Sport in the new sixth-generation lineup gaining a punchier engine, tighter chassis tuning and exclusive styling. On the inside, drivers are greeted by a flat-bottom steering wheel and leather bucket seats.

The hybrid features a 3.3-liter, naturally aspirated V-6 paired to a lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor to provide a combined output of 318 horsepower. The 12.3-inch digital instrument panel and towing package are standard, too. A brand new 10-speed modular hybrid transmission has been used. All-wheel drive will be optional on the Explorer hybrid. The company says the car's liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack lives in a specially designed space beneath the second-row seats, and doesn't reduce interior comfort or cargo-carrying ability.

The Explorer Limited hybrid comes with leather upholstery, first- and second-row heated seats, a wireless charging pad for phones and tablets, and a 14-speaker B&O audio system.

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