2020 Ford Explorer Limited – The Trim For Buyers On A Budget

Recently we got our hands on the all new 2020 Ford Explorer Platinum, loaded with almost every available option, V6 engine, heated and ventilated front seats, and power folding third row seats. There is no doubt that the changes Ford made to the Explorer are significant improvements from last generation, particularly for the interior. However, there are some features most consumers can live without, especially if they’re not willing to pay $60k+ on a new crossover. The 12.3 inch digital information display and upgraded 10 inch touchscreen are esthetically pleasing to look at, but practicality, versatility, and more importantly value for the price are usually factors that come into play when consumers go car shopping. With that being said, the Limited trim is the perfect balance between affordability and also offering a good amount of safety equipment and technology.

Since the Limited trim is only available with a four cylinder engine and a hybrid V6, performance is not likely a top priority for you as you’d most likely upgrade to the ST. Functionality and having a third row crossover that fits your lifestyle is probably what’s most important, and the Limited trim is going to fill that role in more ways than one.

Coming standard, the Limited trim is equipped with Ford’s CoPilot 360 assist which is going to provide a list of safety features such as: Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear View Camera, Lane-Keeping System, Automatic Emergency Braking, Auto High-Beam Headlamps, and a Voice Activated Navigation System. One of the highlighted features that won’t be available on the XLT trim which sits below the Limited is the 360 degree top view camera. If you’re familiar with or own the last generation Explorer, the sheer size of this mid-sized crossover could make parking a bit of a challenge. To put the Explorer’s size into perspective, it has the same width as the first generation Ford Expedition. With a 360 camera to go along with your front view and rear backup camera, getting out of parking spaces or navigating through tight streets will be much easier. A vehicle this size deserves to have this camera technology, and thankfully Ford decided to offer this on the 2020 model year.

Normally I get caught up in the exterior of every vehicle I review, but it’s the interior where owners are going to benefit the most with the new RWD based platform Ford is using on the Explorer. Inside you’ll immediately notice a difference in arm room once you get behind the wheel, despite there being no difference in terms of width from the 2019 model. However it’s the replacement of the gear shift lever with the rotary dial that will make the interior seem more spacious. The center console will be less cluttered and you’re going to feel much more at home with the new cabin.

The Limited trim receives the upgraded speakers from Bang and Olufsen, along with heated and ventilated leather seats to add comfort for the driver and front passenger. For an additional $1700 you’ll get a twin panel moonroof that will bring in natural light and make the interior look bigger. A power lift gate comes standard across the Explorer product line, and for cargo room the 2020 model will get 18.2 cubic ft of rear cargo space. With all these features included you’re looking at a price tag below $55k and close to $7k cheaper than the Platinum trim.

While $50k is no drop in the bucket, the additional safety technology alone is worth it. Leather seats and upscaled technology in the cabin isn’t always necessary and you can certainly live without them, but if the base model and XLT trim just doesn’t offer enough, going with the Limited would be the smart choice.

At the end of the day, the 2020 refresh for the Explorer will no doubt draw loyal Ford owners in. The company truly listened to the owners, and all the minor and even major changes were all made to improve upon a successful crossover that was still lacking that entry-level luxury feel. Heading into a new decade, Ford has positioned themselves to be at the top of the segment, and to fend off the Japanese rivals who’ve gained a strong foothold in the crossover market these past 10 years.

Saying Goodbye to the Ford Fusion – Ford’s Best Selling Sedan This Decade

Models come and go all the time, but very rarely do high volume sellers get cut from automotive brands’ lineups, and yet that’s exactly what’s happened to the Ford Fusion. In response to increasing consumer demand for crossovers, Ford became the first manufacturer to make the bold move to primarily sell SUV’s, getting rid of the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, and Taurus which is already having a ripple effect across an industry that appears to be transitioning away from the traditional family sedan. GM announced they’d be making a similar move, getting rid of the Chevy Impala and Cadillac CT6, but sales for those two cars pale in comparison to what the Fusion had brought to the Ford Motor Company over the last 15 years.

