Ford Authority

2020 Ford Explorer Loses To Chevrolet Traverse In Recent Comparison

According to a recent MotorTrend comparison, the all-new 2020 Ford Explorer still doesn’t have what it takes to best its cross-town rival: the Chevrolet Traverse. Testing the Chevrolet Traverse Premier against the Explorer XLT, the magazine’s main takeaway was that the “Chevrolet is the more complete package” than the Explorer, with editors stating that the Traverse’s ride offered a “nice mix of comfortable and controlled.”

Meanwhile, the 2020 Ford Explorer XLT was described as difficult to live with, and suffered from “glaring faults.” For starters, the Explorer was ridiculed for its overall build quality, which is saying a lot given GM’s reputation for subpar interiors. The review noted “hard, scratchy plastics on the doors and dash, leatherette materials that feel more like rubber than leather,” “mismatched panels and exposed wiring,” and a “buggy” infotainment system.

2020 Ford Explorer interior

Additionally, the editors weren’t particularly fond of the Explorer’s powertrain, describing the turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder and 10-speed automatic as “sloppy.” In Ford’s haphazard defense, there is an available twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter EcoBoost six-cylinder engine that’s surely a more lively experience.

2020 Ford Explorer interior engine bay

But this was a comparison of “regular” models, not range-topping performance offerings, which Chevrolet doesn’t offer in crossover SUV form. The only engine in the Traverse is the naturally-aspirated 3.6L LFY V6 that produces 305 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, meaning it can barely stand up to the 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque generated by the 2.3L EcoBoost I-4 in the Explorer XLT, let alone the 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of twist generated by the 3.0L EcoBoost V6 in the Explorer ST.

That said, the fellas at MotorTrend found that that the Traverse’s atmospheric six and nine-speed automatic transmission were a much more cohesive package, describing the combo as “snappier and smarter,” than the Explorer’s engine/transmission combo.

2022 Chevrolet Traverse Premier

It looks like The Blue Oval may still work to do when it comes to the 2020 Explorer, especially given the fact that GM will refresh the Chevrolet Traverse for the 2022 model year, giving it updated styling, new features, and more standard active safety technologies, among other improvements.

Check out MT’s comparison here, and tell us in the comments if you agree with the review’s verdict. In addition, be sure to subscribe to Ford Authority for more Ford Explorer news and around-the-clock Ford news coverage.

Frankie's first favorite car was a 1968 Ford Mustang, and he's had a strong appreciation for the nameplate ever since. Later in his youth he became infatuated with Eleanor, thanks to Nicholas Cage's stellar performance. Frank's a real jokester, too.

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  1. Dean

    Nah… I’d rather have the Traverse. Good call on going back to RWD for Ford, and they’re always pushing the mechanical envelope. 300 horses in a four-cylinder is just good engineering! They got a hybrid, the ST… But I feel like it hasn’t changed enough from my grandparents’ old 2012. Until you really squint at the headlights, you can’t tell which one you’re looking at. And the cabin looks old, and uninviting. And I bet that four-cylinder’s real-life gas mileage sucks. Especially with the turbo, they usually do. Traverse just doesn’t mess around. I’ve driven both in town, and the Traverse is smoother. It looks better, and it’s overall more down-to-Earth. I feel like Traverse gives you more choices about what really matters to the buyers. That’s what’s best in this class. It’s got the edge.

  2. Tom

    And we wonder why the stock is at $.5.00 per share and now with zero dividend! This Hackett / Farley team is really doing a number on this automobile, excuse me, truck company.

    1. Lisa

      Tom, I think you mean “mobility company”. 😉

  3. Chris

    I’m disappointed the Explorer’s not a more complete package (although the ST is downright awesome). Don’t even get me started on the botched launch or the pricing. Ford obviously invested more money in some areas of the vehicle and cut corners in others. I really hope they address some of the criticisms, and quickly, especially the interior quality. That being said, I read and watch reviews from many auto journalists. I’m a junky with this stuff. Motor Trend’s opinion is just that – Motor Trend’s. I recently watched a video of a test of every single vehicle in the mid-size segment. They reviewed each in order of finish, from worse to first. Each person would give their opinion of the vehicle – the pros & cons, what they liked and didn’t like, then it was a back and forth discussion among them before moving on to the next vehicle. It really gave me a good feel for each one. The Explorer XLT ranked fourth, behind the Palisade/Telluride and the new Highlander. The general consensus on the Traverse was that it felt dated in how it drove, had so/so interior quality, and lacked numerous features for the high price (e.g. no sliding seat to access the third row from the driver’s side).

