When Ford unveiled the sixth generation of the Explorer for the 2020 model year, it included new options that established a fresh tone for the classic midsize SUV. Part off-road vehicle, part suburban family shuttle, and part race car, the Ford Explorer ST immediately made its presence felt in the “hot rod SUV” niche. It quickly became known as a spirited machine that gets off the line fast and stays there with a nimbleness belying its size.
The 2024 Ford Explorer ST marks year five for this incarnation of the ST name, which once was limited to small cars like the Focus and Fiesta. With half a decade now in the books, the Explorer ST won’t sneak up on anyone the way it did in 2020. Now that the element of surprise is gone, there’s an expectation that this vehicle will keep up with high-flying driving styles.
So the question is simple: does the 2024 Explorer ST live up to its name? At CarLifeNation, we want to know the answer as badly as you do. Here’s an in-depth look at the latest Ford Explorer ST and what it does to carry on a growing legacy.
Tried and True Power
Since its introduction, the powerplant in the Ford Explorer ST has remained unchanged. In this case, we see it as not wanting to mess with a good thing. The 3.0L EcoBoost twin-turbocharged V6 boasts 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque, delivered through a 10-speed automatic transmission. While not the beefiest engine among high-performance SUVs, it’s still enough to take you from 0-60 mph in a mere 5.2 seconds.
When the Explorer ST initially came out, it was only available in all-wheel drive, which made for excellent traction but cost it some of the aggressive, on-the-edge feel of a classic track car. Since 2022, though, the Explorer ST has also been offered in rear-wheel drive. You get to choose whether the vehicle hugs the road by itself or whether it’s up to your right foot. Even with the automatic start-stop engine technology, fuel mileage does fall to an EPA-estimated 21 MPG combined compared to the 24 MPG combined of the base engine—but we doubt you’re buying this vehicle for its efficiency.
Unrefined and Proud of It
Old-school racers know there should be a certain rawness to a racing machine. After all, you don’t go to the track to make friends—you’re there to show people what’s up. The 2024 Ford Explorer ST continues that tradition by maintaining the heavy-footed style. The independent front and rear suspension is tuned specifically for getting up on the wheel. It also has much stiffer springs and a stronger anti-roll bar than any other Ford Explorer.
Add in the aggressive brakes—which would seem grabby on a normal SUV but are just right for a souped-up trim—and you have an SUV that lets you drive deep into turns and get on the hammer right at the apex. Ford’s 20-inch machined aluminum wheels are standard, and you can upgrade to 21-inch wheels. Quad chrome exhaust tips complete the in-your-face styling.
Granted, the Explorer ST does have a few things to take the edge off, such as the AdvanceTrac traction control system that has roll stability to keep you in control on tricky surfaces like ice and gravel. Ford has also retained the hefty feel of the steering, making the vehicle less nimble on the streets but less likely to snap around on the track. Overall, though, it continues to come across as a fast, sporty vehicle that is a bit rough around the edges and makes no apologies. Should you ever want to use it to bring another car to the track and double-dip, the Explorer ST has a Class IV towing package that can haul up to 5,600 lbs.
Performance-Driven Inside and Out
The attitude of the 2024 Explorer ST can be seen in the style with which it takes you around a closed course or through town. The lean, muscular exterior includes a large front grille that improves cooling and gives it a cleaner yet more threatening look—especially with the mouth-like slot below it. When you look closely, it’s as if the Ford Explorer ST is grinning back at you, knowing it’s about to leave you in a cloud of tire smoke.
In the cabin, an available infotainment touchscreen measures 10.1 inches, up from the standard eight inches, and it has a portrait view like the other high-end Explorers. You get a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel and compatibility with all the latest media connectivity, including Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM satellite radio, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot. Even when you’re burning rubber, your music and playlists will be able to keep pace. This is on top of the leather upholstery, heated steering wheel, City Silver stitching, and other features that breathe high-end performance.
Fast Yet Safe
Driving a big-time SUV makes reaction time and awareness even more crucial—and the risks of a miscalculation even higher. Ford supports your existing senses with some of the most advanced safety features and designs on the market. The LED headlights and taillights offer excellent visibility at night, so there aren’t any surprises—for you or the drivers around you. The Explorer ST also comes with the Ford CoPilot360 safety suite that includes:
- Automatic emergency braking
- Automatic high-beams
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Lane departure warning
- Lane-keeping assist
Other standard features such as Safety Canopy side airbags, a front passenger knee airbag, and a post-crash alert system are there to look out for you. You can add adaptive cruise control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror, too. As for what happens if you do end up in a crash, the Ford Explorer is one of the highest-rated vehicles around. It was named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and received a five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Learn to Go All-Out
We’ve established the 2024 Ford Explorer ST is for people who like living on the edge. What if you’re new to that edge and want to avoid sliding over it? Ford will lend a hand. Anyone who buys a 2024 Explorer ST gets a free trip for two to the Ford ST SUV Experience as part of the Ford Performance Racing School. Choose Asheville, NC, or Park City, UT, for an all-inclusive day of driving exercises and education to harness the Explorer ST. For an added fee at the Asheville location, you can get a second day spent on track at the Charlotte Motor Speedway!
Changes on the Horizon
All in all, we’ll admit not much has changed on the Ford Explorer ST since the 2022 model year refresh. For now, that’s just fine by us. The Explorer ST already had a lot going for it, and by sticking with the formula, it remains at the forefront of the hot rod SUV segment. That being said, the 2024 Ford Explorer ST model run may be a short one. Reports indicate the 2025 Ford Explorer model year, including the ST, could begin production as early as March 2024—and there could be some changes on the horizon, including a redesigned nose and tail. If the current generation of the Explorer ST is a vehicle you want in your garage, make sure to get to your local Ford dealership.