The 2020 Ford Explorer XLT: A ’90s Vibe with a Modern Sensibility

I grew up in the ’90s, i.e., the era of big honkin’ SUVs. We’re talking OJ’s white Bronco, Cher Horowitz’s “I totally paused” Jeep Wrangler, the fleet of lime green Explorers that got clobbered by T. rex’s in Jurassic Park. In short, it was a decade of gas-guzzling, Tupac-thumping, hog-the-road sport utility vehicles. 

So, when Ford offered me the chance to test the 2020 Ford Explorer XLT, I wasn’t exactly expecting something subtle. And I certainly wasn’t expecting it to feel like a city-ready family car.

As it turns out, I was kinda wrong! Here, some reasons why the modern Explorer is actually a great choice for the modern family. 

It handles like a sedan

With a length of 199 inches and a width of 89 inches, this is not by any means a small car. But after taking the Ford Edge for a spin last spring, this honestly didn’t feel that much bigger—even though it’s technically about 10 inches longer. And more to the point, it’s smooth and quiet and felt remarkably stable, especially around corners. We live in the city but took it upstate for a weekend getaway, and it felt at home in both locations. (Yes, I even parallel parked it outside my Brooklyn row-house.)

There’s a ton of room for kiddos

Look, I’ve installed car seats in two-door Hondas before, so my kids’ standards for space are certainly low. That said, this three-row vehicle is particularly roomy: My son could stick his legs all the way out without coming close to kicking the seat in front of him, but the Explorer wasn’t so high off the ground that the kids couldn’t climb in all on their own. And, although I didn’t end up using it, I do love the optional third row, which makes carpooling and grandparent-hauling much easier.

And plenty of space for cargo

About that third row? It folds down with the lift of a lever to give you tons of trunk space. Here are some of the things we packed: A jogging stroller, a tee-ball set, two scooters, four suitcases, an air mattress and three pumpkins. And yes, it all fit with ease.

The safety features are smart and user-friendly

I’ve written about this before, but I love Ford’s adaptive cruise control and lane departure assist features, which keep you from veering into another lane or missing a car in your blind spot. Yes, you get beeped at when it thinks you’re too close to the person in front of you, but to be honest, I’ll take some excessive beeping in the name of safety.

The infotainment system is fancy, but not too fancy

Raise your hand if you’ve ever spent way too long trying to play the Frozen soundtrack over your car’s Bluetooth while a three-year-old screams in the back seat. (Just me?) Of all the infotainment systems I’ve tried, Ford’s is probably my favorite, precisely because there aren’t too many bells and whistles. Once you connect your phone, it syncs automatically to Apple Car Play, which you can then use either with the car’s touchpad, or on your phone itself. Easy!

The price is reasonable

While the ST and Platinum models will run you over $50,000, the XLT I tested starts at just $36,675. Yet another way in which the brand caters to real families.

Bottom line

This SUV is a long way from Jurassic Park and Clueless. But absolutely keep blasting that Tupac.

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