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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A popular used Ford Explorer for sale, a blue 2020 Ford Explorer ST, is shown driving on a highway.

A Far Cry from Your Everyday Family-Friendly SUV: The Ford Explorer ST

With the world on lockdown in 2020, drivers nationwide couldn’t thoroughly enjoy new models like the debut of the first-ever Explorer ST. Ford’s high-performance SUV promised many surprises and delivered, but realistically, it’s only been in the years following the pandemic that we’ve genuinely had the opportunity to appreciate the pure thrills the Explorer ST offers. Of course, those thrills are even more enjoyable because the unassuming powerhouse is one of the most attractive features this model offers when looking for a used Ford Explorer for sale. But what does it offer that the traditional family-friendly SUV doesn’t?

The Need for More

When it comes to family-friendly SUVs, it can be challenging to think outside the box. By nature, these models are larger and more accommodating to passengers and cargo, which is one of their greatest selling points. However, it’s often hard to expand on that because of their large footprints. They can’t necessarily offer the performance of a sports car and their penchant for adventure is limited to certain terrain because of their sizes. However, in 2020, Ford defied every stereotype and set out to expand the Explorer lineup, challenging the idea of a family-friendly SUV.

“The new generation of Explorer recognizes that every family–and every driver–is unique,” Ford said of the addition of the Explorer ST and Explorer Hybrid to the lineup for 2020. “With an all-new ST and an all-new hybrid, there truly is an Explorer for every adventure.” This penchant for more is at the heart of the Explorer ST, and it’s why so many drivers have happily discovered this speed-hungry model is the perfect find on the used lot. It’s like hitting the SUV jackpot.

Challenging the SUV Stereotype

The 2020 Ford Explorer ST challenges the SUV stereotype by making an indelible mark as the most powerful and engaging SUV in Ford history. Unfortunately, its debut during lockdown was the equivalent of keeping a child indoors on a sunny day. It wasn’t exactly fair, but the poor timing wasn’t a fault of Ford’s.

Ford tasked its Performance Team with the design, meaning the Explorer ST was destined for success right out of the gate. The ST name carries a lot of weight in the Ford lineup, but it was critical that the Explorer remain true to its family-friendly roots. Therefore, the task was to build a versatile and practical powerhouse that could satisfy a broad range of needs–from the basics of navigating school drop-offs and pick-ups to offering pure thrills on long stretches of highway. In a segment where most SUVs opt for practicality over exciting performance, the Explorer ST does both.

A New Platform and Longer Wheelbase, but Lighter by Design

Ford made several critical improvements to the Explorer for 2020 that set the stage for the Explorer ST’s success. First, the American automotive pioneer extended the SUV’s wheelbase by over six inches, but that expansion only barely impacted its length, ensuring its agility and maneuverability as a larger SUV. Moreover, Ford shaved over 120 lbs off the Explorer ST’s curb weight, and we all know what a diet can do for speed and performance.

As part of the Explorer ST’s lighter design, the Ford Performance Team also looked for ways to better distribute its weight between the front and rear axle. While a 50/50 split is considered ideal in the industry, the Ford Performance Team got as close as possible by mounting the Explorer ST’s engine longitudinally to reposition 51.3% of its weight on the front axle. That puts 48.7% of the weight at the rear axle, a significant improvement over previous generation models that had more weight in the front and less at the rear.

A Heartbeat Hungry for Speed

The 2020 Explorer ST has a better weight distribution and a lighter design, but that only matters if it has an engine powerful enough to deliver the thrills expected of an ST model. Fortunately, there’s no question that the Explorer ST defies every stereotype of a family-friendly SUV in terms of performance. For starters, consider the baseline or the Explorer’s standard 2.3L inline-four turbocharged engine that produces 300 hp.

The Explorer ST leaves the XLT and the rest of the Explorer lineup in the dust, as it should. Ford outfits the powerhouse with a specially tuned 3.0L EcoBoost that produces 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque for exceptional off-the-line acceleration and responsiveness. On the track, you can expect the Explorer ST’s top speed to reach 143 mph, with the quick-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission seamlessly working behind the scenes.

Moreover, feeling the thrill of this power is exquisite and transforms the Explorer ST into something legions beyond what you imagine or expect of a family hauler. Ford manages this feat in several ways. First, the automaker stiffens the springs, adds larger anti-roll bars, retunes the dampers, and enhances the electric-assist steering system. These small modifications make a noticeable difference in the driver’s seat.

Secondly, by adding Sport Mode, Ford gives you more control over the Explorer ST’s capability. The driver-selectable mode heightens the response of the gas pedal, tightens the steering wheel, and tunes the shift patterns while bringing the rumble of the engine into the cabin. Suddenly, you’re no longer driving a three-row SUV but are chasing the horizon in an unassuming powerhouse with a penchant for speed.

An Athletic Aesthetic

It’s impossible to disguise the Explorer ST as anything other than an SUV, so Ford doesn’t even attempt it. Instead, Ford heightens its design by making the Explorer ST sportier and more athletic in several subtle ways. For example, the Explorer ST distinguishes itself with its black mesh grille insert, body side detailing, roof-rack side rails, and rear liftgate applique. Inside, its flat-bottomed heated steering wheel with the ST logo sheds light on its personality, but that’s it.

Instead of the Explorer ST oozing with performance elements, Ford gives drivers the option to add the upgrades they want. In 2020, those upgrades included an ST Street Pack and ST Track Pack, which added 21-inch wheels, larger vented rotors and brake pads, and red-painted brake calipers with stainless steel pistons. But as we see with so many used cars, those aren’t your only options for customization.

A Unique Appeal

The Explorer ST has a unique appeal as a used model because it’s already impressive as a stock car. Its 400-hp engine defies every expectation of a family-friendly SUV, but it can eke out far more power if you have the means, the time, and the money. There’s an entire realm of Explorer ST owners around the country working to soup up their models, appreciating that no one expects an Explorer to be a powerhouse. That makes the process even sweeter, especially considering there’s an Explorer ST in someone’s garage that, after a long list of upgrades to the turbos, intercooler, injectors, and high-flow intake, produces an upwards of 657 hp.

An integral part of the Explorer ST’s appeal as a used model is that it offers the unexpected but can still meet practical driving needs. It has the bones of the best-selling Explorer and the capability to haul your family, but it begs you to push the envelope and test its agility at top speeds. Moreover, as a used model, you can find one of these powerhouses at a fraction of the cost and enjoy hot rod performance that most people don’t expect.

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