The Ford Explorer has seen some big changes in recent years. The current model not only switched from a body-on-frame construction to a unibody one, but also received turbocharged engines for the first time. Now, the 2020 model is moving to a new rear-wheel architecture – shared with the Lincoln Aviator – in an attempt to bring some off-road and towing capability back to the nameplate.

As a result, this three-row SUV can now haul much, much more. Equipped with a Class III Trailer Tow Package, the latest version gets a 2,400 kg towing capacity as standard, up from 1,360 kg on a comparable outgoing model, and more powerful models are rated at 2,540 kg, a 12% increase from old car’s 2,270 kg.

Also fitted is a new, optional Terrain Management System with up to seven drive modes to suit various road, weather and terrain conditions. On rear-wheel drive variants, these include normal, sport, trail, slippery, tow/haul and eco; models equipped with intelligent four-wheel drive add a deep snow and sand mode for improved off-road performance.

The wholesale revamp is complemented by a range of EcoBoost turbo engines. Standard, XLT and Limited variants come with a revised 2.3 litre four-cylinder – mated to a 10-speed automatic gearbox – that produces an estimated 300 hp and 420 Nm of torque, while the Platinum receives a 3.0 litre twin-turbo V6 making a projected 365 hp and 515 Nm. There will also be a hybrid and, for the first time, a high-performance ST.

Despite the new rear-drive platform, the Explorer hasn’t grown significantly in size. Measuring 5,050 mm long, 2,002 mm wide and 1,783 mm tall, the new model is only three millimetres longer and five millimetres taller than before. What has grown is the wheelbase, which has been stretched some 160 mm to 3,025 mm.

As such, the new Explorer returns to the long-bonnet proportions that characterised its ladder-frame forebears, while retaining the trademark prominent body-coloured C-pillars (all other pillars are blacked out). The front end, which features trapezoidal headlights joined to a large grille, sits on a shorter overhang than before, while the roof slope is steeper. Wheels measuring between 18 to 21 inches in diameter are available.

The interior has also been redesigned and comes as standard with an eight-inch touchscreen and an updated version of Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system, complete with SiriusXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and native Waze navigation. Also fitted is FordPass Connect that provides remote vehicle access and a WiFi hotspot for up to 10 devices.

A 10.1-inch portrait-format capacitive display with a split-screen function is available as an option, as is a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Buyers can also specify a Qi wireless charging pad, a 14-speaker, 980-watt Bang & Olufsen premium sound system and up to four USB outlets (including USB-C), three 12-volt power sockets and a 110-volt power socket.

New E-Z entry sliding second-row seats improve access to the third row, which are available with a PowerFold function as an option. The boot measures 515 litres even with all three rows up, and expands to 1,356 litres with the third row folded and a whopping 2,486 litres with all rear seats folded. Ford says that the cargo bay is wide enough to fit standard four-foot building materials. A powered tailgate comes as standard.

Safety-wise, the Explorer comes as standard with Ford’s Co-Pilot360 driver assistance systems, which include Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane-Keeping System, automatic high beam and a self-cleaning reverse camera.

Also on the options list are Evasive Steering Assist, Post-Impact Braking, Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Speed Sign Recognition, Active Park Assist 2.0 and a reverse brake assist system that applies automatic emergency braking when reversing.

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