  4. Joe Menne

    Fixn to buy an Explorer st, The transverse is not even close. My old Explorer was the Sport model with the 3.5 liter twin turbo, the only thing i wasn’t crazy about was the front wheel drive based all wheel drive set up(same drive train as the Taurus SHO. TUNED-I’d say 5.7 hemis could not touch
    Much less hang or handle nearly as well as mine even with the lift and bigger tires. I hate I got T Boned but other wose it would be setting next to my 89 Bronco, 94 Lightning, 72 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Convertable and my wifes 2013 Taurus SHO. My son’s first car was my wifes 1st new car, a 87 Firebird with a 383 tuned port stroker(after he turned 25 ) the only other choice was the Durango SRT $15000 more and not but 2 car lengths faster

  5. Roy Chiles

    Motor Trend is on crack and that’s just their opinion and where I come from opinions are just like butt holes everyone got one some just stinks worse than others. The front wheel drive Chevrolet don’t look better than the 2012 Explorer let alone the 2020 which is sexier with the return to rear wheel drive layout, hands down I’d buy the 2020 Explorer ST in blue over the so call cross town rival any day of the week and yes Loser Jim messed up the roll out of the Explorer & Lincoln Aviator which is another sexy SVU, both are fixed now.if you look at a vehicle and don’t pay attention to the design changes you’re not looking at the vehicle, the only changes made to the Dodge Challenger exterior from 2008-20 are headlights & taillights I don’t hear No one complaining about that

    1. Chris D

      I like the styling. It’s not vastly different than the previous generation because Explorer owners used as focus groups were adamant it not be changed dramatically. That being said, the RWD proportions give it a broad, muscular stance the prior generation lacked. And I really like the curved body line starting along the upper rear quarter panel tapering downwards towards the inner front fender. I saw an Explorer at an auto show last fall, literally placed right behind the Palisade, and it literally drew out how plain the Hyundai looks in its basic proportion (as did the Telluride nearby). When you see them next to each other, the Explorer’s muscular stance and curved body side stand out.

      I want to touch on the Farley criticism. He’s been rising up the ranks because he’s a visionary, and appears to have excellent leadership skills. I see the botched launch being blamed partially on him. Why? Farley doesn’t run the show (yet), it’s Hackett and Bill Ford that are responsible. In the early 2000’s when Bill took over for Nasser, he made his top priority improving Ford’s launch quality and long-term durability. This made a real difference during the period, and there were obvious quality improvements. Unfortunately, that focus wained over time during Mulally’s leadership, and we saw a bunch of headaches with the 2011-2013 launches of the Fiesta/Focus/Escape. Numerous recalls, defective DPS4 transmission design and awful MyFord Touch infotainment system. Then Fields takes his eye off the ball, and allows the product line to age and become stale. They waited far too long to re-launch the Ranger and re-design the Navigator/Expedition. There should have been a compact SUV much sooner than the odd Indian Ecosport. Bill Ford has been in his role alongside these leaders, watching all of this play out for years. Blame him and Hackett. I think Farley is a guy that can actually fix things.

  6. David O Wiggins

    Geez, with Ford’s new RWD platform I figured the driving dynamics would best just about any of the midsize competitors’ offerings. If the Explorer can’t beat the Traverse it doesn’t stand a chance if cross shopped with a Pilot, Highlander or the midsizers from Hyundai/Kia. That’s downright embarrassing given all the money Ford spent developing it and the sticker prices on the window. A local dealer had a few Explorers on the lot and all of the sticker prices were north of $50k. As for Ford putting all of its eggs in the truck/SUV/cross-over baskets, I think the decision is going to come back and bite them. Ceding entire market segments to its competitors is short sighted and foolhardy. I’ve owned and driven Ford automobiles with manual transmissions exclusively for almost 40 years, and I guess I purchased my last and latest Ford in 2018. I don’t want a truck or an SUV, and I am getting too damn old to get my old ass into and out of a Mustang. I have enough trouble getting into and out of my Focus ST. The next generation Golf GTI will likely, and unfortunately, be my next car. I bleed Ford blue, but I feel really betrayed by a car company I have supported and loved for many years.

