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2020 Ford Explorer XLT – More and Less

All New Explorer Suffers from High Engine Noise

The all new 2020 Ford Explorer XLT is a cornerstone for the future sales volume and profitability of Ford Motor Company.   It is critically important to the Company.  The Explorer, and its Lincoln Aviator stablemate, are assembled at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant.  Early production has been beset with problems that could be expected with an all-new platform.  Also, the Chicago plant had about $1 billion in changeover costs to handle the shift from a front wheel drive to rear wheel drive platform.

Four Basic Engine Offerings – A Lot  The media event for the Explorer was held this summer in Oregon and Washington.  There are four basic powertrain versions of the Explorer to drive.  A  310-horsepower 2.3L EcoBoost 4-cylinder is standard in popular trims.  A 318-horsepower 3.3L V6 Hybrid is available above the base model.  A 365-horsepower 3.0L EcoBoost V6 is in the Platinum model.  A 400-horsepower V6 is in the ST sport model.  It turned out that there were more media than vehicles and I only got to drive the Platinum with a 365-horsepower V6 and ST with 400-horsepower V6 at the event.

The Soul of the Line-up – the XLT  A 2020 Ford Explorer XLT with a 310-horsepower 2.3L 4-cylinder has finally arrived at AutoPacific for evaluation.  This XLT is rear wheel drive with no moonroof.  It is white with an all black leatherette interior.  The MSRP is around $45,000 so it is pretty well optioned up from its mid-$30k base price.  It has navigation, blind spot warning, SYNC3 – most of the bells and whistles.

I want to concentrate on two things in this brief review.  The driver’s environment and the powertrain.

Driver’s Environment is Top Notch  First, the ergonomics in the 2020 Ford Explorer are very good.  The instrument cluster has a ton of information and is very clear and understandable.  The center stack has a vertical screen for the navigation system and audio and phone interface.  Pairing a phone is seamless.  The radio controls are very conventional as are the heater/AC controls.  I’d give Explorer an “A” for the driver environment and ergonomics.

Base Engine Needs a Quieting Effort ASAP  Second, the 2.3L EcoBoost 4-cylinder is the volume engine.  Mated to the standard 10-speed automatic transmission, this powertrain is the heart of most Explorers that will be sold.  The 4-cylinder feels eager to pull away from a stop.  Tip-in acceleration is a bit touchy and it runs through the first three gears of the transmission pretty quickly.  It takes a bit to learn how to drive it smoothly.

There is, however, a flaw.  Maybe not a fatal flaw, but powertrain noise is unexpectedly loud and intrusive.  The engine sound is anemic even though it has 310-horsepower.  The vehicle is fast, but the engine noise lets you know every time you hit the accelerator.  The engine is not necessarily rough.  It is loud when accelerating and when cruising at highway speeds.  When you spent $45,000 for an all-new state-of-the-art sport utility vehicle that has huge volume expectations, it should be quiet.  Right?

It would appear that Ford should implement a crash powertrain quieting effort.

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