When the Fusion was first introduced, it was essentially going to be the replacement for the Ford Taurus, which at the time received some criticism from journalists. They felt that replacing an iconic car with something brand new would be received poorly by consumers, but as history has shown us, not only did the Fusion fill in perfectly for the Taurus, it became a strong competitor to the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry the minute it arrived at dealerships. Back in 2018, Ford dealers across the country weren’t happy with this announcement that the company would cease production of the Fusion, and while crossovers and pickup trucks will be more lucrative in the near and distant future, concern over not having a sedan in the lineup is certainly warranted.

The 2nd generation Fusion that we’ve been accustomed to seeing on the roads over the last 6 years was a part of Ford’s global car strategy called “One-Ford”. Designed by Ford’s Europe division, the Fusion, along with the Fiesta and Focus arrived at showrooms around 2013, and these models would also be sold to other global markets. Seeing immediate success, the Fusion’s European styling along with it’s award winning hybrid model made this sedan a hot seller, and in 2013 and 2014, sales exceeded 300,000 cars in the US.

In the years leading up to a sharp decline in sales in 2018, the Fusion drew in many Americans due to it’s affordability, practicality, styling, and for some, it’s understated performance. Not common on the roads, the Fusion Sport gets a 2.7L EcoBoost V6 that puts out 325 hp and 380 lb ft of torque. Surprisingly it was faster than most mid-size sedans in it’s class, but with very little coverage from the automotive press and most consumers choosing the 1.5 and 2L four cylinder engines, the Fusion’s eyebrow raising performance numbers just couldn’t muster enough attention from the general public. Instead, the Fusion’s good fuel economy and hybrid trim made this car very desirable for the average American, along with it’s price tag of under $30k.

We could sit down and write a list of factors that have attributed to the demise of a sedan that many Americans welcomed with open arms when it arrived at dealers. One issue being the very old and warn out exterior that Ford didn’t update in the 6 years of the current generation being on sale. While initially sales skyrocketed in 2013 for the fusion, Toyota and Honda continued to change the design of their cars, and despite bold styling receiving mixed reviews by consumers, the Japanese rivals still see healthy sales numbers in a segment that’s experiencing a gradual decline in interest.

The interior is another aspect of the Fusion that no doubt played a role in slowing sales, but this is a sentiment many consumers had with the entire Ford lineup, and as we inch closer to a new decade, the brand out of Dearborn Michigan is back on track with refreshes for the Escape and Explorer. But could the interior facelifts that now appear in the crossovers have saved this sedan? Absolutely not, and there’s a few reasons why.

The most obvious is consumers aren’t buying family sedans at the rate they were in 2010. Even taking the safety aspect and versatility out of the equation for a minute, competition from Toyota and Honda arguably pushed Ford out of the segment entirely. Depending on your perspective, some of you might say that was due to Ford not refreshing the Fusion and other models every three years, or you feel that competitors from Japan were manufacturing better cars.

No matter what the circumstances were for this business decision, Ford is eager to turn the page and begin a new era starting in 2022. This will include the Ford Bronco, an electric crossover inspired by the Mustang, a compact pickup truck that will slot below the Ranger, and now the brand is talking about a new affordable vehicle that will replace the Fiesta, Focus and Fusion. Ford is being very vague about this affordable alternative, giving us no hints at whether it’s a crossover or a compact car. However, the brand has recently boasted that their new global platforms give Ford flexibility when it comes to creating and manufacturing all new vehicles.

The Michigan based brand may have been bold moving in the crossover and pickup direction, but there’s enough information out there to indicate that they have backup plans to quickly reverse course if the economy or consumer demand changes drastically.