  7. Mike

    Didn’t help that they used a stripped Explorer then complained about it being stripped. This magazine did the same thing with the Escape. They put a base stripped preproduction model against other mid level and more loaded competitors. It’s easy to understand when you see the difference in advertising money being spent by GM. That being said, Ford did botch the roll out of the Explorer but what do you expect when a furniture guy is in charge. Cars aren’t furniture, people don’t get a new bed every few years. People don’t go from a couch they can afford to a couch they want because they got a better job. Kids don’t say, when I get my license I’m gonna get a brand name kitchen table. They do say they will get a Mustang tho, or used to before they used the name on an appliance. So if you’re young and can’t afford much, Ford management has pretty much given up on you. They hope you’ll come back when you have real money to spend. Meanwhile the Japanese and Koreans will take over and undercut American companies until they have all the market share, like they’ve been trying with appliances. Trump stopped that but cars are harder because so many are made here.

  8. Chris D

    I believe they saw in Hackett many of Mulally’s leadership qualities but it’s just not panning out. And like you, I believe it’s a mistake to give up on the low end of the market with a subcompact or compact sedan. I agree on cutting the Taurus. I could live with cutting one of the Focus OR the Fiesta but not both. And certainly not all sedans. I don’t like crossovers and SUV’s, I’m a sedan guy left out in the cold, while Ford gives away market share.


    I ordered my Explorer ST in mid June of 2019. It was delivered on 11/1/2019. Yeah I was disappointed it took so long to deliver but I also understood it was a new model and therefore subject to delays. I was told they had some problems on the line to work out and I agreed that I would prefer problems were corrected prior to delivery vs being recalled. Ford even gave me a $1500 rebate for my troubles! Now on to my review: At first I really hated it; now I’m mostly just pissed off.
    Pros:- nice looking exterior and impressive acceleration
    Cons:- harsh ride and numb steering (this was improved slightly by correcting tire pressures – they were 8 to 10 psi overinflated as delivered – is this an example of quality service?)
    – grabby brakes (I ordered the performance setup which for some reason also necessitated 21″ wheels and improved somewhat after I bedded the brakes)
    – hard uncomfortable seats with inadequate bolstering for a performance vehicle
    – cheap, ill fitting plastic interior
    – cheap looking and feeling controls knobs such as lights and shift selector (really, a knob instead of a shift lever?)
    – in modes other than Sport or Econo, you don’t get a usable tachometer (assuming you can eventually FIND either of those modes)
    – inadequate instrumentation (I swear you can probably find time and temperature in New Delhi but you can’t give me any more parameters than coolant temp on a performance engine?
    – unsafe – I have to take my eyes off the road to locate any control beyond the turn signal switch and the radio volume
    Bottom line: either knock $20K off the price or exchange most of the unnecessary, unwanted and superfluous electronic crap (that you know is going to cost you down the line) for quality interior design and function. In the mean time I prefer driving my 12 year old Sport Trac Adrenalin.

    1. Mike

      That’s the real issue people have with the Explorer, it’s price. Most of that electronic superfluous crap is mandated by the govt or the only way to get a top rating from the insurance industry. Harsh ride and numb steering are the problem with big wheels and low sidewall tires. Pressures are supposed to be set by the dealer but it’s usually done by new guys. Seats don’t have big bolsters because skinny kids can’t afford these things. If it was $35k like the government assisted Kia, it would be fine tho.

  10. Philip Tilley

    Why is the Government assisting Kia, the one’s they should be helping are Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, if it was up to me I wouldn’t have any Japanese, Korean vehicle’s in America.

    1. Mike

      Not our government, South Korean Government is. Same with Japanese cars built here. Their governments help pay for insurance and at times, financing. Not to mention making it all but impossible to sell our cars in their countries.


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