Ford Authority

2020 Ford Explorer ST Performance Explained

We were just in Portland, Oregon to drive the all-new 2020 Ford Explorer and its more powerful variant, the Explorer ST. The latter is Ford’s first high-performance three-row SUV, powered by a twin-turbo, 3.0L V6 good for 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. Ford also claims its new big guy gets improved handling, braking, and overall agility in the turns compared to its predecessor.

We sat down with Ed Krenz, Chief Functional Engineer at Ford Performance. He shared with us what performance components were added to the 2020 Ford Explorer ST to make it feel different from the rest of the Explorer lineup.

Krenz told us that the Ford Edge ST served as a testbed for developing the Explorer ST. Not only was the Edge ST Ford’s first attempt at the performance SUV game, but it also allowed engineers to gather feedback from owners, keeping the good, and improving on areas that needed work.

For instance, one of the 2020 Explorer’s key technical features is an all-new rear-wheel-drive architecture, known as the CD6 platform. It played a big role in developing the full-size crossover’s driving dynamics. According to Krenz, the new Explorer was developed from the ground up with a performance variant in mind, contrary to the Edge ST – which was added during the vehicle’s mid-cycle refresh.

So, what kind of performance components are we talking about here? For starters, the Ford Explorer ST features entirely different suspension tuning. Shocks are identical to those of a regular Explorer, but the ST models get stiffer springs all around: 10 percent firmer up front and 8 percent at the rear. Krenz and his team then increased the ride frequency of the shock absorbers – 4 percent in the front, 3 percent in the rear. Finally, the roll gradient, which is responsible for controlling a vehicle’s body roll, was stiffened by 10 percent at all corners.

In terms of chassis rigidity, the Explorer ST gets a set of larger sway bars that are a full millimeter larger in diameter – 33 mm versus 32 mm on the standard Explorer. Brakes have also been beefed up, but one would need to opt for the available ST Street Pack ($995) to get them. The package adds vented rotors and larger calipers, front and rear, growing 18 mm up front, and 30 mm out the back. There’s also a High Performance Package ($1,595) that adds performance brake lining.

These performance-enhancing components, along with a re-calibration of the ten-speed automatic gearbox, the addition of a 650-watt transmission cooling fan versus the 500-watt unit on Explorer Platinum, and the vehicle’s steering resistance, all contribute to making the new Ford Explorer ST feel much more substantial when behind the wheel than the rest of the 2020 Explorer lineup.

During our drive through Oregon’s winding mountain roads, the vehicle proved to feel well planted, exhibiting far less body roll than the other Explorer variants. We were also pleased by the braking abilities of the large SUV; the brakes allowed us to properly push the model hard to its limits, with very little noticeable brake fade. That rear-wheel-drive architecture also gives the Explorer much more composed handling characteristics that resemble those of a large German sedan rather than a three-row people hauler.

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Automotive journalist from Canada.

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  1. fYoRdS

    That looks really good. I don’t want to see the price. Probably GT350 money.

  2. vbondjr1

    That’s all well and good, how about an Explorer GT 5.0L 480hp/420tq w/10-speed auto AWD, magnetic ride, Brembo brakes, active exhaust, a nicer set of performance wheels, GT interior, B&O stereo system, Alcantara steering wheel, agressive body work, etc. This way Ford has something to compete with the SRT vehicles

  3. vbondjr

    To me, not only did Ford make the wrong choice not to put a V8 in the explorer, Ford also made the wrong choice with the V6 that they put in the Explorer. Ford could have done alot better putting the 450hp/510tq 3.5L Ecoboost V6 in the Explorer and made one hell of an SUV. If the CD6 chassis is going to underpin the next mustang then there should be no reason that the Explorer shouldn’t be able to support things like a performance Magnetic ride, Brembo brakes, a true dual exhaust engineered to sound similar to the Ford GT super car, staggered size tires that are wider in the rear, a factory lowered suspension, a slightly more aggressive body design front and rear, a sportier interior (Alcantara steering wheel, Recaro seats and things like that) A high performance B&O stereo system and have the whole thing priced similarly to the SRT Durango. That would have worked out perfectly.
    Another thing Ford Messed up on was the new Ecoboost mustang performance pack. I’m sorry Ford could have done way better with this car and offered more power and a better package. Ford should have just done a Mustang RS package to begin with, offering a 350hp/350tq 2.3L Turbo package and that should have been the way the car should sit. Seeing that Ford Performance has already partnered with Mountune on the Focus RS, there should be performance parts available for the Mustang Ecoboost as well and there should be something that gives the car at least 435hp/450lb-ft of torque from Ford Performance with a better exhaust than that disgusting sounding Borla exhaust. Honestly, Magnaflow/MAPerformance has the best Ecoboost Mustang exhaust, hands down. This should be what is on the Ecoboost performance pack mustang as an option and on the Explorer ST

  4. Explorer13

    I have a 2013 Ford Explorer bought brand new it has 44000 miles on it and taken very good care of. I have had nothing but problem for example paint bubbling on hood, I have been stranded 3 times vehicle wont start ant-theft kicks in for no reason, the AC has quit working twice, the leather is pulling apart on driver side drawer and at approximately 10000 miles the factory wheels were so pitted out I was embarrassed to drive it. I was curious if anyone else has had any of these issues. I am not sure what to do I have had it with this car.

    1. I had the hood bubbling on my 2013 explorer too… other than that, I never had a single mechanical problem until just before I sold it. Sun roof stopped working and lumbar support stopped working. It was a great car for me, but I understand your experience is different. I bought a 2020 Ford Explorer Limited RWD 2.3L with only 18,000 miles on it. Now at 20,000 miles the 10 speed 10R60 transmission needs to be rebuilt, and I am concerned about the differential single bolt recall issue without a good solution yet. Additionally, the interior fit and finish is not as good as my 2013. Sad. It rides really nice and I love the body style, but now may have to purchase something else. To add insult to the transmission problem that started in late Oct 23, I cannot get a Ford shop to work on it until late Nov 23. They are backed up with transmission work (hmm). This Explorer has not been a good experience for me thus far. The repair needed to correct the 7 to 6 gear shift issue appears very complicated. I am not sure of a good outcome once repaired. We’ll see. At least it is under warranty still, hence the reason I am using a Ford mtn shop.


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