DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. is seeking to broaden the appeal of the venerable Explorer by listening to the customers who have made it the one of the best-selling utility vehicles all time.
The automaker says Explorer buyers asked for more interior space, towing capability and performance. The sixth-generation Explorer, introduced late Wednesday ahead of the Detroit auto show, will deliver on those customer wishes, Ford says.
The 2020 vehicle, on sale this fall, was redesigned on a new rear-wheel-drive, unibody platform that gives it sportier styling and what Ford engineers describe as better handling. The seven-passenger crossover can tow up to 2,540 kilograms -- a 272-kilogram increase over the outgoing model and has best-in-class second- and third-row headroom, Ford claims. Four-wheel drive is standard.
"We built it around the way people use the car," Bill Gubing, the Explorer's chief program engineer, said at a briefing ahead of Wednesday's reveal. "Even the smallest features are designed from a customer perspective."
Canadian pricing has not yet been announced, but in the United States, the 2020 Explorer will be more expensive than the current version, but Ford contends that customers are willing to pay the higher prices for more content and capability. South of the border, it starts at US$33,860, including shipping, US$400 more than the 2019 Explorer, but the base model includes more than a dozen new standard features, including a power liftgate, Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of driver assist technology and Wi-Fi connectivity.
The base engine, a 2.3-litre EcoBoost inline-four, is expected to get 300 hp and 310 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with a 10-speed transmission. Buyers can upgrade to a 3.0-litre turbocharged V-6 on the high-end Platinum trim that's expected to get 365 hp and 380 pound-feet of torque.
Ford also plans to offer a hybrid Explorer and a high-performance ST version, which replaces the Sport trim. Ford has not yet released details on those variants.
"It's our broadest-ever lineup," said Craig Patterson, Ford's marketing manager for the Explorer. "We're expanding what the role of the SUV is."
MORE SPACE FOR FAMILIES
The Explorer, first sold as a 1991 model, has been one of Ford's most successful nameplates and last year trailed only the F-series pickup, Escape and Edge crossovers in the brand's Canadian sales.
Ford is looking to cash in on the rapidly growing millennial demographic: 20- and 30-somethings who are getting married, having kids and looking for larger vehicles.
The interior of the 2020 model is quieter and includes more head and hip room. Second- and third-row seats fold flat and can accommodate a 4- by 8-foot sheet of plywood, which wouldn't fit in the outgoing version.
Ford says the 2020 Explorer gains 6.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the front seats, a reversible floor that's easy to clean after hauling kids' mud-caked cleats and a feature that engineers have dubbed the "apple catcher" -- a lip on the rear floor that's meant to stop wine bottles or spaghetti sauce jars from rolling out of the back when the liftgate opens.
Every seating position in the second and third rows has child-seat anchors, and retractable second-row sunshades are optional.