At the end of the day, the Fusion getting cut from the lineup makes sense from a business perspective, but some consumers feel that the brand is losing the aspect of affordability with the Fiesta, Focus, and family cars no longer being in production. Unlike with most automotive news, Ford’s current state of affairs is a fluid situation. For the brand to now speak about an affordable vehicle of some kind by 2022 does seem to be a slight tweak in terms of overall trajectory for the brand.

It might be the end of an era, one that started with the Ford Taurus replacing the LTD in 1986, but this is by no means the official end of cars rolling off the assembly lines.

Off-Roading In New Hampshire: 3 Feet of Snow? No Problem

New England, especially the Boston area, has gotten hit hard the past three weeks with Nor’easters and blizzards. In New Hampshire, a group of guys are enjoying the relentless snow by taking their full size SUV’s off-road.

The Ford Excursion, Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, and Land Rover LR3 took on the snow like champs. With vehicles like these, it’s hard not to have a good time. Who said adults can’t have fun in the snow too?

These guys are going to have at least another week of fun and fresh snow with the recent snowstorm, and another possibly hitting next weekend. Skiing and snowboarding is cool, but taking on three feet of snow in a heated interior, maybe a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in your hand, and off-roading with friends just seems to take winter sports to a whole new level of enjoyment.

Will The Ford Focus RS Bring Performance Packages To Cheaper Vehicles?

The Ford Focus RS is no doubt a game changer in the auto industry. For the first time, Ford is bringing their performance packaged Focus RS to the United States, which has also raised the question of whether we’ll see an RS version of the Fiesta. By doing this however, Ford would be awakening some sleeping giants in the auto world who are waiting for their moment to break free and start offering performance vehicles to the average consumer. This could also have an impact on Subaru’s turf as the WRX STI hasn’t had many challengers, if any since the Mitsubishi Lancer’s steep decent into irrelevancy. This may also eventually reach Volkswagen’s stake in the hatchback market if other car companies start following suit.

Toyota is already mulling over the idea of unleashing the TRD performance packages for the Camry, and one could then speculate on whether the Toyota Corolla will get the same treatment. For the past few years Ford has been going at it with Toyota and Honda to become the top dog in annual sales, and with the RS line, it’s very possible that consumers may start looking to performance. Toyota already realizes this, and are at least looking into getting in on the action.

Prior to the Focus RS’s unveiling, the Subaru WRX STI and the Volkswagen GTI were sitting comfortably in their respective markets. The GTI has always been the favorite for hatchbacks and are extremely popular, even with the Focus ST being priced in the same neighborhood. Now with an AWD Focus, Ford has some leverage to entice consumers to look at other options besides the GTI. The Subaru WRX STI on the other hand will be harder to dethrone, as car manufactures who’ve tried to compete with Subaru ultimately failed, and it will take some time for Ford to convince consumers in that market to make the switch.

In the past year or so, we’ve seen almost every car manufacturer get in on a new, emerging market. BMW and Mercedes Benz are now duking it out with the X6 and GLE in a market that could be gaining some traction. Right now it seems that performance packaged hatchbacks and compact sedans could become the latest trend in the automotive world. What we’re witnessing is an intensity in competition between automakers that really hasn’t been seen since the dawn of the muscle car. In the past, car companies would be unique and try selling based on a feature or design that no one else could offer. Now it appears that to stay alive, auto brands are continuously attempting to improve an existing design.

Up until recently, no one tried to advance on the WRX STI and the GTI’s turf, but with Ford making the bold move to bring a version of the Focus that was being sold outside the United States to America, we may see other car brands do the same. Honda will not be bringing over the Civic Type R until at least 2017, but you can believe that if Toyota starts selling TRD packaged Camry’s and Corolla’s, Honda will start feeling the pressure to sell a quality performance car.

Consumers are going to have variety in almost every market. Now it comes down to personal preference. The diehard GTI and WRX STI fans will be reluctant to switch to a different brand, but for Millennials who are starting to buy cars, they may look to new brands, and etch their own buying habits in stone.